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Unfair Practice

Unfair Practice

The University views any attempt by a student to gain an unfair advantage in examinations or assessments to be unfair practice.  Examples of unfair practice include: cheating in examinations, plagiarism, collusion, presenting another person’s work as your own or presenting false results.  All students at the University are covered by either the Unfair Practice Procedure (for students on Taught Programmes) or Academic Integrity in Research Degree Study (for students undertaking Postgraduate Research).

Consideration of allegations of Unfair Practice at a School level

If you are a member of staff and suspect that a student has committed unfair practice in an assessment, then you need to report this to the Unfair Practice Coordinator in your School.  The report to the coordinator must contain a summary of the allegation and the document (e.g. assignment, report or essay) on which the allegation of plagiarism/unfair practice is based.  Some schools use the Turnitin UK software as an indicator of the extent of any alleged plagiarism.  If this report is used in your school you should pass this report to the coordinator for fuller consideration.   The coordinator will then conduct a full investigation into the allegation.  The investigation will normally include an interview with any relevant staff to collate or clarify evidence as required.  The coordinator will then arrange a meeting with the student to allow them an opportunity to respond to the allegation.  The Chair of the Examining Board will receive a copy of the report from the coordinator (along with the evidence considered); the student will be invited to make a written response to the Chair who will then make a decision on the case taking into account the full situation.

Plagiarism has a wide definition and can include any student who presents work as their own regardless of any intent to cheat.  

University Committee of Enquiry

For very serious or repeat offences of unfair practice there will be a University hearing, in this scenario the Unfair Practice Coordinator presents the evidence against the student to the Panel.  It is the Panel who decide on the outcome.

Unfair Practice Coordinator

As the Unfair Practice Coordinator you will receive a report for every case of suspected plagiarism within your department.  You should investigate each case by meeting with the student together with an appropriate subject expert, to establish the facts.   This could be the module leader or the staff member who made the allegation. You should write to the student giving sufficient notice to inform them of the concern and invite the student to attend an investigation meeting.  At this point the student may give evidence either verbally or by providing a written response.  The student should be given a minimum of five days’ notice of the meeting, which should normally happen within ten days of the letter inviting the student to attend.  Template letters are available on the right-hand side of this page.  You should allow the student to be accompanied by a friend or representative if they wish.

At the meeting you are seeking to establish the facts of the case.  You should outline the concern to the student and give them an opportunity to present evidence either to explain or counter the allegation.  You should formally record the facts of the case on the Case Record sheet (available in the resources on the right).

You should complete the Case Record  as soon as possible and send it to the student to sign.  The student may dispute the facts of the case or the report and send an additional statement to the Chair of the Examining Board if they wish.  The Chair of the Examining Board will consider the Case Record, all evidence and representations from the student before adjudicating on the case.  

The Chair may meet with relevant staff and others to discuss the case before coming to a decision.  For serious offences there will be a University hearing and you may be asked to present the case on behalf of the School.  You will be asked to submit all evidence in advance and to then attend the hearing and explain the case.  For further information regarding this process contact Student Cases on 76628.  

Chair of the Examining Board

You will receive a report of the alleged offence, the student’s work and a note of the meeting held with or without the student along with any submission from the student.  You may meet with the student, staff member and Unfair Practice Coordinator.  On the basis of the evidence you should then decide on the balance of probabilities whether unfair practice has occurred and complete the Case Record.

If no unfair practice has occurred you should dismiss the case and send the Case Record to the student and the Superintendant of Examinations in Registry, there will be no record on the student’s file.

If unfair practice has occurred you can decide to:

  • take no further action;
  • order study skills training and a give a warning of possible future consequences;
  • order study skills training and set the assessment mark to zero;
  • refer to a Committee of Enquiry if it is serious or a second offence.

You should then write to the student with the decision and accompanying reasons explaining the process to review this decision and the possibility that the Examining Board may not allow them to resubmit the assessment.  A record will then be placed on the student’s file if it is a summative piece of work.  Template letters are available from the right-hand side of this page.

Where unfair practice has been found, the Examining Board will determine the student’s overall result in light of the penalty imposed.  You must provide information to the Examining Board regarding the case in order for them to make a decision.

Postgraduate Unfair Practice

The Unfair Practice in Research Degree Procedure is to be used after a thesis has been submitted.  If plagiarism is suspected prior to the viva then the supervisor should advise the student of the areas of concerns.  If the unfair practice is found during the viva voce examination and the Examining Board believes there is a prima facie case that unfair practice has occurred, the examination should be stopped and the case referred to a University hearing.  If plagiarism is suspected after the award has been given then the Head of School will initially investigate and report to Registry who will then consider the case under the appropriate Statutes.