Tony Ward

Anthony E. Ward (Univ. of York, UK)

Title: Is Ghostwriting something Higher Education is willing and able to challenge?


The use of another person to write or help write student assignments comes in many levels and is achieved in many different ways. Defining what constitutes an academic infringement and mustering sufficient evidence to challenge a student is challenging because of the complexity of definitions, the degree of obfuscation and the inability to detect. Methods of gaining ‘help’ fall on a continuum of acceptability from discussing the assignment with a peer; proofreading; jointly writing with a peer; using AI tools to obfuscate direct quotes; to ghostwriting. Methods of detecting also range on a continuum of detection reliability from experience; to document metadata analysis, plagiarism detection tools; to experimental AI forensic text analysis.

The problem is that this is not a matter of some isolated incidents – it is a massive global business where both academics and students gain. It is also a good example of cat and mouse in the knowledge of what the other side is doing.

This talk explores the problem by looking at terminology, the business model, obfuscation techniques, detection techniques; and governance from a Higher Education perspective. Real analysis data will be shown to illustrate the effectiveness of some obfuscation and detection techniques.


Tony is Professor of Engineering Management and Deputy Head of Department for Teaching in the Department of Electronics at the University of York. He has a Bachelor in Electrical and Electronic Engineering and an MBA. He joined the Department over 25 years ago after spending 18 years in Industry as an electronic design engineer, technical manager and programme manager for a number of different companies with an industry specialism in measurement and test methods.

Within York, he has held the position of Provost of Alcuin College and Director of the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning in Enterprise and held a number of administrative positions at Departmental and University levels. In the Department, he founded a taught Masters programme in Engineering Management which has grown to have over 150 registered students.

Externally he has been President of the European Association for Education in Electrical and Information Engineering and managed or participated in over 20 research projects. He has published 19 journal papers, nearly 100 conference papers, given nearly 20 invited lectures or keynotes and written or contributed to 9 books or formally published reports.

His research is in the area of Engineering Education, in particular in skills frameworks and skills assessment. He is the founder and Chairman of a successful spinout company in the skills assessment area.