Academic ghostwriting a 1 billion-yuan industry
The problem of students paying someone else to write their academic papers is all too familiar on the mainland - and it is being driven by a thriving industry.
The companies providing such services via the internet offer round-the-clock customer service and a function to track the progress of the essay being written.
They advertise for ghostwriters and offer service pledges. Students who want to buy an essay can even choose which grade they would like.
At iPassEssay.com, students are offered an essay for a minimum of 850 yuan (HK$1,040), which guarantees a B-minus. Students willing to spend more can buy an A-plus essay for 1,550 yuan.
The annual turnover of this market is estimated at more than one billion yuan, according to research by Wuhan University in 2010.
And the companies are eager to please. Huifeng.com promises that students will only be charged for an essay if they are satisfied with it.
Prominent mainland blogger Fang Zhouzi said the situation was not as bad as it was a decade ago because of pressure from the media. But he said academic fraud was still a serious problem at every level - from undergraduates to professors.
'There are fewer ghostwritten essays and falsified degrees on the mainland when we look back to a decade ago - and this is mainly because of exposure in the media and growing public pressure,' said Fang, who is also known as Dr Fang Shimin and has campaigned to expose academic fraud.
'But the problem still prevails on the mainland, where we have academics falsifying their publications and qualifications.'
Fang was injured in an attack in 2010 by two men hired by an academic he had accused of fraud. He said Xiao Chuanguo, a professor of urology, had lied about winning an American Urological Association award and questioned the success rate of a new surgical procedure Xiao was promoting. Xiao was jailed for 51/2 months for the attack.
In Hong Kong, two in every five bosses say they have received resumes containing lies, and 20 per cent cited bogus qualifications, according to a 2010 survey. The problem is worse on the mainland, where 70 per cent of bosses say they have received resumes containing lies.