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April 4, 2007 / conceptbin

I should be in PR

Not to accuse anyone of plagiarism, but in today’s Education Guardian I read an amusing piece on the online paper mill Oxbridge Essays, and recognized a familiar argument. In fact, it was one of my own.

Here’s the amusing bit. Barclay Littlewood, co-owner of and owner of UKessays, seems to have read my blog. In the Guardian piece on Oxford Essays he still claims to provide “model answers,” but on top of that he now argues that “he is providing a useful service which shows universities that they teach students in the wrong way,” according to the Guardian.

Last July, in response to another Guardian story about the same thing, I wrote a mildly sarcastic post titled Why I Like Online Paper Mills which started with the sentence: “Barclay Littlewood is doing a service to UK higher education.” My argument, was, in short, that online paper mills are the toxic byproduct of the way we now do business in Higher Education. Therefore, I hope that their activity prods us to become a bit more creative in our teaching and modes of assessment.

Fast forward 8 months.

Littlewood now represents himself as an idealist on a mission to reform higher education in the United Kingdom. He doesn’t run paper mills to make mone, but rather “to ensure that essays are phased out of the UK academic system and universities are held to account for the substandard skills they have been teaching students for far too long.”

Good for him. It’s a great PR tactic – bold, brazen, and proactive. Instead of skulking around like a common crim, parade your ethically dubious business as a reformist challenge to the educational status quo.

I’m not claiming any ownership here. It’s a while since I noticed that Littlewood has an entry devoted to him on Wikipedia. It lists his press coverage – and one of the few links is to my very own Concept Bin. However this came about, it’s a highly amusing thought that my blog post last year may have provided a model answer for Barclay himself.

If you’re wondering, my consulting fees are quite reasonable…


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