Academic Misconduct

Academic Misconduct is any action that produces an improper advantage for the student in relation to their assessment(s) or deliberately and unnecessarily disadvantages other students.  It can be committed intentionally or accidentally.

This can involve obvious things like taking notes or taking a mobile phone into your exam, but it can also involve copying other people's work or submitting work that is not your own. It can even include working with a friend on a piece of work when you were supposed to work alone.

The most common types of academic misconduct are:

  • Plagiarism: This is where you copy work from elsewhere (e.g. internet sources, Wikipedia, textbooks) and don't make it clear that it isn't your work. Using source material, even quoting from it, is OK, but you must reference the work properly.
  • Collusion: This is where you work with someone else, such as a friend, when the assessment rules state you should work alone
  • Examination misconduct: The most common examples of examination misconduct include taking notes or a mobile telephone into the exam room when you're not allowed to, or simply being a nuisance or disrupting your fellow students. Less common examples can include getting somebody else to pretend to be you.

 

What happens if I commit academic misconduct?

If a member of staff such as your essay marker or your exam invigilator, thinks you've committed academic misconduct, they will report it to your School for investigation.

What happens next can depend on your school, what you're studying, and what you are alleged to have done.

Academic misconduct is often investigated before the release of your results. Sometimes where there is suspected misconduct, it is common that you will not receive a mark for the work (e.g. Moodle) when the results are released. If this happens, you should receive an email from your School shortly after this date. 

Your School should provide you with information about their concerns by email, and any evidence. For example this could be a copy of a Turnitin report or an invigilator's exam report, with a brief explanation of what their concerns are.

If you do not receive this information you should email your School to request it ahead of any meeting or panel you are invited to (more about this below).

 

Where can I get advice and support?

We would strongly advise you contact us for one-to-one advice and support. You can get support from us by completing a Case Form.

If you do decide to seek advice and support from us it is a good idea to get this information so your Advisor fully understands any allegation against you.

The School should give you 5 working day’s notice in advance of any meeting or panel. This should give you enough time to prepare and also seek advice from us.

There are often tight turnaround times for sending statements or attending panels.

Bear in mind that we can take up to three working days to get back to you, and we need as much notice as possible to assist you properly.

We will not be able to accompany you to any meetings without at least 48 hours notice.

 

(Note: the following guidance does not apply to BPTC/LPC students. These students should contact us by completing a Case Form for specific advice) 
 

Preliminary Investigation

In most cases, your School will initially conduct a preliminary investigation into any suspected academic misconduct before deciding whether to treat the matter one of the following:

 

  • Poor Academic Practice (this includes unattributed quotations, incorrect citations, unacknowledged proofreading by another person)
  • Academic Misconduct (this includes plagiarism (which  can be self-plagiarism, which is resubmitting your work from another assignment), collusion, or repeated poor academic practice)  
  • Serious Academic Misconduct (this includes contract cheating i.e. paying someone else to do your essay or sit an exam, copying work from another student, falsification of data or extensive cheating e.g. getting hold of an exam paper before the exam)

 

As part of a preliminary investigation you may be invited to a meeting with the person who believes they detected possible academic misconduct, normally your module tutor, and a member of professional staff, normally in the Quality Team. In that meeting it'll be decided if you have committed academic misconduct.

During the current pandemic and move to online working, at this stage of investigation you may instead be asked to submit a written statement rather than attend a meeting.

If you have, an appropriate sanction will be agreed by the staff members in light of the discussion.

It is worth noting that it can still be decided that misconduct has taken place even if you didn’t know how to reference properly or acted unintentionally.

If you don't agree that you've committed academic misconduct, or with the sanction, you will be asked to attend an Academic Misconduct Panel.

You could also be asked to attend a more formal Academic Misconduct Panel for more complex or serious instances of alleged misconduct.

If you are accused of not submitting your own work, you may be asked specific questions about your work or interviewed as part of a preliminary investigation to establish whether it was written solely by you or with the help of someone else. In such cases you should contact us for more advice.

 

Academic Misconduct Panel

If the alleged misconduct is more serious or if you didn't agree with the outcome of the preliminary meeting, you'll be invited to a meeting in front of an Academic Misconduct Panel.

This panel will consist of three academic members of staff, a ‘professional’ member of staff (normally from the Quality Team), and a secretary.

The ‘chair’ (or leader of the panel) is normally an academic from your department, but may sometimes be an academic in your wider School. These staff members at the panel will not be the tutor for the module where the suspected misconduct has taken place, as they are not supposed to have any prior knowledge of the allegations.

They will have the paperwork relating to your alleged misconduct in front of them and they will ask you about what happened. They may ask you specific questions about your work and the circumstances in which you wrote it. This is your opportunity to explain why the alleged misconduct happened or to explain why you don't think you've done anything wrong.

These panel hearings usually last for about 30 minutes, and the panel will normally tell you their decision before you leave.

 

Statements

You will have an opportunity to write a statement before your meeting or panel, to explain your response to the allegations and give your ‘side of the story’.

You should normally send this statement ahead of time. For a panel, you will normally need to send your statement 5 days before the panel takes place. This will give the panel an opportunity to read over the information and prepare questions to ask you.

You can normally read out this statement at the beginning, and then questions will be asked by your tutor about what you have said.

If you prefer, or if you feel nervous, you could ask the panel to take your statement ‘as read’, and provide a brief verbal summary.

Union Advice can help you with this by providing feedback on a draft statement. This is often the most valuable thing we can do to help you, so make sure you get this to us in good time.

We can advise you on what information to include in the statement, advice on what you should and shouldn’t say, and the tone to adopt.

We may also play ‘devil’s advocate’ and propose some counterarguments to your statement. This helps you to better prepare for questioning at any panel or meeting.

 

Sanctions

If you admit that you've committed academic misconduct, or if it’s found that misconduct occurred (either at the preliminary stage or after a panel), there are a number of penalties that may be imposed on you, which are called ‘sanctions’. There are 6 different sanctions, which apply to different levels of severity of misconduct.

Which sanction is given will depend on how serious the incident is, and whether you have done it before. These are the most common ones:

 

  • Reduced mark: this can be given for minor first time offences and is common for instances of poor academic practice. Your work will be marked but the grade will be lowered to reflect the misconduct.  You will receive a note on your record that this has taken place, but it is only internal and will not appear on your transcript. This is so that the university know if academic misconduct happens again.
  • Mark of zero: The most common penalty. This means that the work affected by your misconduct will be given a mark of zero, which means you will fail the work. If this was a first attempt at the assessment, you will normally be given an opportunity to resit the work at the next opportunity, but this mark will be capped at the pass mark (see below).
  • Referral to the University Disciplinary Panel: If the Academic Misconduct Panel think your academic misconduct is very serious, they will refer the matter to the University Disciplinary Panel. That Panel has the power to impose stronger penalties including expulsion.

 

What happens next?

  • If you're cleared of academic misconduct, your work will be marked as normal and you won't receive any penalty at all.
  • If you're given a reduced mark, your work will be marked with the reduction applied. If this still gives you a good enough grade to pass, you will do so. If the mark isn't good enough for you to pass, then you will fail the piece of work.
  • If you're given a mark of zero, you will have failed the piece of work. If you fail a piece of work as a result of academic misconduct, this will be treated as any other fail:
  • If you have resits available, then you will be allowed to take these. Usually the resit attempt will be capped at the pass mark (40 for undergraduates, 50 for postgraduates). In more serious cases of academic misconduct your entire module may also be capped at zero, though you would get the credits for passing (so you wouldn't fail your course).
  • If you don't have resits available, then usually the assessment board will fail you and withdraw you from your course. This is usually what happens with academic misconduct on a resit attempt.

 

If you're referred to the University Discipline Panel, they can:

  • Apply any sanction open to the Academic Misconduct Panel
  • Remove your right to take resits (i.e. you will fail your course)
  • Expel you from the University

 

What support is available to help you avoid academic misconduct?

It can be hard to understand all the rules, especially if you're new to higher education or new to the UK education system.

Therefore, the Library and Academic Skills team provide lots of support on study skills, including advice and guidance on referencing correctly. Take time to attend their workshops and seek support if you're still struggling.

One outcome from your panel might be a recommendation to attend one of these workshops, so you know how to avoid misconduct in the future e.g. how to reference correctly.

Your tutors can also help if you're still uncertain about referencing, or if you're uncertain whether what you're doing might be academic misconduct. If you’re struggling with your work, you can always seek help from your module tutor or personal tutor.

 

How can Union Advice help with academic misconduct?

Our Union Advice service is independent from the University and we can:

  1. Explain the academic misconduct regulations and process.
  2. Advise you on responding to the allegations.
  3. Advise on how to put together a statement to respond to the allegations.
  4. Accompany you to meetings or panels with your School.
  5. Provide ongoing advice throughout the process. 
     

You tell us about your situation and seek advice using our case form.

There are often tight turnaround times for sending statements or attending panels.

Bear in mind that we can take up to three working days to get back to you, and we need as much notice as possible to assist you properly.

We will not be able to accompany you to any meetings without at least 48 hours notice.

 

Here’s what you should do if you have been notified of academic misconduct, and before contacting Union Advice using our case form:
 

  1. Understand the allegations. Check if the issue is poor academic practice or academic misconduct. Read all of the information you have been sent (this might include Turnitin reports, screenshots of your exam submission etc). Try to understand the concerns being raised. This will help mean you have the relevant information to respond to the allegation, and will help us make sure we get you the right advice.
     
  2. Prepare a statement. Think carefully about the allegations and take the time to write a statement in response. Start by writing a timeline of the events in time/date order. The statement should address the concerns raised by explaining what happened and how you believe misconduct has or has not occurred. Try to keep it less than 2 pages. You should include if there were any difficult circumstances when you completed your assessment i.e. if there was anything going on that effected your ability to study and potentially lead to the misconduct; this might explain why you forget to reference, or what caused you to collude or plagiarise.
     
  3. Be honest. If the allegation is true it’s better to acknowledge this because you may receive a harsher penalty if you’re dishonest or try to cover it up. It’s important to take responsibility and apologise for anything you’ve done wrong, even if unintentional.
     
  4. If you are denying all or part of the misconduct, carefully explain your reasons and where possible, provide evidence to support your position. You should seek proper guidance from one of our Advisors when you do this, they will be able to comment on your arguments and your evidence.
     
  5. Attend the meeting. Confirm your attendance and state whether anyone will be accompanying you for support (an adviser from Union Advice can accompany you). It’s a good idea to bring your statement and any evidence so you can refer to it if necessary during the meeting. If you can’t attend, or if the university don’t give you enough time before the meeting or panel for you to contact Union Advice, try to reschedule.
     

Useful links

  • The University's Academic Misconduct Policy and Guidance explains the process in detail (LPC/BPTC students should refer to the assessment regulations in their Assessment Handbook)
  • University guidance on academic misconduct during coronavirus can be found under the ‘Study’ tab HERE
  • As lots of exams have been taking place remotely recently, and there have also been increased pressures at home which might effect your studies, the temptation to ‘contract cheat’ is potentially higher. You can find out how to avoid this by reading our article HERE