The University takes a very strict approach to misconduct by students. Part of your education here involves developing your moral compass, and learning to understand and abide by the rules and regulations that govern the University, as well as the world at large.
Misconduct can be classified as academic or general depending on the circumstances. The University’s process for dealing with misconduct is governed by Academic Board Regulation Part 9, Vice Chancellor Regulation Part 6, and the Student Academic Integrity and Student Conduct policies.
This information draws upon the material in the Regulations and the University’s policies, and the extensive experience of staff at the Advocacy Service. It is designed to be a ‘plain English’ guide to a complex process. For specific advice relating to your situation please contact us.
For information about appealing a finding of misconduct, skip to the appeals section.
There are a number of different types of academic misconduct. Under Academic Board Regulation Part 9, academic misconduct is defined broadly as: any other conduct by which a student seeks to gain for himself or herself, or for any other person, any academic advantage or advancement to which he or she or that other person is not entitled.
This includes not referencing sources appropriately in assignments, taking notes into an exam where they are not permitted, and copying someone else’s work. This also includes helping someone else to cheat by, for example, letting them copy your work. It also includes forging or falsifying documents such as medical certificates or HPR forms in order to get special consideration, and buying or selling assessment materials such as essays, assignments or exam papers. Note that just having unauthorised materials in an examination is considered misconduct in itself, regardless of whether they are used. This means special care should always be taken to leave any last minute cramming notes OUTSIDE the exam venue in the bin or in your bag and not in your pockets.
What is plagiarism?
Plagiarism is the presentation of written work, findings or ideas as your own without proper acknowledgement of the original source.
Examples of plagiarism include:
- Copying a published author’s text/arguments without providing an appropriate reference (this includes websites);
- Paraphrasing a published author’s text/arguments without providing an appropriate reference (this includes websites);
- Handing in someone else’s work as your own;
- Making superficial changes to another’s work and then handing it in as your own;
- Submission of work you have already handed in for another course/subject (yes, you are not allowed to plagiarise yourself);
- In certain disciplines, the use of mathematical/design concepts but neglecting to reference these concepts.
What is collusion?
Collusion is where one student is alleged to have helped another student by allowing them to copy their work. The University regards students who permit their work to be copied as seriously as those who did the copying, and the penalties can be the same.
What about group work or discussing the assignment with classmates? Is this plagiarism or collusion?
Many courses use group work or syndicates to perform assessment tasks. Group work is defined as a formally established project to be done by a number of students in common, resulting in a single report, essay or a number of associated reports/essays.
Acceptable collaboration can be defined as any constructive educational and intellectual practice that aims to enhance learning through interaction between students. Examples of acceptable collaboration include:
- Students discussing general themes and concepts;
- Students discussing the requirements of an assignment.
The difference between appropriate collaboration and unacceptable collusion or plagiarism is based on the principle that producing the work remains the individual responsibility of the student. Make sure that you understand the assessment requirements with group work. Even though you may be required to work collaboratively, you may be required to submit independent reports that are your own work. If in doubt, ask your tutor or lecturer for clarification.
You may never have heard of it, but self-plagiarism (or auto-plagiarism) is a thing. You may think that because you did a piece of work in another subject or for a previous but different assessment, it’s yours to recycle. Not so. If you submit work or large parts of another of your assessments for different assignments – either in the same subject or other subjects – you will most likely find yourself in hot water.
In some cases, using your own work for another subject may be permitted as long as you acknowledge the source, however in most cases completely recycling another assessment will be regarded as misconduct, as it is another form of gaining an unfair academic advantage. A student who recycles part or all of an assignment has less work overall to do, and can use that extra time to spend on other assessment or study, which constitutes an unfair advantage over everyone else swotting away from first principles. It is also a form of “double-dipping” where you are seeking to get two lots of credit for one piece of work. That’s not fair. Short-cutting like this is also cheating yourself of an opportunity to learn something else.
What about exams?
Academic misconduct in exams will be alleged where a student is suspected of seeking an unfair academic advantage to which they are not entitled during the exam. This may include:
- taking into the exam venue (or having in the room with you in an online exam) any unauthorised materials, including study notes if it is not an open book exam, unapproved dictionaries, or dictionaries which have notes in any language written in them, unauthorised calculators, or formula on your calculator, having your phone on you rather than under your chair, or not in view in an online exam, and/or having your phone switched on;
- failing to follow the direction of an invigilator;
- copying the work of another student (with or without their consent);
- allowing another student to copy from you or helping them in some way;
- having someone else sit the exam for you.
These rules apply in both online and in person exams. It is really important to follow the rules set out on your exam instructions and any instructions provided by the invigilator in the exam. Accordingly, exam misconduct may also include any failure to obey the exam rules, or directions of staff at the exam. This includes:
- writing anything on your exam booklet during reading time (even your student number); and
- writing after the call to put pens down at the end of the exam.
If you are suspected of any of the above conduct during the exam, an invigilator may speak to you about this. If you have taken unauthorised materials into the in person exam, they will be confiscated when seen by an exam invigilator. In an online exam, you may be asked to remove an item or show it is turned off, for example. If you have been confronted by an invigilator you still have the right to complete the examination and you should attempt to do this to the best of your ability. Invigilators are required to report any suspicious behaviour which may be a contravention of exam rules. They do not have a role in determining whether or not that behaviour is academic misconduct. They must complete an incident report for any such issues, and this will be sent to the faculty where any further action is determined by the Dean. Not all incident reports will be acted upon, but most will result in a formal allegation letter being sent to the student. If you know an incident report has been completed by an invigilator in the exam, you need to wait until you receive a formal allegation before you can take any action.
It is important to understand that your intentions are not the primary consideration in these matters. You are considered to have sought an unfair advantage even if you did not actually look at or use the material or it was irrelevant to the exam, as the act of having unauthorised materials in an exam is a breach of Academic Board Regulation Part 9 and the Student Academic Integrity Policy. In some cases, you may face an allegation of academic misconduct even if you didn’t realise you weren’t allowed to take certain material into an exam, or if you borrowed someone’s calculator with disallowed formula programmed in. It is similar to parking in the wrong place, or failing to validate your public transport ticket, if you are caught, you will generally face a penalty, regardless of your intention.
Make sure you read the exam cover sheet thoroughly to ensure you do not have anything on you that you shouldn’t have. Listen to the announcements when you arrive as these may include an amnesty period for you to remove any unauthorised materials prior to the commencement of the exam.
I’ve been accused of academic misconduct. What happens now?
Before pursuing any formal disciplinary process in relation to an allegation of plagiarism or collusion, the Head of Department (HOD) should determine whether the suspected misconduct is minor or inadvertent or very serious. They may invite you to a meeting to discuss their concerns and work out how serious the suspected misconduct is. You should get advice before attending one of these meetings and you should be cautioned that a formal allegation of serious misconduct may be a result of the meeting. If the HOD considers the alleged conduct minor or inadvertent, they should take an educative response. This may include asking you to review educative materials, meet with them again to discuss your review of the materials and possibly resubmit your work.
If it is deemed there is enough evidence to proceed with a formal investigation, or if the alleged misconduct relates to anything other than plagiarism or collusion, under Academic Board Regulation Part 9 a notice must be sent to you within 10 working days of the matter being brought to the attention of the relevant Dean. This will be sent to your preferred mailing address, could be hand delivered, and/or and may also be emailed to your student email account.
If you have received a formal allegation notice, this should include:
- a clear outline of the nature of the misconduct;
- all evidence relating to the allegation must be attached (this may be a copy of your assignment with problematic sections highlighted or a copy of the incident report made by the exam invigilator);
- an opportunity to respond in writing, as well as an invitation to attend a hearing, and specific timelines for these responses;
- name the chair of the committee that will be investigating the allegation; and
- inclusion of, or reference to, the penalties that can be applied under Academic Board Regulation Part 9 and the Student Academic Integrity Policy.
We strongly encourage you to respond both in writing and by attending a hearing and we can assist you with both of these responses. Your written submission should set out your version of events and detail any exceptional circumstances that you feel should be taken into consideration – and you can use our template to make a start. At the meeting you will be given an opportunity to discuss this further and this should highlight the main points from your submission. The committee will also ask whatever questions it deems relevant to the investigation.
You are allowed to take a support person with you to the meeting if you inform the committee 24 hours in advance. This support person is not permitted to speak and must not disrupt the proceedings.
The committee should consist of two senior academics and a student representative. For undergraduate students, this student representative must be the president of UMSU or their nominee, and for graduate students, it must be a nominee of the president of the Graduate Student Association (GSA).
The committee must dismiss an allegation unless there is a majority decision that the allegation be upheld. If the committee upholds the allegation, it may apply penalties consistent with Academic Board Regulation Part 9 and the Student Academic Integrity Policy.
Within five working days of the hearing you should receive notice of the committee’s decision, any penalties imposed, and information about how to appeal the decision.
Wait – Penalty – what will that be in my case??
If the Student Discipline Committee upholds the allegation, they must issue a penalty. The penalties range in severity from a warning (reprimand) with no academic impact, the termination of enrolment. Penalties are discussed further on our appeals page, but if you’re very worried about a potential penalty then the Academic Board has published a guide to possible penalties here. This will give you an idea what is considered a proportionate penalty for the various types of allegation.
General misconduct can include behaviour such as disrupting lectures or University events, misusing computers or other facilities, causing fear or intimidation in and around the University, harassing staff or other students, disrupting or illegal behaviour, damaging property, failing to comply with a reasonable request, supplying misleading information, or encouraging others to engage in general misconduct.
These breaches can also extend across all university property, including libraries, computer labs and student associations. These breaches may also be subject to criminal or civil legal action. We strongly suggest you get advice from the Advocacy Service prior to responding to such an allegation, as there may be legal consequences.
I’ve been accused of general misconduct, what happens now?
If there is deemed to be enough evidence to proceed with an investigation under the Vice Chancellor Regulation Part 6 and the Student Conduct Policy, a notice must be sent to you within 10 working days of the matter being brought to the attention of the Academic Registrar. This will be sent to your preferred mailing address and may also be emailed to you. This notice should include:
- a clear outline of the nature of the misconduct;
- information regarding any evidence of which the senior officer is aware relating to the allegation;
- an opportunity to respond in writing as well as an invitation to attend a hearing, and specific timelines for these responses;
- name the chair of the committee that will be investigating the allegation; and
- inclusion of, or reference to, the penalties that can be applied under Vice Chancellor Regulation Part 6.
Penalties for general misconduct can include one or more of the following:
- a reprimand and caution;
- a fine of an amount not exceeding the sum of $1,000;
- if the misconduct of the student caused damage to property or facilities, a fine of up to
$1,000 and the cost of making good that damage;
- exclusion from all or any part of University premises for such period and on
any terms and conditions;
- prohibiting the student from bringing any motorised vehicle or non-motorised vehicle onto all or any part of University premises either permanently
or for any period and on any terms and conditions;
- exclusion from using any of the University’s library and computing and network facilities for a period not exceeding 28 days either absolutely or on any terms
- a requirement that the student refrain from having any or such specified contact with particular students, members of staff, or other members of the University
- a requirement that the student undertake work, activities, service and apologies;
- recommendation to the Vice-Chancellor that the student’s enrolment be suspended for any period and on any terms and conditions; or
- recommendation to the Vice-Chancellor that the student’s enrolment be terminated.
There are also emergency powers for immediate suspension or exclusion. In some cases a penalty or part of a penalty may be satisfied with University service work. Within three working days of the hearing you should receive notice of the committee’s decision, any penalties imposed, and information about how to appeal the decision.
You have the option to appeal the decision and/or the penalty to the Academic Board’s Appeal Committee. In the case of academic misconduct, this committee consists of two members of the Academic Board and a student representative. Appeals are not automatic, and you must write to the Academic Secretary citing the grounds for your appeal within 20 working days of receiving the outcome from the committee. The grounds for appeal are:
- There was a failure to comply with procedural fairness (including not receiving a fair hearing);
- New substantial evidence that could not be presented at or prior to the hearing that would probably have affected the decision or penalty imposed;
- The decision was manifestly wrong; or
- The penalty was manifestly excessive, inappropriate or not available in the circumstances.
As the appeal is final and can be quite complicated to argue effectively, it is strongly suggested you seek assistance from us before proceeding with an appeal. You should also read the advice on the Academic Board’s website in relation to misconduct appeals, as well as our Appeals advice page.
Get help quickly
If you receive a notice of an allegation of misconduct, contact us immediately for support and assistance with responding to the matter. We have extensive experience with this process so we can advise you on the best approach to writing your submission to the committee as well as help you prepare for the hearing.
Contact us for advice.
- University Information on Academic Misconduct
- Academic Board Regulation Part 9;
- Vice Chancellor Regulation Part 6; and
- the Student Academic Integrity Policy or Student Conduct Policy as applicable.
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