Some ghostwriters are seeing a growing demand for services for schoolwork, projects — and even exams
However, many of the inquiries tend to come from private universities as well as Singaporean students studying in the UK and Australia, she added.
While her rates vary widely based on deadlines and writer availability, she charges around S$100-120 per 1,000 words for an essay.
In addition to conducting online exams, some tertiary courses have also shifted to grading students based on homework to replace in-person exams.
Christine said this could be why more and more students are turning to ghostwriting services like hers.
“But more importantly, the pandemic has made it very difficult for many to study or seek help effectively. So some have no choice in such a stressful situation,” she said.
Another provider of these services, Mr. Joshua Lim, said he receives inquiries from about 200 students every month who need help with their assignments or projects, half of which are fulfilled by his company, Coding Hero.
His business focuses primarily on computer programming and charges an average of around S$150-200 for a typical job and can go up to over S$1,000 for a senior year project.
Mr. Lim, a 28-year-old computer science graduate who works full-time as a mobile application developer, said he has a network of about 150 programming experts, which he sources from part-time job boards and word of mouth when he can type to accept job requests.
The demand for its services has also been growing since its launch in early 2020.
He said the inquiries he gets come from a good mix of Singaporeans from overseas universities and students – including foreign students – from local universities.
“Most of them actually just don’t want to stay in their chosen major and get their education over with,” Mr Lim said, adding that he’s also had inquiries from working adults who have been tutored by their employers to attend part-time courses.
Still, Mr. Lim claims that he does not offer any service to encourage fraud.
Finally, his company is a registered company and his terms and conditions state that all of his products are provided “solely as a research example, reference for learning purposes, or as an example for performing coding and research tasks.”
When asked if he really believed students didn’t use his work to cheat on their schoolwork, Mr. Lim referred to his company’s terms and conditions, but acknowledged he would not be able to verify that they were using his work would copy completely.
He said, “Let’s say you have a tutor. He would do the same – he would do the work for you and possibly explain the steps involved, but tell you not to submit that work as it would be cheating.”
When Christine was asked how she felt about running a service that helps students cheat, she said many people tend to dismiss their clients as simply people who cheat and want to do better.
However, many of her clients are working adults and part-time students who are too busy to do their jobs alone. Some had family members who were hospitalized.
“It’s clearly not ideal that they have to seek outside help for their (school) work,” she said.
“But what we should really consider more is why they need to seek outside help and how we can change that systemically to have a better education system.”
She added, “What we are is a last line of support for these students.”
The reason she continues her business has remained largely the same that she started it in the first place.
“We just want to help and give more people trapped by student debt a way to pay off their loans quickly,” she added, referring to those who work for her.
TODAY reached out to Carousell to ask about their policies regarding these services offered on their platform.
STUDENTS WHO CHEAT MAY BE DISCLAIMED
In response to TODAY’s inquiries, Nanyang Technological University said cases of students using ghostwriting services for their schoolwork are rare.
“Cheating on assignments or projects is typically detected through professors’ vigilance and familiarity with each student’s expertise and writing style, whistleblowing reports, or through similarities in student submissions,” NTU said.
It added that NTU students must run their essays through Turnitin, plagiarism detection software, before submission.
Depending on the severity of the case, students who are caught cheating face a warning, grade reduction, a failed grade for the term paper or the entire course, and expulsion.
Meanwhile, the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) said it has never met students who have used ghostwriting services.
It added that the university also uses Turnitin and that if faculty members spot students with similarities in their response styles, they will invite those students to be surveyed.
SUTD students caught cheating may fail their subjects or be expelled.
The Singapore Management University (SMU) said students who passed off someone else’s work as their own could be fined with one Failing the exam, suspension or expulsion, depending on the circumstances.
SMU said its courses use multiple forms of assessment to grade students, reducing the weight of each assessment and reducing the incentive to hire a ghostwriter.
These include personal exams, class participation results, group assignments, class quizzes, class presentations, and plagiarism detection software.
The Singapore University of Social Sciences said the university has a “backend system” that flags such crimes and students who are caught could be expelled.
The Singapore Institute of Management and the Singapore Institute of Technology declined to comment. TODAY reached out to the National University of Singapore and Kaplan Singapore to ask how common such cases are among their students.