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Rational choice or strain? A criminological examination of contract cheating

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 21:51 authored by Victoria NagyVictoria Nagy, Groves, A
Contract cheating is a significant problem, both within and outside the academy. Responses have largely focused on punitive consequences for tertiary students, and in 2019 the Australian Federal Government proposed legislation that would formally criminalise contract cheating both for the buyer and the seller. Although contract cheating has the hallmarks of white-collar crime, criminological examination of this form (and arguably all forms) of academic misconduct has been minimal. Utilising the findings of Bretag, T., Harper, R., Burton, M., Ellis, C., Newton, P., Saddiqui, S., & van Haeringen, K. (2019. Contract cheating: A survey of Australian university students. Studies in Higher Education, 44(11), 1837–1856), where over 14,000 Australian tertiary students were surveyed, we examine contract cheating through a criminological lens and discuss whether rational choice theory (RCT) or general strain theory (GST) can contribute to understanding of its incidence and whether these theories offer a way to respond to or prevent this behaviour in the future. Our findings suggest that neither theory offers a complete solution and it is, in fact, a blend of RCT and GST that can help explain student contract cheating—what we term ‘strained rationality’.


Publication title

Current Issues in Criminal Justice








School of Social Sciences


Taylor & Francis

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

© 2021 Sydney Institute of Criminology

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Higher education; Crime prevention