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Misconduct

This article is for Academic Misconduct and is intended as a helpful guide that should be read alongside Academic Misconduct Regulations, for related processes see Disciplinary, Fitness to Practise, Essays Mills, or the university’s guidance on turnitin

Overview

The University has a staged approach by which looks into any concerns of academic misconduct

  • Stage 1- Initial Meeting
    • an initial screening of any concerns
    • dealt with by module leaders, 
    • can either
      • dismiss the case,
      • issue penalties where misconduct is found,
      • or in more substantial or serious cases refer to Stage 2
  • Stage 2- Investigation Interview
    • dealt with by independent investigator
    • will gather any evidence for next step, but
    • is not making a judgement regarding misconduct
    • will either refer the completed investigation to
      • a Panel Hearing, or
      • back to stage 1
  • Stage 2- Panel Hearing
    • used in cases of major concerns
    • can dismiss the case or issue penalties where misconduct is found

Don’t panic if you are informed a meeting, investigation interview or hearing is taking place.
It is important to remember that until the conclusion of the process, the university is looking into an allegation of misconduct and they should ensure they take on board the points you raise in response before reaching a conclusion. Wherever an allegation or concern has been raised, it is right that it is looked into appropriately and this can lead to instances where the allegation or concern is dismissed and/or not found. 

 

The University defines what they consider to be misconduct. Such definitions include;

  • Academic Negligence
    • Which is normally your first offence, and is
    • Considered to be small and only in one part of your work;
    • Related only to your work and no other student;
    • Could have arisen from ignorance of requirements or a misunderstanding;
    • You evidently attempted to follow good practise but failed;
    • Your referencing is poor or inadequate.
  • Cheating by breaking the rules of conduct in examinations or other assessments, including
    • Communicating with or copying from any other student except where specifically permitted such as group assessments,
    • Communicating with any person other than a properly authorised invigilator or another authorised member of staff,
    • To bring in any written/printed material into an examination room unless expressly permitted for that assessment, or, helping another student to do so.
    • To bring in any electronically stored information into an examination room, or access information via a network or other form of communication, unless expressly permitted for that assessment, or, helping another student to do so.
    • Gaining access to any unauthorised material relating to an examination or other assessment during or before the specified time, or, helping another student to do so.
    • Obtaining a copy of an 'unseen' written examination paper in advance of the date and time for its authorised release, or, helping another student to do so.
  • Plagiarism;
    • The unacknowledged insertion into your work of material taken from the work of another; published or unpublished. Use of systems like turnitin can help you avoid plagiarism.
  • Self-Plagiarism
    • Where you submit a piece of work you have previously submitted and been awarded credit for (in another module or course)
  • Collusion, including
    • Doing working with others when this is not a requirement of the assessment (i.e. group work) and without explicitly referencing the work of those involved
    • Allowing, either through negligence or knowingly, another student to copy part or all of your work which that student then submits as if their own unaided work
  • Data related misconduct, including
    • Falsifying Data; where you manipulate research processes or change or omit data without good cause
    • Fabricating Data; where you make up results or other outputs such as artefacts, and then present as if they were real
    • Failing to provide raw data used for research work when request to
    • Conducting research and data collection without prior ethical approval
  • Impersonation
    • Where you allow another person to assume your identity for the purpose of completing an assessment/work
    • Where you assume the identity of another for the purpose of completing their assessment or work
  • 3rd Party assistance and Essay Mills, where
    • You have commissioned an assessment from a 3rd Party, which may or may not include essay writing services
    • You have used a translation or proof reading service where they have done any editorial work such as re-writing or re-wording the original piece of work
    • You have had an unacceptable level of 3rd party assistance with the work
  • Systematic failure to reference
  • Any other form of dishonest practice, including but not limited to
    • Offering inducements including bribery
    • Requesting the work be completed by another
    • Commissioning of work to be completed by another, even if that work has not yet been marked

Information provided
You will receive no less than 3 days’ notice of a stage 1 meeting, and no less than 5 working days’ notice of a stage 2 hearing.

You should be provided with the date, time and location of the meeting, what academic offence you are suspected of, and any available evidence.

Respond in advance
You must respond in advance to confirm your attendance or state if you believe you had committed academic misconduct, as well as give details of anyone you plan to attend with.

Your invite should specify how much notice you need to give for your response but for stage 2 hearings this should be within 5 working days of being invited.

Requests regarding attendance or reasonable adjustments
If you are struggling with attendance ask the university if it will consider re-arranging, using skype or telephone, responding in advance in writing or sending a designated representative. All these options have drawbacks to them and you should consult with an advisor when considering these options. Inform the university in advance if you have any reasonable adjustments due to disability or ill health.

Attend with someone
You have the right to be accompanied to a meeting, interview or hearing by another member of the University community and we recommend you do. Having someone there who supports you can help you feel more confident and supported.

We recommend you attend with a students’ union advisor as they can provide guidance on the process if at any point you are confused or unsure. But you can attend with other students or members of the university community including your course rep.

You are expected to respond to the allegations; anyone accompanying you is there to support you and not to act on your behalf.

Failure to attend
Academic Misconduct is very serious and we recommend that you engage as much as possible.

Failure to attend, or to submit evidence, will not prevent the process from proceeding or decisions being made.

You will be given information in advance
You will receive in writting, advance notice of a meeting or hearing along with any evidence being presented against you.

Any evidence presented should be reviewed carefully

In cases where a turnitin report is provided, you should give consideration to the overall similarity percentages, individual similarity percentages and any patterns to the highlighted similarities.
In particular you should look for;

  • Solid blocks of identical similarities which can be indicative of copy and pasting
  • Blocks of near identical similarities where there are a few words that differ or where the ordering of words is slightly different; which can be indicative of poor paraphrasing or an attempt to purposefully mask someone else’s work as your own
  • If similarities are wide spread throughout the assessment or if they are concentrated in one area of the assessment.
  • If there is a similar structure to a highlighted similar source

Considering your response
If you have a clear idea about the issues raised in advance then you could writing down your thoughts in advance. You could present these thoughts in writting to the university or simply use as notes for your own use in the meeting. We recommend you write down your responses and thoughts prior to and during an interview so you can be confident that you have raised everything you wish to do so before the conclusion of the meeting.

You should try to anticipate possible questions that might arise during the investigation. An advisor from Sunderland Students’ Union is well placed to help you consider possible questions and your response in advance. They can discuss with you any response or evidence you are planning to provide, as well as how you might best frame your response so it is as strong as possible. The Advisor can also help you review the evidence raised against you and help you better understand the nature of the allegations if any of it is unclear.

Be open and honest with yourself and staff
Try to remain open minded throughout the process, if you have done something wrong it is best that you genuinely explore that with staff to improve your work and avoid misconduct in the future. Likewise if you believe you have not committed misconduct, make sure you say that- you should never admit to an allegation you disagree with , but be open to challenge from staff. You should be honest with yourself and staff if you believe misconduct has occurred or have concerns it may have, even if you did not mean for to commit misconduct.

Admitting to misconduct
There are up to 3 opportunities to admit to any misconduct if it has occurred, the stage 1 meeting, the investigation and the panel hearing. If during the investigation you admit to misconduct you will not need to attend the panel but the panel will still meet to discuss an appropriate outcome.

If academic misconduct is found, then the university will consider if you have either admitted the offence or demonstrated openness and willingness to engage with the misconduct process at the earliest opportunity when deciding a penalty.

Mitigation
If you have extenuating circumstances which affected your assessment, there is a University policy with regard to extensions and extenuating circumstances which can deal with such cases in a supportive and appropriate way.

This means that such circumstances will only be considered in regards to penalties applied and not in the decision as to whether or not academic misconduct has taken place.

If you do highlight such circumstances, it may also present the university with an opportunity to consider if there any support you might need in the future and to offer guidance relevant to you.

If you have admitted to the allegation during the investigation stage
The panel will consider your case but there is no requirement for you to attend the hearing.

Opportunities to put forward your case
You can expect to be given an opportunity to talk about your thoughts on the concerns raised at a formal meeting, interview or hearing.

You will also be given the opportunity to respond to any questions or suggestions put to you.

Responding to questions

Take your time in answering questions put to you; take a deep breath or a sip of water if you need to. It is better you are able to calmly and cohesively answer rather than rushing to respond. 

At any point, if attending with a students’ union advisor, you can consult with them about your response or to ask for clarity. 

Try not to act in an aggressive or confrontational way if you are facing challenging questions. Sometimes difficult questions are necessary to get to the bottom of a concern regarding academic misconduct, and as these questions are directed at you it can at times feel personal (even if it is not). However, if attending with a students’ union advisor, they will highlight with you if they believe the investigating staff are acting outside of regulations or in a manner which is unacceptable. 

Remain at all times, polite and professional- this does not stop you being firm or resolved in your responses

Who will be there

  • Misconduct Meetings are held by the module leader
    • or staff at a partnership college if your qualification is awarded by University of Sunderland but your teaching is at a partner organisation
  • Investigation interviews are conducted by an independent academic
  • Panels at hearings are comprise of
    • a head of school (or other senior academic) as chair
    • Three academic staff with no previous involvement in your case
    • An officer (to support the panel but does not act a decision maker)
    • Observers, who have no active involvement and may include a Students’ Union president

Timescales
You should receive a response within 5 working days of a meeting or hearing notifying you of the recommendation; this will go to the assessment board for a final decision.

Whilst the assessment board does have the power to go for a different outcome than recommended by the panel- this would only happen in incredibly rare circumstances such as if new evidence came to light. 

What range of outcomes are there?
Either academic misconduct has been found or it has not. If it has not been found your case is dismissed and there will be no further action; your work will be marked as normal.

If it is found that misconduct has occurred, then the university will apply a penalty to the assessment

 

The University does have a table of recommended penalties but other factors could see the final penalty chosen be more lenient or harsh depending on some of the following factors

Revocation of awards
if you have already been awarded credit, and you are no longer a student of the university, and it later comes to light that you committed misconduct, the university may seek the revocation of your award, a reduction in your degree classification, or a reduction in qualification type e.g. honours degree to non-honours.

Repeat offences
If you have been found to have committed academic misconduct in a previous incident, the panel will normally choose one penalty higher than recommended for the current offence.

A single incident of academic misconduct may include more than 1 item, if committed within the same assessment period.

Mitigating Factors
You have the opportunity to present any mitigating circumstances or factors which you believe should be taken into account when the panel is deciding on the penalty- they may choose a lesser penalty than recommended as a result. Mitigating factors may include;

  • It is your first offence
  • You have either admitted the offence or demonstrated openness and willingness to engage with the misconduct process at the earliest opportunity
  • You have expressed remorse
  • You have compelling personal circumstances which affected your judgement
Penalty/Outcome Description
Penalty 1
  • Attendance at University Study Skills or Academic Misconduct Awareness course 
Penalty 2
  • A marking adjustment to the assessment
Penalty 3
  • A formal recorded warning kept on your student record
  • Your work will be marked but the mark may reflect your failure to address the assessment criteria where misconduct was found
  • You may be required to redo the work on pedagogic grounds
Penalty 4A
  • Failure of the item of assessment
  • Normal right to reassessment if applicable, and
  • Assessment component will be capped at the pass mark
Penalty 4B
  • Failure of the item of assessment
  • Normal right to reassessment if applicable, and
  • Module will be capped at the pass mark
Penalty 5A
  • Failure of the module
  • You must re-register for the same module at the next opportunity, and
  • Your re-registered module result will be capped at the pass mark
Penalty 5B
  • Failure of the module
  • You must re-register for the same module at the next opportunity, and 
  • Your re-registered module result will be capped at 40%
  • The final award: will be reduced as follows:
    • Undergraduate Honours
      • First class to Upper second class
      • Upper second class to lower second class
      • Lower second class to third class
      • Third class to Unclassified Bachelors
    • Unclassified Bachelors to Diploma in Higher Education
    • Foundation Degree
      • Distinction to Merit;
      • Merit to Pass;
      • Pass to Certificate in Higher Education
    • Masters
      • Distinction to Merit
      • Merit to Pass;
      • Pass to Post Graduate Diploma
Penalty 6A
  • Failure in the module and
  • Expulsion from University
  • You will not be permitted to exit with your intended award
  • You might be permitted to exit with a lower award depending on the amount of credits you have passed
Penalty 6B
  • Failure in the module and
  • Expulsion from University
  • You will not be permitted to exit with your intended award
  • You will not be permitted to exit with a lower award or any credits you have passed

This is not a recommended penalty for first instances of infringement and therefore can only happen where there are multiple cases of serious infringements 

Issues that can be dealt with at Stage 1 and 2

  Levels 3/4 All other Levels
CW1 Academic Negligence Penalty 1, 2 or 3 Penalty 1, 2 or 3
CW2 Making available work to another student, either intentionally or as a result of significant negligence that can be presented as another students. Penalty 3 Penalty 3
CW3 Isolated use of quotes without the use of quotation marks and/or referencing. Penalty 3 Penalty 4A
CW4 Submission for assessment of work submitted previously by the student (either at University of Sunderland or another institution) or work submitted for assessment that has previously been published elsewhere. Penalty 4A Penalty 4B
CW5 Extensive use of quotes or close paraphrasing without the use of quotation marks and/or referencing, where the student has cited the plagiarised material in the bibliography. Penalty 4A Penalty 4B
CW6 Lack of ethics approval Penalty 4A Penalty 4B

 

Issues that can only be dealt with at Stage 2

  Levels 3/4 All other Levels

CW7 Extensive use of quotes or close paraphrasing without the use of quotation marks and/or referencing, where the student has not cited the plagiarised material in the bibliography.

Penalty 4B Penalty 5A
CW8 The presentation of data in laboratory work, projects etc. based on work purporting to have been carried out by the student but which has been invented, altered or falsified. Penalty 4B Penalty 5A
CW9 Work produced in collaboration with another person or persons as the work of a single student. Penalty 3 Penalty 4A
CW10 Using another student’s work and submitting some or all of it as if it were the student’s own. Penalty 4B Penalty 5A
CW11 The unauthorised use of another student’s work and submitting it as the student’s own work Penalty 5A Penalty 5B
CW12 Contract Cheating commissioning another person who completes or contributes to an item of University assessment, which is not submitted. This could include the use of professional essay writing services, essay banks, ghost-writing services etc. Penalty 4B Penalty 5A
CW13 Contract Cheating - Commissioning another person who completes or contributes to an item of University assessment, which is then submitted as a student’s own work. This could include the use of professional essay writing services, essay banks, ghost-writing services etc. Penalty 5A Penalty 5B
CW14 A breach of patient or client confidentiality . Penalty 5A Penalty 5B
CW15 Attempting to persuade another member of the University (student or staff) to participate in actions that would breach these Procedures. Penalty 5B Penalty 6A
CW16 Being party to any other arrangement that would constitute a breach of these Procedures. Penalty 5B Penalty 6A

Exam misconduct can only be dealt with at Stage 2

  Penalty
EX1 Removing any script, or official paper,(whether completed or not) from the examination room, unless specifically authorised by an invigilator or examiner. Penalty 4A
EX2 Possession or use of devices of any kind other than those specifically permitted in the rubric of the paper. Penalty 4A
EX3 Communicating with another student or with any third party other than the invigilator/examiner during an examination or test.
unless evidence was that the communication was trivial or unrelated to the assessment

Penalty 4A

Unless the evidence was that the communication was trivial or unrelated to the assessment

EX4 During an examination or test, copying or attempting to copy the work of another student, whether by overlooking his or her work, asking him or her for information, or by any other means. Penalty 4B
EX5 Possession of crib sheets, revision notes (including, for example, those held on digital media devices) or accessing the internet in contravention of the examination rubric. Penalty 5A
EX6 Attempting to persuade another member of the University (student, staff or invigilator) to participate in actions that would breach these Procedures Penalty 5B
EX7 Being party to any arrangement whereby a person other than the candidate represents, or intends to represent, the candidate in an examination or test. Penalty 5B
EX8 Taking into an examination a pre-written examination script for submission and exchanging it for a blank examination script. Penalty 5B
EX9 Obtaining access to an unseen examination or test prior to the start of an examination/test, and using this to gain advantage in the assessment Penalty 6A

Fitness to Practise implications
If you are on a course where you are subject to professional body regulations, there may be fitness to practise proceedings taken against you if academic misconduct is found and where there is concern your fitness to practise was compromised as a result. For instance, falsifying data could bring into question your honesty and integrity- could you be trusted to not falsify data or reports in a professional setting (such as schools, hospitals, pharmacies, etc).  

 

Disciplinary implications
If you have been found to have given or sold your work to another student who is on a stage of study you have already passed, if that work is awarded credit, you may be subject to disciplinary procedures. 

 

Medical Degree Students
If you are studying for a Medical degree you should refer to the relevant section within your Programme Handbook for information about academic misconduct penalties and how allegations will be dealt with.

If you remain dissatisfied with the decisions from the panel, as this forms part of the assessment process, you may wish to submit a faculty appeal once you are notified of the confirmed results from the assessment board. However you should bear in mind that the decision as to if you have committedd misconduct is an academic judgement so you should consider issues such as if due process has been followed which may have influenced the decision. You should speak with an advisor to explore how best to approach the faculty appeal

Page last reviewed: 06/02/2020
Next review due: 31/08/2020