Advice

Education

What resources are available to help with study and writing skills?

Your department can always help, as can the library, CeDAS and the Disability and Dyslexia Service where relevant. You can find out more about the help available from CeDAS here.

What can I do if I'm having problems with my department or tutor?

If you’ve spoken to your tutor about the issues but not had a satisfactory response, you could then decide whether there’s another member of the department who may be able to listen (such as the head of department), or you can come and speak to us for independent help and guidance. The vast majority of issues can be solved between student and department if the communication is good.

What can happen if I've been accused of a non-academic offence?

If you’ve been accused of a non-academic offence, you’ll be called to a disciplinary or investigation meeting. This will usually involve two members of College staff who will look at the evidence against you, listen to your response, then make the decision about whether to find no wrongdoing, apply penalties themselves (including fines, eviction from Halls, Campus Restriction Orders or similar), or whether to refer your case on to a Serious Incidents Panel. This Panel can pass more serious punishments such as forced interruptions or termination of studies.

Academic Appeals

What can I appeal against?

Within 1 month of the publication of the final result you can appeal the outcomes of:
- coursework
- examinations (including the viva examination of MPhil/ PhD students)
- formal reviews/upgrades (decisions relating to upgrades from MPhil to PhD)
- academic progression (including decisions on resit/repeat opportunities)
- degree classification or degree award
- termination of registration by the College Board of Examiners.

On what grounds can I appeal?

Your appeal can only be considered if it is made based on one of the grounds for appeal. The grounds are:
- There is evidence of a failure to follow the procedures set out in these regulations which might cause reasonable doubt as to the fairness of the decision
- Fresh evidence can be presented which you could not with reasonable diligence have disclosed before the decision was made and which might cause reasonable doubt as to the fairness of that decision.
- The decision was perverse given the evidence which was available at the time.

What can I not appeal?

You can’t use the appeals procedure if you:
-want to ask for a remark.
-want to appeal because you had extenuating circumstances at the time and you could reasonably have submitted evidence before the deadline but didn’t.
-want to appeal because you were unaware of College procedures or regulations.
- believe there has been an error in calculating or recording your results, discuss this with your department.
- want to know whether extenuating circumstances were taken into account, discuss this with your department.
- don’t understand why you received a particular mark, discuss this with your department.
- are unhappy about the service or facilities at the College and don’t want to seek a change to any of your results, you probably need to Complain rather than Appeal.

What about appealing termination of studies through the formal warning procedure?

You would need to show that there is either:
-evidence of a failure to follow the procedures set out in the Academic Regulations which might cause reasonable doubt as to the fairness of the decision to terminate the student’s registration
- Fresh evidence can be presented which the student could not with reasonable diligence have disclosed before the decision to terminate his/her registration was made and which might cause reasonable doubt as to the fairness of that decision.

What should I put in my appeal?

Your appeal should be very specific and very clear. The person reading your form has probably never met you and is not familiar with your case- you need to tell them everything they need to know by filling out your form and including relevant evidence.

You need to make it obvious why what happened to you fits into one of the grounds for appeal, (i.e. The department did… this was a procedural error…) and make it very clear why that led to an unfair outcome in your case (… this error led to… which put me at an unfair disadvantage and…).

You should also plainly outline what you feel a reasonable resolution would be.

You should say how you have been affected and how you feel about the situation, but it’s not helpful to the investigator for you to include any irrelevant information or claims which you can’t back up with evidence. Focus on giving your appeal the best chance of being upheld by explaining as clearly as possible why your situation fits the grounds for appeal and why the circumstances were unfair as a result.

You need to attach all supporting evidence to your appeal. This could be doctor’s letters, police documents or copies of flight information, for example. If they’re not written in English, you’ll need to get them officially translated to submit them.

If my appeal is successful will I definitely get the result I want?

Not always, no. Very few appeals are successful and even those that are don’t always change a decision to the outcome a student was looking for. A successful appeal does not guarantee that your grades will change.

What happens after I submit my appeal?

The Investigating Officer will look at your case and decide whether you have valid grounds for an appeal. If you don’t, your appeal will be dismissed. If you do, they will look into your situation fully. They will do this as quickly as possible, but it can take several months. If they believe it will take more than 2 months, they’ll write to you to let you know.

When the investigation is finished they’ll send you a letter to let you know the recommendation of the Investigating Officer. This will be either: - The appeal has not been upheld and the original decision remains.
- The appeal has been partially or completely upheld. In this case, the Investigating Officer will usually make recommendations on what should be done next.

You have two weeks to respond if you feel that the appeal was misunderstood or the decision you received was based on a misunderstanding of the facts of the case.

Once the Head of Academic Development is satisfied that the investigation is complete, you will be sent a Completion of Procedures Letter confirming the final decision. After this letter is sent the investigation is closed and the College will not look into your case any further. The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education can review your case further if you don’t feel that the final decision is suitable in your case. You have three months from receiving your completion of procedures letter to ask them to review your case.

What can the SU do to help?

Kally and Beenish in the Advice and Support Centre can:
-help you to decide if you need to make an appeal or a complaint.
-help you to decide whether your circumstances meet any of the grounds for appeal.
-provide you with a supporting statement if relevant in your case.
-read through your completed form with you and discuss any changes you might like to make before you submit it.
-answer any questions you have or find someone who can if we can’t.
-help you to understand your options at every stage and offer you support throughout the process.

We can’t:
-fill your appeal form in for you.
-tell you what the outcome will be or the exact date on which you’ll receive a decision.
-make the investigation process go any quicker- the Investigating Officer on your case might need to gather a lot of information and wait for responses from different staff members to fully review your case- they need to be thorough. We couldn’t, and wouldn’t, rush them as this won’t help your case to get the fair investigation it deserves.

Assessment Offences

I've been invited to an Assessment Offences Panel - what next?

You should carefully read the invitation and any paperwork the department sends with it so you understand what the accusation is. If you’ve got any extenuating circumstances, you should let your department know as soon as possible using the email address provided on your invitation letter. If you’re going to the hearing to discuss the accusation and defend your position, let the department know. You can bring along another member of the College or someone from the Students Union to sit with you and help you take notes. They won’t be able to speak for you but you can ask for a break to consult with them out in the corridor during the meeting if you’d like. If you’re not going, you should still let the department know. You can submit a written statement instead of attending to defend your position if you’d like. Make sure you do this before the deadline set by your department. If you don’t want to contest the accusation, and you’re happy that you committed the offence and the accusation is fair, you don’t need to attend or write a statement.

What happens in the meetings?

Meetings follow the same general format:
- The meeting will start with an introduction from the Head of Department or his/her representative, including an explanation of the offence the department feel you may have committed, a description of the outcomes of the meeting, a description of what everyone in the room is there for and confirmation of your identity and understanding of the purpose of the meeting.
- The department will present the evidence they have that suggests you might have committed an offence and ask you questions to help them understand what happened and whether you committed an offence. You should be polite and respectful at all times and try not to interrupt. If someone says something you’d like to come back to later, write it down rather than shouting over anyone.
- Once the department feels they understand your position and they don’t have more questions, you’ll have an opportunity to add any further information or ask any questions you want to ask. This is a good time to ask anything you’ve been unsure about or state any key points again. You should answer all questions as fully as possible and make your point as clearly as you can. If it helps, you can write a statement down to read in the hearing.
You should take along a copy of your work marked with the Turnitin notes to refer to.
These meetings usually last less than 30 minutes.

What can happen if the panel decide I've committed an offence?

This depends on your own individual circumstances. The department can choose:
1. Mark of 0 awarded for the piece of work. You may get a chance to resit later, but you’ll need to discuss this with your department.
2. Mark capped at a Pass for that piece of work OR 10% reduction in your overall mark for that module, whichever has the least effect on your final grade.
3. In very serious cases, the department may feel they need to refer your case on and the College may consider your future registration on the course. This is something that the department will tell you about but it’s very unlikely they’d consider this outcome unless you’ve committed a very serious offence, or you’ve been to multiple hearings over your time as a student here.

How will I know what's been decided?

Usually the department will contact you with minutes from the meeting within a few days. The minutes are never a word-for-word account of what happened but you should read through and make sure that they reflect the discussion and portray you and what you said accurately. If they don’t, let the department know as soon as you can. The notes will be part of what the panel use to make their recommendation and decide the outcome of your case. After you’ve agreed on the minutes and the department have had the chance to discuss your case, they’ll contact you with a decision as soon as they can.

I didn't know that what I did was an offence. Surely I can't be punished if I didn't know I was doing something wrong?

The assessment offences are outlined clearly in handbooks, the College website and, depending on your department, in lectures, Moodle, or tutorials. Your department assume that you have read the relevant information and would have sought advice from someone promptly if you didn’t understand. The regulations don’t make not knowing you were wrong a full defence. While you should make it really clear to the department that your actions weren’t malicious or intentional, you shouldn’t expect that they will be able to excuse the offence entirely based on the information that you didn’t intend to commit it. If there’s a particular area that you feel you weren’t informed about or something you feel should have been provided but wasn’t, let the department, and your course rep or the President Education and Campaigns in the SU know about the problem.

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is submitting someone else's work as your own by failing to make it clear that you took ideas, text or information someone else’s work. There’s a system for referencing and you need to follow it very carefully so it’s clear to the marker that you are acknowledging the fact that you’ve used someone else’s work. It doesn’t matter if it’s the work of another student, past or present, from Royal Holloway or elsewhere, an academic, a website or any other source, you need to reference correctly. The work you hand in should be your own, in your own words. Short quotes are fine if you reference properly, but there should never be big sections in your assignments that weren’t written by you. Drawing on the ideas of others in your work is not plagiarism- you’re fully expected to read sources, take notes, then include these ideas or quotes to back up your own arguments. The offence happens when you don’t make enough alterations to the source or when you don’t acknowledge that the ideas or text aren’t your own original work.

What is collusion?

Basically, collusion is working together on some or all of your piece of work to submit two (or more) very similar assignments while claiming they’ve all been done separately by one student alone. Copying, finding and using all the same sources or arguments, splitting the work and doing some of it each, sharing work or discussing the work extensively are all forms of collusion. If you work together, it’s likely that the similarities between the pieces of work will look like more than a coincidence- tutors can spot when both pieces of work are structured the same, include the same unusual spelling error or draw on the same rare source or idea, for example. If it’s not a group piece of work, you can’t submit work that was done in a pair/group.

What is falsification?

Your essay must be based on honest research. You cannot knowingly use falsified data. If you’re running out of time and you’ve only managed to test 50/100 respondents, for example, it’s not ok to just double your results or make up the rest then base the rest of your work on these falsified results. This applies to making up references, claiming you read sources you didn’t read and distorting data.

What is duplication?

Duplication is submitting your own previously submitted work within a new assignment without indicating you have done so. This can be in full or in part. The department look for evidence of progress in your work and duplication cannot show this. Even if the set question is very similar to one you’ve previously been given, or allows the scope for you to include paragraphs you wrote before, the regulations clearly state that you need to do further research and thinking about the topic rather than handing in any section previously handed in for marking.

The TurnItIn report has websites on it that I definitely didn't use. What's happening?

Turnitin is really good at finding exact text matches, but it’s got no way of checking your research history. It can’t work out exactly where you might have got the text from, all it can do is flag up to the department that the text in your essay already exists elsewhere. You shouldn’t worry about whether the source on the report matches the one you used, just be aware of the fact that Turnitin has shown that the highlighted text exists already and has been written by someone else before you. What you need to think about is where you did get it from and whether you’ve presented the information correctly and referenced thoroughly.

I've referenced perfectly but there's lots of highlighted text in the TurnItIn report. What's happened?

Each panel deals with individual circumstances so the reason varies. There should be details on the report you received from your department that will help you to understand what the department think you may have done to break the rules, but in most cases like this, the student has simply used too much of someone else’s work in their own. In the majority of cases, even if you’ve referenced correctly, it’s not good scholarly practice to use large chunks that somebody else has written in your own essay.
Generally, you should aim to use other peoples’ work to back up your claims and help you prove your point, not to form the bulk of your work. It is likely to be considered an offence if your work is just made up of paragraphs you’ve taken from others and constructed into a cut and paste argument to hand in adding very little of your own analysis in between. Doing this doesn’t allow your department to see what you think about the question or how you’re making progress through the course.

I've still got questions about the offences, who can help me?

You are welcome to book an appointment with the Advice and Support Centre to ask any questions you have, or read our complete document (link to the full document), but there are also places you can go for more help with your writing or study skills in general.
- You can contact your tutors for more guidance
- For one to one help you can book an appointment with CeDAS or use their online resources for more help.
- You can find help through the Library.