Does authentic assessment assure academic integrity? Evidence from contract cheating data

Cath Ellis*, Karen van Haeringen, Rowena Harper, Tracey Bretag, Ian Zucker, Scott McBride, Pearl Rozenberg, Phil Newton, Sonia Saddiqui

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Citations (Scopus)


Contract cheating occurs when a student outsources their assessment to a third party, regardless of the third party’s relationship with the student, or whether money is exchanged. In higher education, there is a widespread belief that assessment design is a solution to the problem of contract cheating and that authentic assessment tasks are particularly effective. This research analysed two datasets–221 assignment orders placed on academic custom writing websites and 198 assessment tasks in which contract cheating was detected–to investigate if authentic assessment can assure academic integrity. The authenticity of assessments was determined using five factors derived from the literature: frequency, fidelity, complexity, real-world impact and feed forward. Our analysis found that assessment tasks with no, some, or all of the five authenticity factors are routinely outsourced by students.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)454-469
Number of pages16
JournalHigher Education Research and Development
Issue number3
Early online date22 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • academic integrity
  • academic integrity breaches
  • assessment design
  • authenticity
  • contract cheating


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