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Contract cheating is taking place around the world. Since 2014, nearly 16 percent of students have reported paying someone to complete an assignment for them, according to a new study.

Phil Newton, a professor at Swansea University, analyzed 71 samples from 65 different studies dating back to 1978. The surveys Newton selected asked participants whether they’d ever paid an online service -- often called an “essay mill” or “paper mill” -- or a third party. Combined, the samples included 54,514 participants.

The study, published in Frontiers in Education on Aug. 30, found that an average of 3.5 percent of students reported engaging in contract cheating across the sample, but almost five times as many students, 15.7 percent, reported engaging in contract cheating in the past five years. Currently, contract cheating is legal in the United Kingdom and banned in the U.S. and New Zealand.

Newton noted some caveats in his discussion. Cheating tends to be underreported generally, and over a third of the studies included did not make it clear to students that their responses were anonymous. Also, over 70 percent of the students used convenience sampling methods and almost 20 percent did not make clear their sampling methods, therefore the results may not be representative of the entire higher education student population.

The full study can be found here.