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Academic Misconduct

Consult this policy for information on:

  • Plagiarism, collusion, and other assessment irregularities
  • Procedures for dealing with assessment irregularities, including referral to the University

What are 'Assessment Irregularities'?

Assessment irregularities are disciplinary major offences which will be dealt with in accordance with the University’s General Regulation IV. Assessment irregularities take various forms including plagiarism, multiple submission and collusion. TEIs must ensure that all students are aware of the seriousness of these practices, and of the penalties which may be incurred.

Plagiarism

unacknowledged use, including quotation and close paraphrasing of other people’s writing and ideas, amounting to the presentation of other person’s writings or thoughts as one’s own. This includes using material which is available on the internet, and in any other electronic form, and ‘contract cheating’ i.e. obtaining an essay from an essay writing site, or equivalent source, and submitting it for marking, as if it were your own work.

Multiple submission

the inappropriate submission of the same or substantially the same work of one’s own for summative assessment, in connection with an academic award.
Collusion working with one or more other student(s) to produce work which each student then presents as their own in a situation in which this is inappropriate or not permitted and/or without acknowledging the collaboration of the other student(s). Please note – an allegation of collusion is always made against two or more students. The submission by one student of another student’s work as if it were their own (without the other student’s knowledge) constitutes plagiarism rather than collusion.
Impersonation presenting work on behalf of someone else as if it were the work of the other individual.
Cheating using any inappropriate or unauthorised means to achieve credit for a piece of coursework or an examination answer.
Use of inadmissible material using material which is not permitted to achieve credit for a piece of coursework or an examination answer.
Facilitation it is also an offence for a student to provide work such as essays to facilitate plagiarism, for example, by placing work on a website.

Dealing with Suspected Cases

Any student's work may be uploaded to a plagiarism detection system to check for possible academic offences. All students are therefore required to sign a declaration at registration / when submitting assessed work authorising the uploading of their work onto such systems.

In the case of formative assessment, plagiarism or collusion should be dealt with informally by the TEI involved, but the serious nature of the dishonest practice should be made known to the student concerned. In the case of summative assessment, the first stages of the procedure are part of the examinations process and not a disciplinary procedure.

Cases of suspected plagiarism or collusion should be reported immediately. There should not be any delay over taking action since the consideration of such allegations at the end of the academic year can give rise to additional complications. The evidence of alleged plagiarism or collusion should be shown to the student, and the student should be asked to account for the work that they submitted.

The table below presents the procedure for dealing with suspected plagiarism. TEIs are also advised to consult our short guide on implementing the procedure for dealing with cases of suspected plagiarism in a Common Awards below.

1 If it is suspected that a student has breached the regulations, a report detailing the evidence should be made immediately to the chair of the TEI’s board of examiners. The TEI should automatically check all the student’s work for the year, to see whether there is other evidence for similar behaviour. Where two examiners have been appointed to examine a piece of work the examiners should consult over the matter before the submission of a report. In the event of one of the examiners being the chair of the TEI’s board of examiners, a deputy should act in his/her place.
2 If an external examiner suspects that a student has breached the regulations, they should consult with the internal examiner(s). The internal examiner should then prepare a preliminary report detailing the evidence; the report should be submitted immediately to the Chair of the TEI’s Board of Examiners.
3 If, in the view of the Chair of the TEI’s Board of examiners, the report of the examiner(s) provides sufficient detailed evidence of an offence, a sub-group panel of the TEI’s Board of Examiners, appointed by the Chair, shall be formed comprising the Chair and two other members of the Board (but excluding the reporting examiner(s)) to consider the case.
4 The student(s) concerned are required to meet the panel together with the reporting examiner(s). The student should normally receive at least 5 working days notice of the date of the meeting and should be told of its purpose. They should be offered the opportunity to be accompanied at the panel by a member of staff from the TEI (for example, the student’s personal tutor or equivalent). The student may also be accompanied by a non-staff member for the purpose of providing support to the student, at the discretion of the panel Chair. The University does not permit legal representation at any academic misconduct meetings.
5 If the allegation is collusion both students should normally be seen together, to enable them to hear the other student’s evidence against him/herself. Each student may say his/her mitigation in private before the panel, with the proviso that the other student will be given the opportunity to respond to any reference to him/her in the mitigation statement. In the case of final year students where the case of alleged plagiarism or collusion is brought to light at the end of the degree programme it may be necessary to hold a meeting without the 5 days notice, provided that the student concerned agrees in writing to this procedure. This course of action may be necessary in order to permit the TEI’s Board of Examiners the opportunity of considering the case without necessarily causing any delay to the normal process of consideration for the award of a degree to the student concerned.
6 Following the meeting, a written record of the meeting must be made immediately. The report must be sent electronically to the Common Awards Team as soon as possible. The Common Awards Team will forward the report to the relevant University Liaison Officer, and will use the report to monitor practice within and across the TEIs.


Possible outcomes

At the end of the meeting, the panel - excluding the reporting examiner(s) - must decide upon the quantitative and qualitative extent of alleged plagiarism or collusion. This decision must be made in the light of: (a) the evidence presented; and (b) the account given by the student including any mitigation offered. Based on this decision, the panel must agree on the appropriate action to be taken. A written record of the meeting, and the panel's recommendation, must be made immediately and sent electronically to the Common Awards Team as soon as possible.

The panel's recommendation must also be communicated to the student in writing by the Chair of the TEI's Board of Examiners. The panel’s recommendation may be as follows:

1 that no further action be taken, because, on the balance of probabilities, plagiarism or collusion or multiple submission had not taken place
2 that the Board apply for a concession or grace period on the student’s behalf, because, whilst there is clear evidence of plagiarism/collusion/ multiple submission, due to exceptional mitigating factors, a punishment is inappropriate;
3 that there is clear evidence of plagiarism/collusion/multiple submission and that the Board apply one of the following punishments:
A. mark only the student’s own contribution to the work, or in the case of multiple submission, mark only the proportion of the work which complies with the TEI’s guidance. (This may be most appropriate where the plagiarism/collusion/multiple submission is not extensive or it is a first-offence, or a first-year student; or the TEI’s Board accepts the student’s mitigation);
B. award a mark of 0 for the work (this may be appropriate where the plagiarism/collusion/multiple submission is more extensive, the work makes a significant contribution to the module/programme as a whole, or it is a repeat offence or there is clear evidence of dishonesty) and permit the student to resit/resubmit the piece of work with a mark capped at the pass mark (within the resit limitations set out in the Core Regulations for the Common Awards programmes);
C. award a mark of 0 for the entire module in which the plagiarism/collusion/multiple submission occurred (this is the most severe punishment open to the TEI’s Board of Examiners). The student will be required to resit the entire module with a mark capped at the pass mark (within the resit limitations set out in the Core Regulations for the Common Awards programmes). In the case of students in Level 6 of the BA programme, at which level resits are not permitted, this may result in the student failing their programme. The punishment should be used only in the most serious cases.
D. that the level of misconduct goes beyond the examples cited in A-C and, therefore, it should be referred to the University as a possible major offence under the University’s discipline regulations. In this case, the plagiarism panel should choose an academic outcome from A-C (above), and should contact the Common Awards Team as soon as possible to receive advice on progressing the case under the University's discipline regulations.
4 Where one of the above recommendations is applied, a written report of the work submitted together with the student’s explanation and the Panel’s recommendation should be presented to a meeting of the TEI’s Board of Examiners for consideration. The Board should consult the external examiner(s) before making a decision about cases involving work submitted for final honours. The report should also been sent electronically to the Common Awards Team as soon as possible; the report will be forwarded to the relevant University Liaison Officer for review.
5 In all cases in which the student is not in the final Level of their programme of study or has other summatively assessed work to complete, an appropriate member of teaching staff in the TEI must arrange a meeting, preferably in person, to counsel the student on how to avoid infringing the assessment regulations in future. A note of the date and time of the meeting is to be kept in the student’s file.


Further Information

  1. Procedures for dealing with plagiarism, collusion, and multiple submission are based upon the principle that teaching staff with subject-specialist expertise should exercise their academic judgement as to the extent to which the alleged misconduct amounts to plagiarism/collusion/multiple submission in the context of the given case.
  2. The facilitation of plagiarism through publication may also be classed as a dishonest practice under General Regulation IV, 5(a) (x) and may lead to expulsion from the Common Awards programmes. See also General Regulation XI, Intellectual Property Rights.
  3. In line with National Ministry Team requirements, all written assignments must be uploaded to a plagiarism detection system to check for possible academic offences at the discretion of each TEI. All students are therefore required to sign a declaration at registration authorising the uploading of their work onto such systems.
  4. TEIs should ensure that all students, including those from other cultures and academic traditions, know what is required and what is acceptable to be awarded a degree. All students should be made aware of acceptable and appropriate means of referencing (including the use of quotations and citations) and of paraphrasing the views of others. Where TEIs advise students that it is acceptable practice to use a commercial proof reading service, clear guidance should also be provided as to the level of acceptance that is acceptable and what level of assistance goes beyond this and amounts to ‘contract cheating’ and thus plagiarism.
  5. At the start of each academic year, each student must complete a form which includes a declaration that states:
    1. ‘All assessed work to be submitted for my degree [or other qualification] will be a result of my own work except where group project work is involved, and that I will comply with the TEI’s guidance on multiple submission. In the case of a group project, the work will be prepared in collaboration with other members of the group. In all other cases material from the work of others not involved in the assessment will be acknowledged and quotations and paraphrases suitably indicated.’ Or:
  6. It is required that the form is: (i) completed once a year at Registration and held in the TEI for a year; and/or (ii) completed each time a student submits any piece of written work, other than in a formal examination, which is to be assessed as part of the requirements for the qualification for which they are registered.

Interpreting the Process for ‘Dealing with Suspected Plagiarism’ in a Common Awards Context

We recognise that implementing this procedure in a Common Awards context can be difficult, particularly where there are non-residential students and a small, dispersed staff. The forms of reporting, the possible verdicts, and the criteria for choosing between them are fixed, but when it comes to the practicalities of arranging panels, we recognise that TEIs may need to be creative in deciding how to proceed in particular cases, in ways that do justice to the pastoral needs of the student, the demands being made upon staff, and the seriousness of the problem.

There are two key principles to bear in mind.

1. Decisions about verdicts and penalties should be made by an appropriate panel.

An appropriate panel will involve people who know the set-up within which the student is working, and who can exercise good academic judgment.

Membership of the panel. To make an impasse less likely, we ask for panels to have three members. To make sure that all involved understand the context, we ask for them to be members of the TEI’s Board of Examiners (and for one of them to be that Board’s Chair – or, where necessary, a deputy). To help keep the judgment as impartial as possible, we ask that the panel not include the markers who reported the suspected plagiarism and gathered the evidence (i.e., the ones who, in this context, are acting as accusers).

Who gathers the evidence? Our policy assumes that the report on the evidence of plagiarism will normally be produced by the marker who first discovered the problem. It may be appropriate, however, if that marker is inexperienced or otherwise unable to carry out this task, for it to be handed over to another person. TEIs will need to take this into account when working out who will serve on the panel.

Alternative arrangements. We recognise that TEIs, especially those with small numbers of staff, may sometimes not find it easy to constitute a panel in this way, but ask them in such cases to bear in mind the principles involved, and to contact us to confirm any alternative arrangements they may need to make. The idea is always to make sure the process is deliberative, fully attentive to the particular circumstances of each case, and fair.

2. Students have a right to respond to any accusation.

Students who are accused of plagiarism should have a real opportunity to hear the accusations explained to them fully and frankly, and to ensure that the panel have heard their responses. This is why the procedure includes attendance at a panel. The idea is not to create an intimidating experience, and the panel is not itself intended to be any kind of punishment, but to be a context for deliberation and communication. We therefore ask that the TEI invite any accused student to a panel, and that reasonable efforts be made to ensure that attendance is a realistic possibility for the student.

What are ‘reasonable efforts’? It is not reasonable to require staff to travel significant distances or to work outside their normal hours.

What about virtual panels? Attendance at the meeting (by the student and/or by members of the panel) may be virtual, but it is not a requirement that the TEI facilitate this. A TEI might well offer the opportunity for one person to be present via video conferencing. It should not be assumed, however, that multiple people could be present in this way, nor that the student will have easy access to the relevant technology.

Non-attendance. We also recognize that students may sometimes be unable to attend, or that they may not wish to. Provided that the chair of the panel, taking into account the nature of the allegations, is willing to give permission, we are happy for the requirement to attend to be waived. We anticipate that this permission will normally be granted if the alleged plagiarism would be a first offence and constitutes only a very small part of the assignment, and that it may at the discretion of the chair also be granted in other circumstances. In cases where the student does not attend, she or he may choose to send in a written response, or (if there is someone willing and able to take on this role) to be represented at the meeting by a member of staff – i.e., someone who is not a member of the panel, who has had a chance to discuss the situation with the student, and who can fairly represent the student’s claims to the panel.