Academic Offences

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ACADEMIC OFFENCES

 

An academic offence is any action or attempt by a student that may give an unfair advantage e.g. in an assessment which contributes to the mark and/or formal requirements to pass a module. Academic Offences can be committed intentionally or unintentionally.

 

Academic offences include:

 

  • Allowing someone to impersonate a student for the purposes of assessment attendance
  • Cheating – any malpractice which may give an unfair advantage over others.
  • Taking unauthorised material into an examination (including revision notes or unauthorised equipment)
  • Collusion – when two or more students collaborate, without permission, to submit an individual assessment. Action may be taken against a student who has allowed their work to be used as well as against a student who submits work resulting from collusion.
  • Commissioning/purchasing of work. When a student gets someone else to do their work. There does not have to be a financial transaction involved.
  • Impersonating a student for the purposes of assessment attendance.
  • Falsification of data or other research.
  • Plagiarism – using the work and ideas of others without appropriate acknowledgement (referencing) and presenting it as their own. Intentional and unintentional acts of plagiarism will be construed as offences.

 

The most common types of academic offences are:

Plagiarism

Where a student uses the work of others (e.g. online sources, books etc.) and presents it as their own without appropriate acknowledgement by referencing. Self-plagiarism is where a student submits work for assessment which s/he has previously used and submitted as part of another assessment that has been marked and where credit has been received. It is important to understand that intentional and unintentional acts of plagiarism are considered as offences. This means that poor referencing can result in plagiarism whether a student intended to plagiarise or not. 

Collusion

Where two or more people have worked together without permission to produce a piece of work which is then submitted for assessment as the work of only one person. Action may be taken against a student who has allowed their work to be used as well as against a student who submits work resulting from collusion.

Breaches of Exam Regulations

Students are expected to ensure they are familiar with the Examination and Class Test Regulations and not to breach these regulations whether intentionally or unintentionally. The most common exam offences are students having unauthorised materials such as notes or phones in their possession during an exam. It is an exam offence to have any such unauthorised materials even if you are not seen to be using them during the exam. This is because they have the potential to be used to gain an unfair advantage.

 
If you are suspected of committing an Academic Offence

If your School suspect plagiarism or collusion has occurred any marks/grades relating to the examination will usually be withheld by the School until the case is concluded. You would usually be invited to attend a two stage hearing to discuss their concerns and whether they can deal with the matter within the School. At this meeting they will usually decide whether they consider plagiarism has taken place. You would also be given the opportunity to mention any relevant mitigating circumstances that relate to the academic offence in question.

If your School consider plagiarism or collusion has taken place, you would usually have the following options:

  • Admit the charge and accept the School's jurisdiction/right to issue a penalty. The School will then usually issue a penalty using the University Tariff of Penalties.
  • Deny the charge and the School will refer the case to the University Disciplinary Board to consider you case at a later date. 

If you accept the offence occurred and are content to have the matter dealt with locally i.e. in the School’s jurisdiction you would also be given the opportunity to mention any relevant mitigating circumstances that relate to the academic offence in question before they decide on the appropriate penalty using the Tariff of Penalties.

 

If you are suspected of breaching Exam Regulations

If you are suspected of breaching the exam regulations any marks/grades relating to the examination will usually be withheld by the School until the case is concluded. The University Discipline Officer will usually receive a report and investigate before deciding if there is a case to answer. You may be asked to attend an interview as part of the investigation. If they decide there is a case to answer they will usually refer it to an Authorised Officer.

  1. If you admit the charge, an Authorised Officer will usually invite you to a meeting to provide further information and evidence relating to your charge. The Authorised Discipline Officer will determine the severity of the offence and appropriate penalty using the Tariff of Penalties. In serious cases the Authorised Officer can request via the University Discipline Officer that the case may be referred to the Disciplinary Board.

 

  1. If you deny the charge, do not respond or academic judgement is required, your case will usually be referred to a Disciplinary Board to hear your case in defence of the charge and the University’s case in support of the charge, including evidence from invigilators or other witnesses, where appropriate. The Disciplinary Board will determine whether the charge is proven and, if so, determine an appropriate penalty using the Tariff of Penalties to identify the severity of the offence and the appropriate penalty.

 

What should I do if I have been suspected of an academic or exam offence?

Review the information available carefully

You should review the information you have been provided. For plagiarism and collusion you would usually be sent a turnitin report which highlights the similarity of the work you submitted and other sources. You should then go through the report and the highlighted paragraphs to see if you correctly referenced your work. For exam offences there is usually an invigilators report which you would usually be sent or which you could request. Hopefully you will have a clear understanding of what to do but if you are unsure about what to do contact us for advice advice@aston.ac.uk.

 

Write a draft statement

Write a draft statement to help you to respond to the allegations. Although a statement might not be required it will help you to think carefully about how to respond to any allegation and help you prepare for any meeting. It should be an honest and reflective statement that covers the following:

  • An introduction that explains briefly whether you accept or deny the allegation(s).
  • A timeline of events covering what happened leading up to and including completing the assessment.
  • If you experienced any mitigating circumstances that affected you at the time, you should briefly explain how.

Attend the meeting

You will usually be invited to attend a meeting to discuss the allegations. We would strongly advise attending as this will give you the best opportunity to understand the School’s concerns, explain what happened and potentially learn from any mistakes. If you would like someone to accompany to the meeting to provide support please let us know.

 

Appealing a School Hearing Decision

If you were dissatisfied with the penalty you have the right to appeal against the penalty within 10 days of the date of the outcome email/letter otherwise the penalty will stand.

Grounds for appeal must fall into one of the following categories:

  1. procedural irregularity of a material nature, including the commission of an error during the original meeting;
  2. new evidence material to the case which the student can demonstrate was for good reason not previously available.

Any appeal would be made to the University Discipline Officer (Gemma Dawson g.dawson@aston.ac.uk) and must explain in writing how you meet one or both of the grounds of appeal.

Please contact us via advice@aston.ac.uk for more advice if you are considering appealing.

 

University Disciplinary Board Hearing

If the alleged offence is considered too serious to be dealt with by your School, is your second offence or if you don’t wish to accept the School’s decision, your case will be referred to the University Disciplinary Board. You can be accompanied by a representative and a friend.

 

Pre-Hearing

In such an event, you would be sent an invitation at least 21 days before the hearing. You would be required to answer the charge in writing at least ten days before the hearing date by either admitting, denying or challenging it as not being properly brought. Any written statements or details of witnesses or representatives usually needs to be provided at least 10 days before the hearing. The case documentation including any reports the University have made about your case is usually sent to you approximately 7 days before the date of the hearing. It is helpful to send a written statement and any relevant mitigation in advance but you can read a statement and provide evidence on the day at the hearing if you prefer to wait until you have seen all of the case documentation.

 

During the hearing

The Disciplinary Board will consist of at least a Chair, an academic and a student from the Students’ Union. They will sit opposite you and if you don’t accept the charge they will first hear from the University Presenter who will present the case against you. You will then be given the opportunity to provide your own statement and defend yourself against any allegations. The Board can ask questions before they make their decision in private.

If the Board finds the charge to be proven on the balance of probabilities, or if you have admitted the charge, you will have the opportunity to mention any mitigating circumstances either personally or through your representative before any penalty is determined. However, please note the following:

  • The Board is unlikely to accept mitigation when considering a repeat offence of (i) plagiarism, (ii) collusion or (iii) cheating.
  • The Board can also take into account any aggravating factors including but not limited to premeditation, previous offences and the impact on others and the University’s reputation.

The Board has a wide range of penalties available and will choose one depending on the severity of the offence and any mitigating or aggravating factors they deem relevant. The penalties range from a warning to expulsion and they will either tell you the outcome on the day and/or by writing usually within 5 working days.

 

Appealing a decision in a case initially heard by the Disciplinary Board

If you were dissatisfied with the penalty you have the right to appeal against the penalty within 10 days of the date of being notified of the decision otherwise the penalty will stand.

Grounds for appeal must fall into one of the following categories:

  1. procedural irregularity of a material nature, including the commission of an error during the disciplinary hearing;
  2. new evidence material to the case which the student can demonstrate was for good reason not previously available.

Any appeal would be made to the Secretary of the Disciplinary Appeals Committee and must explain in writing how you meet one or both of the grounds of appeal.

Please contact us via advice@aston.ac.uk for more advice if you are considering appealing.

 

How we can help

  1. We can help you understand the allegations and the information provided about your work
  2. Provide advice on the options available and the possible consequences
  3. We can provide feedback on any statement you wish to submit in response to the allegations
  4. We can accompany you to meetings or hearings and provide representation
  5. We can advise on the options available if you are unhappy with the outcome of your case

Additional Support Available

Learning and Development Centre

You may wish to contact the University’s Learning Development Centre. LDC offer a welcoming and accessible environment where students can enhance their learning and skills at any stage of their studies. Their staff provide specific sessions and resources on areas such as referencing and understanding plagiarism, academic writing, assessment and feedback, oral and poster presentation skills, and group work. You can find them on the first floor of the Aston University Library building. For students unable to get on campus, they also have a teaching team that can offer help and advice through their LDC BlackBoard module, email tutorials, and web conferencing. Their contact details are:

WebsiteLearning Development Centre

Emailldc@aston.ac.uk

Telephone: 0121 204 3040

More information on the process for dealing with academic offences can be found in the Regulations on Student Discipline. Information on the potential penalties for most academic offences can be found in the attached Tariff of Penalties. Disciplinary Board penalties can be found on page 16 of the Regulations on Student Discipline. Rules regarding your conduct in exams can be found in the Examination Regulations.