Meaningful crime prevention or just an 'Act': Discourse Analysis of the criminalisation of contract cheating services in Australia

Andrew Groves, Victoria Nagy

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Contract cheating remains a significant problem for universities and higher education (HE) generally, both within Australia and internationally. In 2020, the Australian Federal Government passed legislation establishing a new criminal offence, criminalising the provision or advertisement of academic cheating services by individuals and businesses. This legislation represents the Australian Government’s formal commitment to a criminal justice response to address the problem of contract cheating behaviour, which seeks to prevent and minimise the use and/or promotion of such cheating services within the higher education sector. This paper provides a political discourse analysis (PDA) and interpretive policy analysis (IPA) of Australian Parliamentary Hansard documents regarding debate of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Amendment (Prohibiting Academic Cheating Services) Bill 2019. Our findings suggest a discord between the putative purpose of this legislation and the way the contract cheating problem has been represented in Australian Parliament. We argue that debates regarding the solution to, or at least how to address contract cheating first need to understand and agree on the problem if they are to meaningfully prevent crime. Our analysis exposes the politicisation of the higher education sector and associated discourse, where concern about contract cheating, in this case, was used as a vehicle to further rationalise ongoing Government paternalism and interference in tertiary institutions, underscoring the need for critical evaluation of criminological interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-319
Number of pages25
JournalCrime, Law and Social Change
Issue number3
Early online date1 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • Australia
  • Contract cheating
  • COVID-19
  • Criminalisation
  • Political discourse analysis
  • Politics


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