Academic & Student Affairs

Procedures for Dealing with Academic Offences - A Student Guide

It is an academic offence to commit an act whereby you gain or attempt to gain an unfair advantage. The University requires students to demonstrate academic integrity and is committed to working with you to ensure that you are awarded the degree you deserve.

It is essential that you read the University’s Procedures for Dealing with Academic Offences in conjunction with this guide. In the event of any confusion, the University will rely on the regulations in order to reach a decision.

This guide is for undergraduate and postgraduate taught students and will explain to you what will happen if you are accused of committing an academic offence. Postgraduate research students suspected of committing an academic offence will be subject to the research misconduct guidelines.

Confidentiality and Data Protection

All appeals will be treated with the appropriate level of confidentiality, with information being released only to those who need to see it (for example, for the School’s response).

All information submitted by you and by the School will be shared with the members of the Committee.  You and the School will be sent copies of the information sent to the members of the Committee.  You should not include any information which you do not wish to be shared in any documentation you submit.  You should also ensure that your documentation does not contain any information relating to third parties (eg, that names or any information by which a third party could be identified have been redacted, unless the third party consents to the information being shared) and the information complies with the University Guidance on Data Protection.

What is an academic offence?

 

Misconduct includes (see Regulation 1.33), but is not limited to:

Plagiarism You may be guilty of plagiarism if you have presented the work of others as your own.

Collusion: It is an academic offence for you to work on an assignment with anyone else if that assignment is meant to be done individually. It is expected that the work being assessed, unless specifically designated as a group assessment, will have been done by you alone. 

Fabrication: It is an academic offence if you claim to have carried out experiments, interviews or any form of research which you have not in fact carried out, or if you invent or falsify data, evidence or experimental results. It is also an academic offence if you knowingly make use of falsified data as described above.

Cheating: The term ‘cheating’ normally describes behaviour that takes place in an examination. It is considered to be cheating if you:

  • Have any form of notes, or any items or texts other than those that are specifically permitted for that examination, at your desk in an examination hall during an examination. It is your responsibility to establish what the permitted items are for each examination
  • Make use or attempt to make use of unauthorised items as described above
  • Copy or attempt to copy from another student’s examination script
  • Obtain or attempt to obtain assistance from another student or from any other person which leads to an unfair advantage
  • Impersonate another examination student, or to allow yourself to be impersonated
  • Provide or attempt to provide unfair assistance to another student
  • Permit another student to copy from your examination script
  • Knowingly assist any student to make use or attempt to make use of unfair means in a University examination.

Examples of Academic Offences

  • Submitting or ‘cutting & pasting’ text from a book/journal/another student or the internet without properly referencing 
  • Copying a friend or classmate’s assignment and submitting it as your own work
  • Submitting all or part of an assignment that has been previously submitted and marked by Queen’s or any other institution.
  • Buying or obtaining an assignment online or elsewhere and submitting it as your own work
  • Fabricating evidence/interviews or data
  • Possession of a mobile phone, notes or any unauthorised material during an examination –simply having any of these in an examination environment is in itself considered cheating. 

What if I made a mistake?

Not knowing how to reference correctly or not understanding the regulations is not an excuse for committing an academic offence. Schools expect you to learn how to reference correctly and there are services within the university that can help you. There are no excuses for cheating in an examination.   

 

How are Academic Offences detected?

Turnitin

Turnitin is a software programme used by the University to establish the originality of a piece of coursework. It will compare your assignment to websites, books, journals and student assignments submitted to 5,000 institutions in 140 countries. Each School has a policy on the use of Turnitin and some Schools will allow you to check your assignment before formally submitting it. To find out the policy in your School, please refer to your School or to your Programme Handbook.

Members of staff

Members of academic staff who mark assessed coursework are experts in that particular area. They will know the core texts/reading lists and will easily be able to identify when a student has not referenced correctly or has attempted to pass off an author’s work as their own. Staff members will also regularly check your bibliography or references to ensure that you have referenced properly. 

Invigilator in Examination Hall

At scheduled University examinations there are invigilators who ensure the smooth running of the examinations. Should an incident occur, the invigilators will report any suspicious activity to the Examinations Office who will inform the relevant School for the purposes of an investigation.  Cheating in an examination is considered to be a very serious academic offence and is deemed to be a ‘major’ offence (see regulation 1.26). 

What if I have exceptional circumstances?

Exceptional circumstances cannot be used to excuse an academic offence. If something is impacting on your academic performance you should inform your School as soon as possible and you may request an extension to the submission deadline for an assignment. Please see Guidelines for Exceptional Circumstances.

What happens if I am suspected of an academic offence?

Your School will inform you in writing to your university email account that you have been suspected of an academic offence. This email will also explain if the offence is considered to be major or minor. There are different procedures for dealing with major and minor academic offences. 

Will I be able to talk to someone about the process?

You should try to meet regularly with your personal tutor and discuss all issues relating to your progress. 

If you would like advice on the academic offences procedures, you should contact the Students’ Union.

Minor Offences

An offence shall normally be designated as ‘minor’ if the piece of work where it occurs counts towards one third or less of the assessment for the module. 

Investigation into Minor Offences

Allegations of minor offences will be investigated by a member of staff nominated by the Head of School.  You will be invited to meet with the member of staff as part of the investigation. The suspected minor offence will be outlined to you and you will be asked to respond. The Head of School will consider the case and come to a decision which will be communicated to you in writing, normally within 5 working days.

Minor Offence – possible outcomes

  • Dismiss the case
  • Receive a written warning (this will stay on your file until graduation)
  • Receive a mark of zero for the piece of work concerned and be permitted to re-do it with no further penalty (i.e. the full mark obtained for the re-sit will be allowed to stand)
  • Receive a mark of zero for the piece of work concerned and be permitted to re-do it for a maximum of the pass mark
  • Receive a mark of zero for the piece of work concerned but not be permitted to re-do it
  • Be referred to the Chair of the relevant Board of Examiners to be considered under the procedures for major offences.

Major offences

An offence shall be designated as ‘major’ if:

  • The piece of work counts towards more than one third of the assessment for the module
  • You are accused of cheating in an examination
  • It is a repeat offence or there are multiple offences.

Investigation into Major Offences

A Panel will be convened by the School and will include two members of staff from your School and one member from another School. You will be invited to attend and are entitled to be accompanied by a registered student of the University, which shall include a Students’ Union Sabbatical Officer, a member of University staff or University Chaplaincy. You will also receive a copy of the University’s Procedure for Dealing with Academic Offences, a copy of the assignment that contains the suspected academic offence and any other relevant information.  If the alleged academic offence is collusion, all parties will normally be called to attend the Panel meeting as part of the investigation.  

The Chair of the Board of Examiners shall consider a report from the Panel and shall consult as necessary, including consulting other relevant members of the Board of Examiners, to reach a decision on your case, which will be communicated to you in writing, normally within 5 working days.

Major Offence– possible outcomes

  • Dismiss the case
  • Receive a written warning (this will stay on your file until graduation)
  • Receive a mark of zero for all or part of the module and be permitted to re-do it with no further penalty (i.e. the full mark obtained for the re-sit will be allowed to stand)
  • Receive a mark of zero for all or part of the module and be permitted to re-do it for a maximum of the pass mark
  • Receive a mark of zero for all or part of the module but not be permitted to re-do it
  • Be referred to the Academic Offences Committee if the decision is that an offence has been committed that merits a penalty more severe than those listed above.

Academic Offences Committee

The Committee will consider serious cases referred by your School and appeals by students against decisions of Chairs of Boards of Examiners and Heads of School.

The Committee will be chaired by the Director of Academic and Student Affairs (or nominee) and will normally comprise three members of academic staff representing each Faculty within the University. 

Grounds for Appeal to an Academic Offences Committee

You may appeal the decision of the Chair of the Board of Examiners to an Academic Offences Committee on the following grounds:

  1. New evidence has become available which could not have been provided for the earlier hearings.  Evidence which was withheld from the Chair of the Board of Examiners will not normally be deemed to constitute new evidence.
  2. The finding of guilt was based upon an error in the interpretation of the Procedures for Dealing with Academic Offences
  3. There was a procedural irregularity in the conduct of the investigation
  4. The decision of the Chair of the Board of Examiners was against the weight of the evidence.  

You may not appeal the decision of the Chair of the Board of Examiners to refer your case to an Academic Offences Committee in accordance with section 1.84 (v).  

You may not appeal the decision of the Chair of the Board of Examiners to refer your case for consideration under the Fitness to Practise Procedure. 

 

What will happen at the Academic Offences Committee?

If your case has been referred to the Academic Offences Committee, a representative from your School will outline details of the alleged academic offence(s) against you and you will be given the opportunity to address the Committee to present your version of events.

The Committee will then question both you and the School representative and will come to a decision.

If you are appealing against a decision made by your School, you will be asked to present your appeal and to explain how you meet the ground(s) for appeal.  A member of staff from your School, normally the Head of School or Chair of the Board of Examiners, will also be present to explain the decision.

The Committee will consider the allegation(s) against you, and come to a decision, taking account of the following criteria:

  1. The extent of the academic offence
  2. The degree of intent
  3. The level of study and previous educational background
  4. Any previous history of plagiarism or other academic offences
  5. The extent of your knowledge and understanding of the concept of academic misconduct.
  6. The impact of the penalty on your progress or award.

The decision of the Academic Offences Committee will be communicated to you in writing, normally within five working days of the decision being made.  The Committee may seek further information or clarification and, if so, you will be advised of any delay. 

Academic Offences Committee – possible outcomes

If your case has been referred to the Academic Offences Committee, the Committee may:

  • Dismiss the case
  • Receive a written warning (this will stay on your file until graduation)
  • Receive a mark of zero for all or part of the module(s) concerned and permit you to re-sit the module(s) with no further penalty
  • Receive a mark of zero for all or part of the module(s) concerned and permit you to re-sit the module(s) for a maximum of the pass mark
  • Receive a mark of zero for all or part of the module(s) concerned and not permit you to re-sit those modules
  • Require you to withdraw from the University.

If you are appealing to the Academic Offences Committee, please see Academic Offences Appeals – possible outcomes below.

What if I am unhappy with the decision of the Academic Offences Committee?

If you have appealed the decision of the Chair of the Board of Examiners to the Academic Offences Committee, you have no further internal right of appeal.  However, you may submit a complaint to the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (NIPSO) within six months of notification of the decision of the Academic Offences Committee (see below).  

If your case was referred to the Academic Offences Committee by your School, you may appeal the Committee’s decision to an Academic Offences Appeals Committee.  Your appeal must be submitted on the Academic Offences Appeal Form within 10 working days of notification of the decision.

An overview of the Procedures can be found here.   There are specific grounds for appeal and you must clearly demonstrate how your appeal meets those grounds. 

Students may appeal on the following grounds:

  1. New evidence has become available which could not have been provided for consideration. Evidence which was withheld will not normally constitute new evidence.
  2. The finding of guilt was based upon an error in the interpretation of the procedures for dealing with academic offences
  3. There was a procedural irregularity in the conduct of the investigation;
  4. The decision was against the weight of the evidence.

You cannot appeal the decision of the School to refer your case on to an Academic Offences Committee or against a referral to the Fitness to Practise Procedure.

Academic Offences Appeals Committee

You may appeal to the Academic Offences Appeals Committee only where your case was referred to the Academic Offences Committee directly by your School.  

At the appeal, you will have an opportunity to outline the grounds of your appeal.  The Chair of the Academic Offences Committee (or nominee) will also be present to explain the decision against which you are appealing.    

The decision of the Academic Appeals Offences Committee will be communicated to you in writing, normally within five working days of the decision being made.  The Committee may seek further information or clarification and, if so, you will be advised of any delay.

Academic Offences Appeals – possible outcomes

An Academic Offences Appeals Committee may:

  1. Uphold the appeal and rescind the penalty imposed by the Head of School or the Chair of the Board of Examiners;
  2. Confirm the penalty imposed by the School or Academic Offences Committee
  3. Impose a different penalty from that of the original penalty.  This penalty may be more severe or less severe than the original penalty.

 

Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (NIPSO)

If you remain dissatisfied by the decision of a University committee at the end of the University’s internal procedures, you may submit a complaint to the NIPSO within six months of the notification of the University’s final decision.