Discursive Construction of Contract Cheating and Degradation of Higher Education: Comments on The Daily Mail Online
Keywords:contract cheating, United Kingdom, media, discourse analysis, sociology of knowledge approach to discourse
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, more attention has been paid to practices of academic integrity in higher education institutions (HEIs). Part of this focus has been on contract cheating, which involves the outsourcing of assessments to third parties. There is little research on how cases of contract cheating are represented by journalists in the media and how readers interact and exchange comments regarding this subject. In this article, I surveyed the online section of the UK's most popular news brand, The Daily Mail, and commentary from readers. Through The Daily Mail's online database, I compiled a corpus of 983 comments written in response to articles regarding contract cheating in the United Kingdom. The corpus was analyzed using techniques grounded in the sociology of knowledge approach to discourse (KELLER, 2005). I found that there are repetitive practices which structure common patterns of comment and response, including overlapping discourses of populist orientation, othering of international and overseas students, self-positioning as expert, and other-positioning of current students as lacking integrity and moral strength. These themes relate to strategies to negotiate the apportionment of blame for contract cheating to historical political governance, generational difference, and societal degradation.
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