Academic Misconduct

What is ‘academic misconduct?’

The University defines academic misconduct as anything which aims to:

  1. Give an unfair advantage over other students
  2. Deceive the marker

The University takes academic misconduct seriously and expects all students to uphold the principles of academic honesty:

  1. Always giving full credit for any other person’s contributions
  2. Never falsifying the results of any work

One of the most common forms of academic misconduct is plagiarism, which is representing work or ideas as your own without appropriate acknowledgement or referencing. This usually appears as copying text from a source without using quotation marks or properly paraphrasing. Plagiarism is often considered as ‘poor academic practice’ which is a lower category of academic misconduct.

Another form of academic misconduct is collusion, which is the unauthorised working with another person on a piece of work which is submitted without acknowledgement of the other's contribution. Whilst you can discuss your assignments with friends, it is really important that the content you produce is completely your own work. Collusion is considered to be a higher category of academic misconduct.

For other forms of academic misconduct, see 12.3 of Chapter 12 – Academic Conduct and Practice from the Teaching Quality Assurance (TQA) Manual.

Why have I received an investigation letter?

The University uses Turnitin which is a software which detects similarities in pieces of work. This can indicate that there may be instances of plagiarism and/or collusion in an assignment.

Because Turnitin is not a very sophisticated tool – i.e. it will highlight text that has been correctly referenced as well – a member of staff needs to look at the piece of work to see if there is any potential academic misconduct.

You have been sent this letter to let you know why there has been a delay to the release of your results.

There are different outcomes after receiving this letter:

1) The case is dismissed

If no potential academic misconduct is found in your assignment, you will be notified that no further action will be taken and your results will be released.

2) You are invited to an academic honesty workshop

If no potential academic misconduct is found in your assignment but there are some concerns about your referencing, you will be invited to a workshop and your results will be released.

3) You are invited to a discipline level meeting for poor academic practice

If some potential poor academic practice is found in your assignment, you will be invited to a meeting to talk about it.

4) You are invited to a college level meeting for academic misconduct

If some potential academic misconduct is found in your assignment, you will be invited to a meeting to talk about it.

We appreciate that for a lot of students, receiving the investigation letter can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. At this stage, you will need to wait to see what the next step will be. If you receive a letter inviting you to a discipline or college level meeting, we can meet with you to help you prepare for this.

If receiving this letter significantly impacts your mental health, we would encourage you to reach out to Wellbeing for support.

What can I expect from the meeting?  

If you have received a letter inviting you to a discipline or college level meeting, then there have been some concerns raised in your work which need to be discussed.

One of our advisors can attend the meeting with you as a supporter. We cannot answer questions on your behalf, but we can prompt you if we feel that you have forgotten to mention something important. Seeing a familiar face on screen or in person can help to make you feel a bit more at ease during the meeting. We can also meet with you immediately before the meeting to reassure you and immediately after the meeting for a debrief.

One of the main difference that you will notice between the two levels of meeting is the number of people who are present. For discipline level, there tends to be two members of staff and for college level there are more. This includes a notetaker who does not contribute to the discussion.

In both levels, the format is the same:

  1. The chair asks everyone to introduce themself
  2. They explain which section from Chapter 12 of the TQA that the case is being considered under and what the possible outcomes are
  3. They acknowledge that some students find the experience stressful and they will try their best to put you at ease. They encourage you to briefly leave the meeting at any point if you need a break.  
  4. They ask general questions about your understanding of what constitutes good academic practice
  5. They ask specific questions about how you prepared for and wrote the assignment
  6. They either screen share your assignment or ask you to have it open on your computer and ask questions about specific parts of your assignment
  7. They ask you if you have any questions
  8. They ask your supporter if they have any comments
  9. They inform you that you will receive an outcome within 10 working days
  10. The meeting usually lasts about 30 minutes

The tone of the meeting will be respectful – they are just wanting to hear from you in order to understand how the similarity in your assignment has occurred.

We would encourage you to be open and honest in your answers as this will not only demonstrate your transparency but also your willingness to improve your writing skills.

How can I prepare for the meeting?

1) Retake the ‘Academic Honesty and Plagiarism’ module on ELE

It may have been a while since you have taken this module and it can be really useful to refresh your memory about what is expected of you when writing an assignment.

Retaking the module also demonstrates that you are being proactive and are taking the meeting seriously.

2) Go through your assignment and notes thoroughly

Having retaken the ELE module, go through your assignment and notes thoroughly and try to see if you can understand what the issues are.

The panel are likely to be interested in talking about sections where there is a lot of highlighted text. It might be useful to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Have I missed any quotation marks?
  2. Have I missed any references/footnotes?
  3. Have I failed to paraphrase the author’s words?
  4. Have I used correct secondary referencing? (i.e. “Author A, cited in Author B’s work”)
  5. Have I made it clear in my notes what are my words and what are the author’s words?

Familiarising yourself with how you prepared for and wrote the assignment will really help when the panel ask you specific questions.

3) Submit a written statement

Once you have gone through your assignment thoroughly, you will be in a better position to explain what has happened in a written statement.

The panel ask for a statement to be sent no later than 24 hours before the meeting, however, this is just to give them time to read it beforehand, so you can still send in a statement less than 24 hours or share it during the meeting itself.

There is no set format for the statement, but you might find these suggestions useful:

  1. Aim for half a side to a full side of A4. If you need to provide lots of detail, you can write more.
  2. Have a brief introduction which outlines what you will cover
  3. Explain what you think the issues are in your assignment. Acknowledge that you have made some mistakes and that these were unintentional.
  4. Provide examples of where you have made these mistakes and explain what you should have done instead
  5. Provide relevant context – e.g. this is the first time I have studied in the UK; my mental health was very poor at the time of writing this assignment; this is the first assignment I’ve written since finishing my year in industry.
  6. State that you have retaken the ‘Academic Honesty and Plagiarism’ module on ELE
  7. State that you intend to book an appointment with a Study Zone advisor after the meeting
  8. Conclude by thanking the panel for taking the time to read your statement and say that you are keen to learn how to improve your writing skills  

If you would like some feedback on your statement before you send it off, you can send us a draft and we can make suggestions.

If you are feeling nervous or your mind goes blank in the meeting, having your statement to hand can help to jog your memory.

What are the possible outcomes from the meeting?

Your meeting invitation letter will state which tariffs could be considered for your case. For discipline level (Poor Academic practice) , these are usually Tariffs A-B, whereas for college level these are usually Tariffs A-D.

Tariff A 

Description

Penalty for coursework

Penalty for exam

Misunderstanding of the academic conventions of the discipline

Receive a warning letter, which will remain on file and retake the Academic Honesty and Plagiarism module on ELE

Receive a warning letter, which will remain on file and retake the Academic Honesty and Plagiarism module on ELE

Tariff B

Description

Penalty for coursework

Penalty for exam

Minor amount of poor academic practice within the piece of work

Resubmit the piece of work with the poor academic practice removed. The mark for this resubmission will not be capped.

Awarded a mark of zero but permitted a fresh attempt at this exam in the next appropriate assessment period. This will be deemed to be a deferral and will not be capped.

For coursework, you are not allowed to make changes to the whole piece of work as this would give you an unfair advantage. The panel will make it clear in the meeting minutes which sections you are allowed to change.

If you do not correct the poor academic practice sufficiently, you can be awarded a mark of zero. We recommend booking a session with a Study Zone advisor who can go through the changes with you.

Tariff C

Description

Penalty for coursework

Penalty for exam

Significant amount of poor academic practice within the piece of work

Awarded a mark of zero but permitted to resubmit the piece of work with the poor academic practice or academic misconduct removed. The mark will be capped at the pass mark. This will not be considered a referral attempt, and it won’t affect the right of referral if the module is failed.

Awarded a mark of zero but permitted a fresh attempt at this exam in the next appropriate assessment period. The mark will be capped at the pass mark. This is to prevent an advantage being gained by the misconduct. This will not be considered a referral attempt, and it won’t affect the right of referral if the module is failed.

Minor amount of academic misconduct within the piece of work

Minor inappropriate manipulation of data or source material to support the piece of work

Tarrif D – 1 and 2

Description

Penalty for coursework

Penalty for exam

Significant amount of Academic Misconduct detected within the piece

D1 

Awarded a mark of zero. There will be no right of referral for this piece of work. (This will not affect the right to reassessment of the module where the module is reassessed by way of one 100% examination; however you will only be able to be awarded the marks equal to the component where no misconduct was detected. i.e. you have received a mark of zero in 1 essay worth 40% of the module, therefore you would be entitled to 60% of the marks from any reassessment of the entire module).

 

D2

The module concerned will be given a mark of zero, and you have a right of referral for the pass mark.

D1 

Awarded a mark of zero. There will be no right of referral for this piece of work. (This will not affect the right to reassessment of the module where the module is reassessed by way of one 100% examination; however you will only be able to be awarded the marks equal to the component where no misconduct was detected. i.e. you have received a mark of zero in 1 essay worth 40% of the module, therefore you would be entitled to 60% of the marks from any reassessment of the entire module).

 

D2

The module concerned will be given a mark of zero, and you have a right of referral for the pass mark.

Data has been used by the student to support critical parts of their piece of work and this has not referenced

Inappropriate manipulation of data or source material to support the piece of work

The panel can also refer your case to a higher-level meeting if the academic misconduct is deemed to be more significant than first thought.

What happens if I am not happy with the outcome

You can appeal the outcome of the meeting by emailing the Student Cases Team within 10 working days. It is important, however, to manage your expectations as it can be difficult to have an appeal upheld.

 


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