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.

This Guide should be read in conjunction with the University’s Procedures for Dealing with Academic Offences. Where there is any doubt, the Regulations will take precedence over this Guide.

An overview of the Procedures can be found here.  

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 Regulations Governing the Allegation and Investigation of Misconduct in Research.

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 all 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 (e.g., 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?

Academic misconduct includes (see paragraphs 1.29 – 1.36 of the Procedures for Dealing with Academic Offences), 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, and/or any form of technology, including mobile telephones, smart phones, ear pieces (though not authorised hearing aids), cameras or other devices
  • 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.
  • Contract Cheating: is where a student commissions or seeks to commission another party (either paid or unpaid) to perform academic work on their behalf.

Examples of Academic Offences

  • Submitting or ‘cutting & pasting’ text from a book/journal/another student’s work 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 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 (see paragraphs 1.37 - 1.38 of the Procedures for Dealing with Academic Offences).

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 or a deferral of an examination. Please see Exceptional Circumstances – A Student Guide.

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 should discuss any issues relating to your progress. 

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

Minor Offences

An academic 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 (or nominee) will consider the case and come to a decision which will be communicated to you in writing, normally within five working days.

Minor Offence – possible outcomes

The Head of School (or nominee) may:

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

You have a right to appeal the decision of the Head of School (or nominee) on grounds to an Academic Offences Committee.

You may not appeal the decision of your Head of School to refer your case to the Chair of the Board of Examiners.

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 Chair of the Board of Examiners in your School and will include two members of staff from your School and one member from another School.  No member of the Panel will have any previous involvement with your case. You will be invited to attend a Panel meeting and will be given at least five working days’ notice of the date, time and venue of the meeting.  

You will be 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 be informed in writing of the offence you are facing and will receive copies of all the documentation considered by the Panel and the Chair of the Board of Examiners, including:

-       a copy of the University’s Procedure for Dealing with Academic Offences and;

-       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 involved will normally be called to attend the Panel meeting as part of the investigation.  

You are required to attend the Panel meeting.  If you do not attend the meeting, without showing ‘good cause’, the Panel has the right to consider your case on the paperwork and make a recommendation to the Chair of the Board of Examiners in your absence and without further notice.  It is your responsibility to establish ‘good cause’ to the satisfaction of the Panel.

The Panel will prepare a report, with recommendations, for consideration by the Chair of the Board of Examiners.  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, to reach a decision on your case.  The decision of the Chair of the Board of Examiners will be communicated to you in writing, normally within five working days.

Major Offence – possible outcomes

The Chair of the Board of Examiners may:

  • Dismiss the case
  • Impose a written warning (this will stay on your Student Record until graduation)
  • Award a mark of zero for all or part of the module and permit you to re-do it with no further penalty (i.e. the full mark obtained for the re-sit will be allowed to stand)
  • Award a mark of zero for all or part of the module and permit you to re-do it for a maximum of the pass mark
  • Award a mark of zero for all or part of the module but not permit you to re-do it
  • Refer your case 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.

In addition to the possible outcomes listed above, the Chair of the Board of Examiners may refer your case to the Director of Academic and Student Affairs to consider invoking the Conduct Regulations or the Fitness to Practise Procedure.

Academic Offences Committee

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

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.

My case has been referred to an Academic Offences Committee – what happens next?

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

The Academic Offences Committee may:

  • Dismiss the case
  • Impose a written warning (this will stay on your Student Record until graduation)
  • Award 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
  • Award 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
  • Award a mark of zero for all or part of the module(s) concerned and not permit you to re-sit those modules
  • Suspend you from the University
  • Require you to withdraw from the University.

The decision of the Academic Offences Committee will be communicated to you in writing, normally within eight 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.

What if I am unhappy with the decision of my Head of School

You may appeal the decision of your Head of School or 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 paragraph 1.85 (v). 

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

If you are appealing against a decision made by your Head of School / the Chair of the Board of Examiners you will be asked to present your appeal and to explain how you consider that 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 their 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 Academic Offences Committee may:

  1. Uphold your 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 Head of School or the Chair of the Board of Examiners;
  3. Impose a different penalty from among those set out in the list of penalties open to the Academic Offences Committee (see paragraphs 1.85 and 1.86). 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 your case to the Director of Academic and Student Affairs (or nominee) to consider invoking the Conduct Regulations or the Fitness to Practise Procedure where it believes this to be appropriate. 

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.

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

If you have appealed the decision of your Head of School / 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.

There are specific grounds for appeal and you must clearly demonstrate how your appeal meets those grounds. 

You may appeal on one or more of the following grounds:

  1. New evidence has become available which could not have been provided for consideration by the Academic Offences Committee.  Evidence which was withheld from the Academic Offences Committee 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 and/or the conduct of the Academic Offences Committee proceedings.
  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 for consideration under the Conduct Regulations or 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 eight 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 Committee – possible outcomes

An Academic Offences Appeals Committee may:

  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 that of the original penalty imposed by the Academic Offences Committee.  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.  

What if I withdraw from my degree course during the course of an investigation?

If you withdraw from your course after you have been notified that you have been suspected of an academic offence, the University may either:

  • continue with the investigation and hear the allegation in your absence without further notice; or
  • suspend the investigation and recommence it if you apply for re-admission to the University.  Any offer of a place will be conditional on completion of the investigation and your compliance with any penalty applied (in addition to any other applicable conditions e.g. academic conditions). 

What if I withdraw from my degree course during an investigation?

If you withdraw from your course after you have been notified that you have been suspected of an academic offence, the University may either:

  1. Continue with the investigation and hear the allegation in your absence without further notice; or
  2. Suspend the investigation and recommence it if you apply for re-admission to the University.  Any offer of a place will be conditional on completion of the investigation and your compliance with any penalty applied (in addition to any other applicable conditions e.g. academic conditions).