Uni can be tough. Sometimes workloads can pile up and it can feel like you've got deadlines coming out of your ears! It can be tempting to take shortcuts to get assignments done and exams passed. But is it really worth it?
Look at it like choosing between preparing a ready meal - super quick and convinient but not very tasty and bad for your health, and a nutricious home cooked meal cooked by yourself using the freshest ingredients. It may have taken a little longer, but the home cooked meal is always the winner, right?
The home cooked meal is the essay or exam that you spend the time researching for and putting your heart and soul in to. The one that's a higher quality and sure to get you the better grades. The ready meal is the one using all of those nasty shortcuts. These shortcuts are called 'academic offences' and, if caught, can get you into serious trouble.
What is an academic offence?
As defined in Chapter 4 of the General Regulations; “It is an academic offence for a student to commit any act which is intended to modify or evade, in an unauthorised manner and/or by unfair means, the condition of assessment specified by the University in relation to a programme leading to a University award or an award offered by an external body”
There are 7 examples of academic offences given:
- Cheating in examinations
- Acquiring and submitting work not written by the student
- Fabrication of results
- Repeated bad academic practice
- Re-use of assessed material
What is bad academic practice?
As defined in Chapter 4 of the General Regulations; “Bad academic practice is the presentation of work that is not the student’s own as if it were. It is the passing off of ideas, data or other information that are not within the realm of common knowledge in the discipline as if such materials were originally discovered by the student, or it is the word for word duplication of short phrases in written work, in oral presentation, or equivalent duplication in non-written forms, where the source is not mentioned, and where such duplication is minor in scale.”
Typically bad academic practice is found in inexperienced students, usually first years or students who have recently joined the University from another country which uses different methods of assessment.
How do I avoid an Academic Offence?
Make sure you take the time to read the University rules, know what is an academic offence and take advance of the brillant support on campus from your faculty and the library services especially CLaSS.
What is an Academic Practice Officer (APO)?
There are many Academic Practice Officers and each one has jurisdiction over certain courses within their school or faculty. Their role is to review the evidence of suspected academic offences which often comes from marking tutors, invigilators and turnitin reports. They are tasked with deciding if there is sufficient evidence to investigate further and in some cases they may require a student to attend an oral exam about the work submitted.
If the evidence suggests academic misconduct the APO will call a meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to gather relevant information from the student, to alert the student to the problem and warn them to take action to avoid any further issues. This meeting provides the student an opportunity to respond to the allegation before the APO determines the penalty and usually the student will be informed of this decision during the meeting. The APO may also refer the student to relevant sources of support. This method of dealing with academic misconduct has proved highly effective in reducing the incidences of repetitious offences.
APOs will determine penalties in accordance with the tariffs set out in Annex 1 of Chapter 4 of the General Regulations
Where it is suspected that work submitted by a research student is not their own (including drafts and work in progress) the Faculty Head of Research Students (FHRS) will require the student to attend a meeting to discuss the allegation. At least five working days’ notice shall be given of this meeting. During the hearing an oral examination (viva voce) may be undertaken to establish whether the student’s familiarity with the work is consistent with authorship of it. The student is entitled to be accompanied by a representative and may submit evidence, for example of mitigating circumstances. If the FHRS concludes that there is substance to the allegations raised then the matter will be referred to the Academic Offences Panel to determine the appropriate penalty.
What is an Academic Offences Panel?
Panels are formed of trained senior staff – see section 4 of Chapter 4 of the General Regulations. Panels are tasked with deciding the appropriate outcome in the more complicated or serious cases. For example, where a student has committed a second offence, or where the nature of the offence suggests a high degree of ‘ingenuity and forethought’ or where the student has not satisfied the APO’s questions, or in any case concerning research students.
Protocols for the conduct of panel hearings can be found in sections 5 and 6 of Chapter 4.
Panels can apply more severe penalties than APOs see section 7 of Chapter 4.
Do I have to attend?
It is recommended that you attend because this will give you the opportunity to see the evidence of your alleged offence and to respond more fully. Your participation in the process is encouraged and will not only help ensure you get the best possible outcome but may also help you to prevent further occurrences.
You do not have to attend alone – see Can I bring a representative
If you are unable to attend, you can respond in writing instead. If you need help to do so, contact DSU Advice - see Where can I get advice and representation?
Can I bring a representative?
Yes. You are entitled to have representation and this is encouraged if you feel it will help you to engage with the process. Your participation in the process (with or without a representative) will help ensure you get the best possible outcome. If you want your representative to help you to respond to the allegation you should discuss in advance what your key points are and ensure they are aware of the regulations concerning this process (Chapter 4 of the General Regulations).
Who can act as a representative?
Advisers from DSU Advice in the Students’ Union are experienced and trained representatives, but if you prefer you could instead take a friend or relative. You are not permitted to have a solicitor as a representative and you can only have one representative.
What should I do to prepare?
Read Chapter 4 of the General Regulations.
Contact DSU Advice as soon as you receive the letter to obtain advice (and representation if available). See Where can I get advice and representation?
Reply to the email address provided in the notification to confirm whether you’ll be attending.
If you are unable to attend, ask for the meeting to be rescheduled. If this is not possible, submit a written response instead. Seek help from DSU Advice with this.
Think back to the assessment concerned; make known any circumstances affecting you at that time as this may be taken into consideration in mitigation. If you can provide any evidence of this, take it with you or submit it with your written response.
What is mitigation?
The severity of the penalty may be reduced marginally where the student’s actions or state of mind at the time of committing an act of academic misconduct has been affected by exceptional personal circumstances. Examples include illness or bereavement.
If you believe mitigation could be applied to your case, inform the Academic Practice Officer or Panel about your circumstances and if possible bring evidence to the meeting or hearing.
What happens at an APO meeting?
The Academic Practice Officer will ask everyone present to introduce themselves.
He/She will briefly summarise their role and run through the procedure.
They will show you the evidence that led to the allegation arising.
You will have the opportunity to inspect this and to ask questions if necessary.
You may be asked some questions such as to explain how you went about writing the assignment, what sources you used and to explain your understanding of referencing.
You will have the opportunity to respond to the allegation. The key things to remember are:?
- Be honest - even if that means admitting to doing something you know was wrong
- Accept the offence (unless the allegation can be disproven)
- Show contrition (remorse) and commit to taking action to avoid any further problems
- Disclose any personal circumstances which might be considered in mitigation
The APO may ask you to leave the room for a few minutes whilst a decision is reached.
You will usually be informed of the outcome at the end of this meeting. This may not be the case where other students are concerned (cases of collusion).
The APO may recommend or even require you to take certain action, such as to access the support available from the Centre for Learning and Study Support (CLaSS).
You will be advised that a letter will be sent to you to confirm the outcome in writing and a copy of this letter will be retained in case any future academic misconduct arises.
What are the possible outcomes?
Where an allegation is not found proven, there will be no penalty.
Where an allegation is found proven, a written warning will be issued alongside a penalty and this serves as a record of the incident for reference in case further instances arise.
The standard outcome for bad practice is that you receive the marks for the original parts of the work only, however in more extensive cases a capped mark or even a 0 for the assessment could be deemed appropriate.
The standard outcome for an offence would be either failing the assessment with a mark of 0 or failing the module with a mark of 0.
Re-assessments may be required, but only if the module fails or where the element is an essential component and must pass. All re-assessments are capped. Re-assessments can only be taken if you have sufficient reassessment credits available. If you are unsure, you can check with your Faculty Advice Centre.
No outcome will be determined in complicated or serious cases, and these will be referred to a panel hearing. This will apply where a student has committed a second offence, or where the nature of the offence suggests a high degree of ‘ingenuity and forethought’ or where the student has not satisfied the APO’s questions, or in any case concerning research students.
If the course is subject to a Fitness to Practice requirement, and concerns arise in the course of an academic practice investigation about any aspect of a students’ fitness to practice, a Fitness to Practice investigation may follow. See Fitness to Practice for more information.
Does the allegation have to be proven?
In disciplinary proceedings such as these, the standard of evidence does not have to be ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ as for a criminal conviction, but rather it should meet the standard required in civil procedures which is ‘on a balance of probabilities’.
Evidence may consist of (amongst other things) invigilator reports, turnitin reports, oral exam findings, or information from other sources such as other students, tutors, and emails.
Can I appeal?
If you believe the regulations have been incorrectly applied, you can appeal to the Director of Student & Academic Services. This can be submitted via the ground floor reception in Gateway House. The deadline to do so is 10 working days from notification of the decision. The matter will be reviewed and if there are sufficient grounds for the appeal, the case will be reconsidered by two APOs from another faculty.
If you remain dissatisfied that the regulations have been properly applied, you can complain to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA). See the Complaints section for details.
What happens if my case if referred to a panel hearing?
Sections 4-7 of Chapter 4 of the General Regulations details the panel hearing procedure.
You will be asked to submit a written response in advance of the hearing stating whether you admit or deny the allegation and anything else you wish to add.
The APO will attend the hearing and present the evidence to the panel, then you will have the opportunity to present your response to the panel. The panel may ask questions to both the APO and the student. The panel then deliberates without the APO or student present, and once a decision has been made, both will be re-admitted to be informed of the outcome.
What are the possible outcomes?
The panel can apply the same range of outcomes as the APO (see above section) but they also have the authority to apply more severe penalties, such as suspension, failing a whole year, reducing the degree classification (final year students only) or ultimately expulsion.
Courses with a Fitness to Practice requirement may be subject to an additional penalty; where an offence is found which renders the student unfit to practice the student can be terminated from the course but might be permitted to join a similar course without the professional practice element.
Can I appeal a panel decision?
There is an opportunity to appeal but there are only three grounds to do so:
- That there is new and relevant evidence which the student could not (as opposed to did not) present at the Panel hearing
- That the Panel did not comply with its procedures in such a way as to cause reasonable doubt about whether the result would have been different if they had
- That there is evidence of prejudice or bias
Appeals must be submitted in writing outlining the applicable grounds and evidence. Appeals are submitted to the Director of Academic & Student Services via the ground floor reception of Gateway House.
The deadline to submit an appeal is 10 working days from notification of the panel’s ruling.
What can I do to prevent this from happening again?
Reflect on what led to this and address the underlying issues. For example, if you have been disorganised in your working practices, create some order, create a study schedule so you don’t leave everything to the last minute, or use different colours in your assignment draft to highlight where you have used a source.
It is safest to get into the habit of inserting the reference at the same time as writing the assignment as you might forget later on, and build the bibliography as you go rather than leaving it to the end when you are tired and stressed. Leave time to check your work before handing it in, and where possible use turnitin to check your draft before submission.
If you need advice on referencing (or indeed any study skills) get help from the Centre for Learning and Study Support (CLaSS) in the Library.
Familiarise yourself with the rules about Proof reading - see also paragraphs 51-55 of the Taught Programmes Regulations.
If you are unsure of the assignment, don’t ask to use other students’ work as a guide, ask the module tutor for help.
If you have been affected by serious personal issues such as family or relationship issues, you can make an appointment to talk to someone from the Mental Health and Wellbeing team in Gateway House.
If you have been worried or struggling to cope with financial or other issues like household disputes or problems with your course, speak to DSU Advice for practical help.
If you have been experiencing mental or physical health problems, consult your GP and discuss your options with a DSU Adviser, e.g. you might need to take an interruption.
Use the provision for extensions and deferrals – see our page on extenuating circumstances and Chapter 5 of the general regulations for more information and ask DSU Advice if you have any questions or need help.
What happens if I have a second incident of academic misconduct?
If two (or more) instances occur together and you have not received any prior warnings for academic misconduct, then both will be treated as first offences and penalised accordingly.
After receiving a warning for bad academic practice, any further instances will be treated as an offence and penalised accordingly.
After receiving a penalty for an academic offence, any further instances will be referred to an academic offences panel hearing. The standard penalty for repeated academic offences is expulsion however there are a range of outcomes as deemed proportionate. The panel can take mitigating circumstances into consideration which may result in a less severe penalty.
Will this mean my progression or graduation is delayed?
Progression is not usually permitted until all credits from that level have been cleared so if a re-assessment is required, it will depend on when this takes place as to whether progression will be affected or not. In most cases, re-assessments take place within the same academic year so (assuming you pass) you should progress on schedule.
You can only be entered for graduation once all work has been completed and marked. Re-assessments usually take place at the end of the academic session so if you are a final year student this is likely to delay your graduation.
Will an academic offence be shown on my transcript?
No. If the outcome of an offence is to fail a component or module, this will appear as a 0 on the transcript without explanation.
If the outcome is to receive a reduced degree classification or suspension this may be apparent from the transcript but will not be expressly stated that it is the result of a penalty.
If the outcome is expulsion the transcript will show the previous year’s marks and the final award. Expulsion will remove any credits attained in the academic year in which it occurs.
Where can I find the full procedure?
See Chapter 4 of the General Regulations
Where can I get advice and representation?
DSU Advice offers advice and representation at meetings and hearings. Please note that due to limited availability representation cannot always be arranged especially if insufficient notice is provided, so please contact us straight-away.
Need more help? Get advice and support from DSU Advice