Yingying Dou leaves the Sydney premises where she works. Photo: Dominic LorrimerFull investigation: SMH EducationLike SMH Student on FacebookTop 10 known users by institution, by subject and by amount spent
Guiyang Night Net
Thousands of students have enlisted a Sydney company to write essays and assignments for them as well as sit online tests, paying up to $1000 for the service. Their desire to succeed threatens the credibility and international standing of some of our most prestigious institutions.
A Fairfax Media investigation has uncovered a sophisticated online business, which has produced thousands of university assignments and turned over hundreds of thousands of dollars since it began operating in May 2012.
Yingying Dou, a 30-year-old Chinese-born woman, is the sole director of MyMaster Group Pty Ltd, which is behind the website, written in Chinese and aimed at international students. It claims to be the largest essay-writing service in Sydney, with 100 graduate writers from “prestigious universities in Australia” ready to accept jobs at any one time.
A flyer posted to the back of a toilet door at UTS gives insight to the anxiety among international students Ms Dou has capitalised on.
“Are you racking your brains on your school work? Do you worry about spending $3000 retaking tuition on the failing subject? Leave your worries to MyMaster and make your study easier!” the flyer says in translation.
Fairfax Media has seen 700 receipts for direct deposits to the MyMaster bank account, totalling more than $160,000 this year alone – a conservative estimate of the company’s annual income, as students can also pay by cash or PayPal.
Payments range from $13 to $1050 and during busy assessment periods the website receives up to 20 requests a day.
One request lodged was for a 6000-word research assignment for a human rights law course at the University of NSW, which was worth 70 per cent of the student’s overall grade.
The cheating is widespread throughout the state’s university system, with almost 1000 assignments produced this year for students studying courses as diverse as philosophy, economics, law, engineering, astronomy and marketing.
One student spent more than $1500 on assignments for five different courses at the University of Newcastle’s Business School. Another student from the University of Wollongong paid for at least eight assignments.
The University of Sydney, the state’s premier institution, was among the most widely affected, with cheating spread across multiple faculties. During 2014, students from at least 37 of the university’s courses used the service.
The entrepreneur, Yingying Dou, went to high school at Pittwater House, a private school in Collaroy on Sydney’s northern beaches, and studied accounting at Macquarie University.
When approached by Fairfax Media, Ms Dou, who runs a university tutoring company called Yingcredible, would not comment on the MyMaster website.
“If you’re talking about MyMaster, I have nothing to talk [about],” she said. “No comment for today.”
Records show MyMaster and Yingcredible Tutoring are registered to the same principal place of business in Sussex Street in Chinatown. Ms Dou is also the registrant of the mymaster南京夜网.au website domain.
Within hours of Fairfax Media approaching Ms Dou, the MyMaster website was taken down.
A postgraduate finance student at Macquarie University said the practice of buying assignments online was widespread. On two separate occasions while he was working on a group assignment, international students in the group suggested they purchase the assignment online, rather than do the work themselves.
“I was not keen on that idea. I think people just want to do whatever they can to pass the course at all costs,” he said.
Assignment prices are advertised as a flat rate based on the number of words and the student’s level of qualification, with masters students paying more for assignments than undergraduate or diploma. The flat rates promise students a pass or credit grade, but they can negotiate a price for work that is of a distinction or high distinction quality.
MyMaster recruits its writers on Chinese social media sites, promising good rates and an end-of-year bonus.
In addition to essays, MyMaster customers have paid for business reports, speeches, powerpoint presentations and the completion of online tests, and requests range from short homework tasks to comprehensive research assignments.
Some students uploaded instructions for their ghost writer, explicitly detailing how they wanted their assignment to be completed.
They are guaranteed the purchased work is original and will not be detected by the universities’ plagiarism software.
Fairfax Media is aware of numerous websites offering similar services to students in Australia but most appear to be located offshore.
Australia’s international student market is a $15 billion industry and the country’s largest export after iron ore, coal and gold. International students, who often pay more than three times as much as locals for their degrees, generate a quarter of the annual income at some Australian universities.
Key interstate universities have also been ensnared in the scandal including RMIT, La Trobe University, Curtin University and the Queensland University of Technology.
The chief executive of Universities Australia, Belinda Robinson, said universities were aware of operations like MyMaster looking to exploit “a small minority of students seeking an easy path to success”.
“Students caught deliberately attempting to pass others’ work off as their own can be subject to harsh sanctions, up to and including automatic failure of courses and, ultimately, expulsion from the university,” she said.
Do you know more? amcneilage@fairfaxmedia贵阳桑拿.au
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