AUSTRALIAN high school and university students are outsourcing their homework to sweatshops in India, Pakistan and Egypt which provide English essays and maths papers for as little as $2.
Websites such as canadianessays.com, realassignment writing.com and dissertation india.com offer fixed-price tariffs or auction-style services where students put work out to tender and workers, mostly graduates from India and Pakistan, bid to take on the projects.
Schools are powerless to stop cheaters using the outsourcing services because custom-made work cannot usually be detected by plagiarism software.
Matt Barrie, founder of freelancer.com, a website designed to put small businesses in touch with affordable labour in emerging economies, said homework assignments were frequently submitted to his site.
"We get them all the time," he said. "As a lecturer myself, I really don't approve, but kids will be kids - they will always find a way to cheat.
"There are students in India who will give answers for just a few dollars and I have seen maths questions answered for $2 a go." The Sunday Telegraph tracked down one worker offering his services, graduate Mohammed Ali Khan, 23, of Islamabad, Pakistan.
He is turning out essays and papers for high school and university students, charging $2 per 100 words.
"It's my part-time job," he said. "I get work from all over the world including Australia, the US and the UK.
"I've done many jobs for Australian students," he said. "Australians mainly ask for university papers but I've done some high-school work, too."
When asked how much he would charge for a 1000-word Year 12 English language essay, he said $US10.
Academics are concerned about the new customised cheating factories on the net.
"We take this very seriously but, sadly, it's no surprise," University of Western Sydney associate dean Craig Ellis said.
"In the past five years there's been an explosion in sites where you can download pre-written assignments, but we have the mechanisms that allow us to cross-reference essays to identify this. But the trend towards custom-produced work at such low costs is particularly worrying because it is that much harder to spot."
In Australia, Ozessay.com .au offers high-school papers at $16.79 per page with a two-month deadline, rising to $54 per page for PhD-standard work with a 24-hour deadline.
It claims it is now working on essays and dissertations for 1000 Australian students.
The NSW Department of Education warned that any students caught cheating would be given zero marks.
"The Department emphasises to students the importance of the ethical use of technology both in and out of school," a spokesman said.
"Parents have a responsibility to monitor their children's computer use while at home."