Proctor asked to write essay for “research” company

A company that pays academics to write students’ PhD theses has approached an unlikely potential supplier: a University Proctor.

The Oxbridge Research Group, which describes itself as “the UK’s leading academic research company”, tried to commission research for a client’s PhD from law don Nicholas Bamforth. Unfortunately for the group, Bamforth is also one of the University’s two Proctors – tasked with policing student use of these services, which are strictly against Oxford rules.

In an email seen by The Oxford Student, a Research Group employee asks Bamforth to undertake an “edit” of a PhD thesis, including “substantial restructuring and stylistic editing” and the addition of 30 case histories. The email was added straight to the Proctors’ file on the company’s activities.

The company offers Bamforth a fee that is “substantial and open to negotiation” to undertake the work by the end of June.

Bamforth said: “I’d always known these places were probably pretty dishonest but I’d never realised what a rip-off they were for students.”

The Oxford Research Group claims to contract more than 2,000 academics from Oxford and Cambridge. It has supplied research for several hundred PhD candidates.

The email attempts to flatter Bamforth, noting that he is “one of the brightest academic lawyers in the country”. But the company appears unaware that he is also a University Proctor.

“It’s absolutely extraordinary for a service to be so careless as to do this sort of thing. I’ve never worked in the area they ask me to write about, quite apart from the fact that I’m a Proctor,” he said.

But a spokesperson for the Group was not embarrassed that they had contacted the Proctor.

He said: “Why would this choice be unfortunate? We seek to introduce our clients to the best possible academics mentors and advisers, and a law tutor and Proctor at Oxford University is an exemplar of such membership.

“As far as we understand it, reviewing, commenting upon and making recommendations for the improvement of students’ work is the very essence of a tutor’s responsibility at Oxford University and elsewhere, and we anticipated that Mr Bamforth might…have welcomed the opportunity to extend his expertise to other talented students who have not been fortunate enough to attend Oxford University.”

The email to Bamforth adds: “Our academic services exist to provide elite level tuition and academic guidance to those students who, feeling let down by their universities, seek support from leading academics who care about the quality of their teaching and research.

“We…believe in the value of education, which is why we contract only the very best academics from the country’s elite institutions. We only work with experts like yourself who guarantee academic research of an unparalleled standard.”

Using “research” companies like The Oxbridge Research Group is forbidden under the University’s Statutes.

Bamforth said: “These things are totally against the rules. You’d be disqualified as a candidate if you were using one of these services and it would be a very serious offence for a member of staff to co-operate with one.”