Academic & Student Affairs

Procedures for Dealing with Academic Offences

Introduction

1.1 It is an academic offence for a student to commit an act whereby he/she gains or attempts to gain an unfair advantage. Where an academic offence is suspected to have been committed by an undergraduate or postgraduate taught student the following procedure may be invoked.  The procedures for dealing with academic offences are set out in a flowchart in Annex 1.

Any allegation of research misconduct by a postgraduate research student will be dealt with under the Regulations Governing the Allegation and Investigation of Misconduct in Research (see paragraphs 1.45 – 1.46).   


General Principles

Confidentiality

1.2 The University will take all reasonable steps to limit the disclosure of information as is consistent with investigating the issue(s) raised and the provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998, the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and any other relevant legislation.  All staff and students who become involved in the University process are required to respect the integrity of the process and the confidentiality of information arising from it both during and after the conclusion of the process, unless there is an overriding reason to disclose information.  Information will only be released to those who need it for the purpose of investigating or responding to a matter; no third party will be told any more about the investigation than strictly necessary in order to obtain the information required from them.

1.3 Where a statement of complaint has been made about a student or a member of staff, that person will normally be provided with a copy of the statement.  Any person who makes a statement of complaint will be advised of this accordingly.

Communication

1.4 The University will normally communicate by email with anyone involved in the University process.  In the case of registered students or University staff, this will normally be to their University email address.  Where correspondence is sent to a registered student by post it will be sent to the term-time address. 

Notification of decisions

1.5 Unless otherwise stated, notification of a decision will be sent to the student and copied to relevant persons normally within five working days of the decision being taken.  If there is a delay in the decision being made, the student will be advised. 

Defamatory or derogatory comments

1.6 Students should be careful not to make unsubstantiated or defamatory allegations or comments about students, members of University staff or any other person.  If the University considers that an allegation or comment may be deemed to be defamatory, it may require it to be retracted or deleted before permitting the investigation to continue.  If a student refuses to do so, the offending material may be deleted by the University and the student may also be referred for investigation under the Conduct Regulations.

Duty of candour / fabricated evidence

1.7 It is expected that any person involved in any University process will treat all others involved with respect and courtesy and will behave honestly and with integrity throughout the process.  It is also expected that evidence (written or oral) provided to the University by any person will be true to the best of that person’s knowledge.   

1.8 Any registered student or member of University staff considered to have acted dishonestly or to have provided fabricated or falsified evidence may be referred for investigation under the Conduct Regulations, the Fitness to Practise Procedure or the Staff Disciplinary Procedure.

Right to Be Accompanied

1.9 Any student against whom an allegation of academic misconduct has been made may access support from the University’s Student Wellbeing Service.   Advice and support is also available from the Students’ Union. 

1.10 At any interview and/or meeting the student is permitted 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.  At all stages of the process, students will be notified of their right to be accompanied.

Anonymous reports

1.11 Anonymous reports of concerns will not normally be considered.  However, where the report raises issues of serious concern, the University may take steps to investigate the matter. 

1.12 Only in exceptional circumstances will the identity of the person reporting a concern be permitted to remain confidential, provided this is consistent with the rules of natural justice.

Concerns raised close to or after graduation

1.13 Where a concern about a student’s conduct is raised immediately prior to graduation, the University may not permit the student to graduate.  In such circumstances, graduation will be deferred pending the outcome of any investigation under this procedure, the Regulations Governing the Allegation and Investigation of Misconduct in Research or any other University procedure or any criminal proceedings.

1.14 Any offence that comes to light after a student has graduated shall be investigated under this procedure (undergraduate or postgraduate taught students) or the Regulations Governing the Allegation and Investigation of Misconduct in Research (postgraduate research students).

Suspension from the University

1.15 Where a case appears to be sufficiently serious, or where circumstances merit it (eg if a student is about to go on an external placement), a Head of School (or nominee) may recommend to the Director of Academic and Student Affairs that the student be suspended pending an investigation into the allegation of academic misconduct.

Equality, diversity and fair treatment

1.16 The University has a legal, as well as a moral duty, to treat all students fairly.  The University values and promotes equality and diversity and will seek to ensure that it treats all individuals fairly and with dignity and respect.  The University seeks to provide equality to all, irrespective of: gender, including gender re-assignment; marital or civil partnership status; having or not having dependants; religious belief or political opinion; race (including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins, including Irish Travellers); pregnancy, including maternity and paternity rights; disability; sexual orientation and age.

1.17 Within this procedure, where possible, there will be an equal gender balance on committees. 

Less favourable treatment

1.18 No person who is subject to investigation under this procedure will be treated less favourably as a result.  Victimisation shall be grounds for a further, separate complaint.

Standard of proof

1.19 At all times, the principles of natural justice shall be observed and the standard of proof shall be on the balance of probabilities.

Reasonable adjustments

1.20 Students will be invited to notify Academic Affairs if they require any reasonable adjustments in order to make the process accessible.  This may include consultation with Disability Services.

Deadlines/Timescales

1.21 The University will endeavour to meet all timescales set out in this procedure. It may however prove impossible to meet these timescales when key staff are on leave, or otherwise indisposed, or where the complexities of the case warrant extended scrutiny.  Where it is not possible for the University to meet the deadlines, for whatever reason, the student will be informed.


Scope of the Procedure: major and minor offences

1.22 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. Suspected minor offences shall be dealt with at School level under the procedures set out in paragraphs 1.47 -1.57 below.

1.23 An offence shall be designated as ‘major’ if the piece of work where it occurs counts towards more than one third of the assessment for the module. Suspected major offences shall be dealt with under the procedure set out in paragraphs 1.58-1.67 below.

1.24 Any incidence of research misconduct by an undergraduate or a postgraduate taught student shall be deemed to be ‘major’ (See paragraphs 1.33- 1.34 for Definitions).

1.25 Any repeat or multiple offences shall be deemed to be a major offence.

1.26 Cheating in an examination shall be deemed to be a major offence.

Definitions of academic offences

Cheating

1.27 The term ‘cheating’ normally describes behaviour that takes place in an examination. It is considered to be cheating for an examination student to:

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

Plagiarism, Duplication, Collusion and Fabrication

1.28 Plagiarism: It is an academic offence for students to plagiarise. Plagiarism is defined as the presentation of the work of others as the writer’s own.

1.29 Duplication: It is an academic offence for a student to re-use significant, identical, or nearly identical portion(s) of his or her own work where such work has been previously submitted for credit within the University or at another institution.

1.30 It is also an academic offence for a student to permit another student to copy his/her work submitted for assessment. Both parties will be dealt with in accordance with these procedures.

1.31 Collusion: It is an academic offence for two or more students to work together on an assignment that is meant to be done individually. It is expected that the work being assessed, unless specifically designated as a group assessment, shall be the work solely of the student submitting it.

1.32 Fabrication: It is an academic offence for a student to claim to have carried out experiments, interviews or any form of research which he/she has not in fact carried out, or where he/she invents or falsifies data, evidence or experimental results. It is also an academic offence for a student knowingly to make use of falsified data as described above.

Research Misconduct by Undergraduate or Postgraduate students

1.33 The University defines research misconduct as behaviour by any student in the conduct of research, whether intentional or not, that falls short of good scholarly standards.   Misconduct in research covers inappropriate behaviour as well as misconduct in the course of research.  Misconduct includes, but is not limited to:

  1. Plagiarism
  2. Duplication
  3. Collusion
  4. Fabrication
  5. Falsification
  6. Misrepresentation of data and/or interests and /or involvement
  7. Breach of legislation
  8. Failure to follow accepted procedures or to exercise due care in carrying out responsibilities for avoiding unreasonable risk or harm to:
    1. humans
    2. animals used in research
    3. the environment
  9. The proper handling of privileged or private information on individuals collected during the research
  10. Failure to ensure the appropriate ethical approval has been granted prior to commencing research.

1.34 Honest error (which is not due to negligence), or differences of interpretation, are not included as misconduct in research. However, poor research practice may be considered misconduct, particularly where individual negligence results in harm or potential harm to research collaborators, participants or animals.

Discovery of suspected cheating in an examination

1.35 An invigilator who suspects a student of cheating in an examination, or who is made aware that a student may be cheating, shall inform the senior invigilator immediately.

1.36 The senior invigilator shall observe the student and make appropriate notes for a report, and shall inform and consult the other invigilators about the incident.

1.37 The senior invigilator shall inform the student that he/she is suspected of cheating and that a report will be made. The invigilator shall record the incident on the student’s examination script and shall remove and retain as evidence any unauthorised material in the student’s possession. The student shall then be allowed to finish the examination. This procedure applies both to a student who is suspected of cheating and to any student who is suspected of having allowed his/her work to be copied or of having provided any form of unfair assistance.

1.38 At the end of the examination, the senior invigilator shall ask the student to stay behind and shall offer him/her the opportunity to explain his/her conduct and shall take a record of the discussion. The student shall be informed that a report will be made to the Examinations Office and to the Chair of the Board of Examiners. Lack of co-operation with the invigilator shall be deemed to be a disciplinary offence under the Student Conduct Regulations.

1.39 The senior invigilator shall make a written report, on the Senior Invigilator’s Report Form, to the University’s Examinations Office within one working day of the examination.

1.40 The University’s Examinations Office shall, within two working days of receiving a written report, forward the report, any accompanying evidence and any other relevant documentation to the Chair of the Board of Examiners and shall copy it to the Head of the School. The Chair of the Board of Examiners shall ensure that the result is withheld until the investigation is completed, and will invoke the procedure for dealing with major offences as set out in paragraphs 1.58 -1.67 below.

Discovery of suspected plagiarism, duplication, fabrication or collusion

1.41 A member of staff who discovers possible plagiarism, duplication, fabrication or collusion in work submitted for assessment shall report the suspected offence in writing immediately to the Head of the School where the student is registered.

1.42 The Head of School or nominee shall arrange for the alleged offence to be investigated. The procedure set out in paragraphs 1.47 -1.57 below shall be used for alleged minor offences. The procedure set out in paragraphs 1.58 -1.67 below shall be used for alleged major offences.

1.43 A member of staff who discovers possible plagiarism, duplication, fabrication or collusion in work that does not count towards the assessment of the module, or in drafts of work that have not yet been submitted for assessment, shall normally deal with this informally. This will involve re-advising the student of the academic conventions with regard to referencing, reporting of results, etc. applying in the discipline.

Discovery of suspected research misconduct

1.44 Where an allegation of research misconduct by an undergraduate or a postgraduate taught student has been made it will be investigated under this procedure.

1.45 Where an allegation of research misconduct by a Postgraduate Research student is made, the matter must be reported within one working day to the Head of School/Centre Director and to the Head of Research Governance.  The Head of Research Governance will initiate an investigation under the Regulations Governing the Allegation and Investigation of Misconduct in Research.  This will include an initial screening investigation to determine whether the alleged offence constitutes misconduct in research.

1.46 Where a Panel hearing (including an Appeal Panel) is convened under the Regulations Governing the Allegation and Investigation of Misconduct in Research, the Panel may be serviced by a member of staff from the Directorate of Academic and Student Affairs.


Procedure for dealing with minor offences

1.47 Minor offences shall normally be dealt with as an academic matter within the School, the main aim being to provide the student with the necessary advice and guidance to ensure that the problem does not reoccur. However, a penalty from among the list set out in paragraph 1.83 may be imposed, where appropriate.

1.48 The Head of School or nominee shall delegate responsibility for dealing with alleged minor offences to a member of the relevant Board of Examiners, who will carry out an investigation. The investigation will include:

  1. Scrutinising the piece of work, and any documentary evidence provided by either the member of staff or the student.
  2. Consulting the member of staff who discovered the alleged offence.
  3. Informing the student in writing that he/she is suspected of committing an academic offence. This communication shall specify the nature of the alleged academic offence, identify the module or part of a module concerned, and include a copy of the procedures for dealing with academic offences and a copy of any documentary evidence of the case against the student.  
  4. Interviewing the student about the alleged offence. The School shall normally give the student at least five working days’ notice of the date and time of the meeting in writing.  This period may be reduced during the examination period or at other times when tight time-scales apply.  Another member of the School’s academic staff who is not directly involved in the case shall attend the interview to observe proceedings.  At this interview, the student shall be re-advised of the academic conventions with regard to referencing, reporting of results, etc., applying in the discipline.  A record will be kept of the interview and the student shall receive a copy.  If the student disagrees with the accuracy of the record, he/she should inform the member of staff who conducted the interview within five working days of receiving the record, setting out the contested section/s.

1.49 If the member of the Board of Examiners investigating the alleged offence decides that the offence appears to be a major one (see paragraphs 1.22- 1.26), he/she may refer it back to the Head of School or nominee at any time with a recommendation that the procedure for dealing with major offences be invoked.

1.50 If the alleged offence relates to collusion, all the students involved shall be interviewed, following the procedure set out in paragraph 1.48 above.

1.51 The Secretary to the Board of Examiners shall provide the Head of School or nominee with a report on the case. This will remain on the student’s file until he/she graduates.

1.52 The Head of School or nominee will consider the case and come to a decision, taking account of the criteria outlined in paragraph 1.82. 

1.53 The Head of School or nominee may either dismiss the case or impose one of the penalties for minor offences from the list set out in paragraph 1.83 below, or refer the case to the Chair of the relevant Board of Examiners to be considered under the procedures for major offences (see paragraphs 1.58 - 1.67).

1.54 The decision of the Head of School or nominee shall be communicated to the student in writing, within five working days of the decision being made. This communication should give reasons for the decision. The Head of School or nominee will also advise the student that he/she may appeal, under paragraphs 1.55- 1.57 below, and will specify a deadline by which any appeal must be submitted. The stipulated date shall be ten working days after the date of the decision letter of the Head of School or nominee.

Appeals against the decision of a Head of School or nominee

1.55 A student may appeal against the Head of School’s or nominee’s decision, including a decision that an offence denied by the student has taken place. The appeal must be submitted on the Academic Offences Appeal Formto the Director of Academic and Student Affairs by 4.00pm within ten working days of the written notification of the Head of School’s or nominee’s decision. The student must set out the grounds of appeal (see paragraph 1.56) and include their student registration number and contact details (address, email, telephone number).  Any supporting documents should be attached.

1.56 Students may appeal on the following grounds:

  1. New evidence has become available which could not previously 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.

1.57 A meeting of the Academic Offences Committee (see paragraphs 1.72 -1.81 below) will be convened to hear the appeal. 


Procedure for dealing with major offences

Investigation stage

1.58 The Head of School or nominee shall refer any report of an alleged major offence to the Chair of the relevant Board of Examiners. Incidences of cheating in examinations shall be reported to the Chair of the Board of Examiners by the University’s Examinations Office.  Where the Chair of the Board of Examiners discovered the alleged offence, the Head of School will appoint another member of staff to investigate the allegation.  Where the Head of School is the Chair of the Board of Examiners, he/she shall appoint another member of the Board of Examiners to investigate the allegation.

1.59 Within five working days of receiving a report on an alleged offence, the Chair of the Board of Examiners shall:

  1. Arrange for a Panel, consisting of at least two members of the Board of Examiners and a representative from outside the School, to investigate the case and to meet the student to discuss the alleged offence.  No member of the Panel shall have had any previous involvement with the case.  The School shall give the student at least five working days’ notice of the date and time of the meeting with the Panel.  The student shall be informed of their right to be accompanied (see paragraphs 1.9 – 1.10 above).  The student may make a written submission to the Panel and submit supporting documentary evidence, in addition to appearing in person.
  2. In circumstances where the alleged offence, other than those covered in paragraph 1.27, is discovered during the revision or assessment period, the student shall be informed of the offence in writing within two days of his or her last examination, after which, the case shall be dealt with as set out in 1.59 iii (below).
  3. The student shall be informed in writing that he/she is suspected of committing an academic offence. This email/ letter shall specify the nature of the alleged offence and identify the module or part of a module concerned.  It shall include a copy of the procedures for dealing with academic offences and a copy of any documentary evidence of the case against the student.  During the examination period, when tight time constraints apply, the period of notice may be reduced and initial contact with the student may be by means other than in writing, provided this is followed up in writing.

1.60 The student will be required to attend the Panel meeting.  Where a student fails to attend the Panel meeting without good cause, the Panel may consider the case and forward a recommendation to the Board of Examiners in the absence of the student and without further notice. It is the responsibility of the student to establish good cause to the satisfaction of the Panel.

1.61 The Panel shall have the right to call for such papers, examine such witnesses and conduct such other relevant enquiries as appear necessary. Where witnesses are called, they may be subject to examination, cross-examination and re-examination by the parties.

1.62 Having completed its investigation, the Panel shall make a written report to the Chair of the Board of Examiners, to be accompanied by all supporting documentation (including any provided by the student). This report shall clearly state the Panel’s findings that:

  1. No offence has been committed, that the Panel has dismissed the case and that no further action shall be taken. The Panel shall inform the Chair of the Board of Examiners and the University Examinations Office that the case has been dismissed and that the student’s assessment result can be dealt with in the normal way; or
  2. An offence has been committed and that the Panel recommends a penalty from among the list of penalties for major offences, as set out in paragraph 1.84 below. In addition to recommending one of these penalties, the Panel may also recommend that the matter be referred to a Fitness to Practise Panel.

Chair of the Board of Examiners : decision and penalty

1.63 The Chair of the Board of Examiners shall consider the Panel’s report and shall consult as necessary, including consulting other relevant members of the Board of Examiners.

1.64 Following this consultation, the Chair of the Board of Examiners shall do one of the following:

  1. Dismiss the case, notwithstanding the opinion of the Panel; or
  2. Confirm the action recommended by the Panel; or
  3. Impose a different penalty from among those set out in the list of penalties, as set out in paragraph 1.84. This may be more or less severe than the penalty recommended by the Panel.

1.65 The decision of the Chair of the Board of Examiners shall take into account the criteria outlined in paragraph 1.82.

1.66 The decision of the Chair of the Board of Examiners shall be communicated to the student in writing within five working days of the decision being made. This communication shall set out the allegations against the student and the Chair’s decision relating to each allegation, giving reasons for his/her decision.  The University Examinations Office, where appropriate, should also be informed of the decision.

1.67  The Chair of the Board of Examiners will also advise the student that he/she may appeal(subject to paragraph 1.68 below), under paragraphs 1.69 – 1.71 below, and will specify a deadline by which any appeal must be submitted. The stipulated date shall be ten working days after the date of the decision letter of the Head of School or nominee.

1.68 There shall be no appeal against a referral to the Academic Offences Committee (see paragraph 1.84).

Appeals against a decision of a Chair of the Board of Examiners

1.69 Subject to paragraph 1.68 above, a student may appeal against the decision of a Chair of a Board of Examiners, including a decision that an offence, which is denied by the student, has taken place.. The appeal must be submitted on the Academic Offences Appeal Formto the Director of Academic and Student Affairs by 4.00pm within ten working days of the written notification of the Chair of a Board of Examiners decision. The student must set out the grounds of appeal (see paragraph 1.70 below) and include their student registration number and contact details (address, email, telephone number).  Any supporting documents should be attached.

1.70 Students may appeal on any of 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.

1.71 A meeting of the Academic Offences Committee will be convened to hear the appeal.


Academic Offences Committee

1.72 The membership of the Academic Offences Committee shall normally be drawn from a Panel of at least 24 members from across the University, the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, the Institute of Theology, St Mary’s University College and Stranmillis University College, plus the Director of Academic and Student Affairs (or nominee) who shall chair meetings.  Members, excluding the Chair, shall normally serve three year terms for a maximum of two consecutive terms.

1.73 The Committee shall meet to consider serious cases referred by the Board of Examiners and appeals by students against decisions of Chairs of Boards of Examiners and Heads of School.  A quorum shall normally comprise the Chair plus at least three members, to include normally one representative from each of the Faculties i.e. Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; Engineering and Physical Sciences; and Medicine, Health and Life Sciences. No member of the Committee shall have had any previous involvement in the case.  A member of staff from Academic and Student Affairs shall act as Secretary to the Committee. Minutes shall be taken and retained as a formal record of the meeting.

1.74 Academic Affairs shall invite the student to attend the meeting in person to present his/her case. The student must receive at least five working days’ notice in writing of the date and time of the meeting. The student has the right to be accompanied (see paragraphs 1.9 – 1.10 above).  The student may make a written submission to the Committee and may submit supporting documentary evidence, in addition to appearing in person.

1.75 The Chair of the Board of Examiners/Head of School or nominee (as appropriate) shall be invited to attend the meeting or to nominate a member of the School Panel to attend in his/her place to explain the reasons for the School’s decision.  The student has the right to be present while the School’s representative is speaking, and the School’s representative has the right to be present while the student is speaking.

1.76 The student will be required to attend the meeting of the Academic Offences Committee.  Where a student fails to attend the meeting without good cause, the Committee may consider the case in the absence of the student and without further notice.  It is the responsibility of the student to establish good cause to the satisfaction of the Committee.

1.77 In considering appeals, the Committee shall not attempt to re-examine the student or to question the examiners’ academic judgement.

1.78 The Academic Offences Committee will consider the case and come to a decision taking account of the criteria outlined in paragraph 1.82.

Where a case has been referred by the Chair of a Board of Examiners, the options available to the Academic Offences Committee are as follows: 

  1. To dismiss the case against the student
  2. To impose a penalty from among those set out in paragraphs 1.84 or 1.85 below; or
  3. To refer the case back to the Board of Examiners and to recommend a course of action for it to follow, giving brief reasons. The recommended course of action may include imposing a penalty from among those set out in paragraph 1.84 below.

Where an appeal has been brought by a a student against a decision of the Chair of the Board of Examiners/Head of School (or nominee), the options available to the Academic Offences Committee are as follows:

  1. To uphold the appeal and rescind the penalty imposed by the Head of School or the Chair of the Board of Examiners;
  2. To confirm the penalty imposed by the Head of School or the Chair of the Board of Examiners;
  3. To impose a different penalty from among those set out in the list of penalties open to the Academic Offences Committee (see paragraphs 1.84 and 1.85). This penalty may be more or less severe than the original penalty imposed by the Head of School or the Chair of the Board of Examiners.

In addition to imposing one of the penalties above, the Committee may refer any case to the Director of Academic and Student Affairs (or nominee) for consideration under the Conduct Regulations or the Fitness to Practise Procedure where it believes this to be appropriate.

1.79 The Director of Academic and Student Affairs (or nominee) shall inform the student and the Chair of the Board of Examiners/Head of School (or nominee) (as appropriate) of the outcome of the meeting, in writing, within five working days of the decision being made. The student’s right to appeal a decision of the Academic Offences Committee (subject to paragraph 1.80) shall also be stated in the communication. 

1.80  Where the Academic Offences Committee has been convened to hear an appeal against the decision made by the Head of School (or nominee) or the Chair of the Board of Examiners, no further appeal will be permitted and the student must be referred to their right to make a complaint to the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (see paragraph 1.101 below).  There shall be no appeal against a referral for the University’s Fitness to Practise Procedure to be invoked. 

1.81 The Chair of the Board of Examiners/Head of School (or nominee) shall ensure that the student’s assessment results are dealt with in accordance with the Committee’s decision. 


Penalties for Academic Offences

Criteria

1.82 At all stages, the following criteria will be taken into account in deciding the level of penalty to be imposed or other action to be taken:

  1. The extent of the plagiarism or other academic offence.
  2. The degree of intent.
  3. The level of study and previous educational background of the student.
  4. Any previous history of plagiarism or other academic offences.
  5. The extent of the student’s knowledge and understanding of the concept of academic misconduct and of the correct procedures for referencing in the discipline; and
  6. The impact of the penalty on the student’s progress or award.

Minor offences: penalties available

1.83 After following the procedures set out in paragraphs 1.47 -1.57 above the following penalties may be applied:

  1. A written warning to the student.
  2. Award a mark of zero for the piece of work concerned and permit the student to re-do it with no further penalty (i.e. the full mark obtained for the re-sit is allowed to stand).
  3. Award a mark of zero for the piece of work concerned and permit the student to re-do it for a maximum of the pass mark; or
  4. Award a mark of zero for the piece of work concerned but not permit the student to re-do it.
  5. Where the case has been considered by an Academic Offences Committee the Committee can refer the matter back to the Head of School or nominee and recommend a course of action for the School to follow, giving brief reasons. The recommended course of action may include imposing a penalty from those above.

Major offences: penalties available to the Chair of the Board of Examiners

1.84 The Chair of the Board of Examiners may impose a penalty from the following list for a major offence, after following the procedures set out in paragraphs 1.58 -1.67 above:

  1. A written warning to the student.
  2. Award a mark of zero for all or part of the module and permit a re-sit with no further penalty (i.e. the full mark obtained for the re-sit is allowed to stand).
  3. Award a mark of zero for all or part of the module and permit a re-sit for a maximum of the pass mark.
  4. Award a mark of zero for all or part of the module but do not permit the student to re-sit; or
  5. The Chair of the Board of Examiners should refer the matter 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.

Major offences: penalties available to the Academic Offences Committee

1.85 The Academic Offences Committee may impose a penalty from i – iv  in paragraph 1.84 above with the addition of the following:                             

  1. Award a mark of zero for more than one module being taken by the student at that time and permit the student to re-sit those modules with no further penalty.
  2. Award a mark of zero for more than one module being taken by the student at that time and permit the student to re-sit those modules for a maximum of the pass mark.
  3. Award a mark of zero for more than one module being taken by the student at that time and not permit the student to re-sit those modules; or
  4. Require the student to withdraw from the University.

Note: where a student is found to have committed an academic offence in two or more modules in the same session, the Committee has the right to impose different penalties for different modules where appropriate.


Appeals against the decision of an Academic Offences Committee

1.86 A student may appeal a decision of an Academic Offences Committee to an Academic Offences Appeals Committee only where the matter has been referred to this Committee directly by the Chair of the Board of Examiners (see paragraph1.84 v). 

1.87 An appeal against the decision of the Academic Offences Committee must be submitted by the student in writing on the Academic Offences Appeal Form to the Director of Academic and Student Affairs by 4.00pm on the date stipulated in the letter giving the decision of the Academic Offences Committee. The stipulated date shall be ten working days of the notification of the decision of the Academic Offences Committee. 

1.88 The student must stipulate one or more of the following ground(s) of appeal:

  1. New evidence has become available which could not have been provided for consideration by the Academic Offences Committee.  Evidence which was withheld 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 was against the weight of the evidence.

Academic Offences Appeals Committee

1.89 When convened, the Academic Offences Appeals Committee shall be drawn from the membership as outlined in paragraph 1.72 and shall be chaired by a Pro-Vice-Chancellor.

1.90 No member of the Committee should have been involved in the case previously. At all meetings of the Academic Offences Appeals Committee three members (excluding the Secretary) shall constitute a quorum. A member of Academic and Student Affairs shall normally act as Secretary to the Academic Offences Appeals Committee. Minutes shall be taken and retained as a formal record of the meeting.

1.91 The student may be invited to submit written information in support of the appeal to the Academic Offences Appeals Committee. Where the student submits new information, which was not available to the student at the time of the Academic Offences Committee’s decision, the Academic Offences Appeals Committee will consider it. Other than such new evidence, the Academic Offences Appeals Committee will consider only information relating to the other grounds for the appeal (see paragraph 1.88 ii, iii and iv above)

1.92 Such information should be submitted to the Secretary of the Committee at least two working days in advance of the hearing. 

1.93 The Academic Offences Appeals Committee shall have access to the record of the Academic Offences Committee hearing.

1.94 Academic Affairs shall invite the student to attend the meeting in person to present his/her case. The student must receive at least five working days’ notice in writing of the date and time of the meeting. The student shall have the right to be accompanied at the meeting (see paragraphs 1.9 – 1.10 above) The student will have the opportunity to address the Academic Offences Appeals Committee in support of the grounds of their appeal.

1.95 The Chair of the Academic Offences Committee or nominee shall be invited to attend the meeting to explain the reasons for the Committee’s decision. The student shall have the right to be present while the Chair of the Academic Offences Committee or nominee is speaking, and the Chair or nominee shall have the right to be present while the student is speaking.

1.96 Where a student fails to attend the meeting without good cause, the Appeals Committee may consider the case in the absence of the student and without further notice. It is the responsibility of the student to establish good cause to the satisfaction of the Committee.

1.97 The Academic Offences Appeals Committee will consider the appeal as presented by the student, and come to a decision taking account of the criteria outlined in paragraph 1.82.

1.98 The Committee shall have the authority to:

  1. Uphold the appeal and rescind the penalty imposed by the Academic Offences Committee.
  2. Confirm the penalty imposed by the Academic Offences Committee.
  3. Impose a different penalty from among those set out in the list of penalties open to the Academic Offences Committee (paragraphs 1.84 and 1.85). The penalty may be more or less severe than the original penalty imposed by the Committee.

In addition to imposing one of the penalties above, the Academic Offences Appeals Committee may refer any case to the Director of Academic and Student Affairs for consideration under the Fitness to Practise procedure where it believes this to be appropriate.

1.99 The Chair of the Academic Offences Appeals Committee shall inform the student, the Chair of the Academic Offences Committee and the relevant Head of School of the outcome of the meeting, in writing within five working days of the decision being made.  The Head of School shall ensure that the student’s assessments results are dealt with in accordance with the Academic Offences Appeals Committee’s decision.

1.100 The student shall also be informed that there is no further internal right of appeal against the decision of the Academic Offences Appeals Committee and the student must be referred to their right to make a complaint to the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (see paragraph 1.101 below).


Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman

1.101 A student who feels aggrieved by the final decision of the internal process may make a complaint to the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman.


 
 

Monitoring

1.102 Heads of School shall provide the Director of Academic and Student Affairs with an annual report, in October each year, of all major and minor offences dealt with in the School under this procedure.

1.103 The Director of Academic and Student Affairs shall make an annual report on academic offences, including those considered by the  Academic Offences Committee and the Academic Offences Appeals Committee as well as those dealt with by Schools, to the Education Committee. Individual students shall not be identified in the report.