Academic Rights / Avoiding Academic Misconduct

Whether it’s your first university assessment or your last, make sure you’re clued up on your academic rights and the exam regulations in place so that you avoid academic misconduct.

Whether it’s your first university assessment or your last, make sure you’re clued up on your academic rights and the exam regulations in place so that you avoid academic misconduct.

What are my ‘academic rights’?

Knowing and understanding your academic rights is extremely important – especially in the run-up to exams. Your academic rights cover a variety of areas, including rights in regard to extensions, personal tutors, extenuating circumstances, and misconduct panels. For each of these areas, and the others listed on the Advice Centre webpage, there is a different set of rights and expectations that you are entitled to. Make sure you have a read of these to find out more about your academic rights.

Exam access arrangements

Some of you may be entitled to exam access arrangements (EAAs). These are available if you are unable to sit exams under standard examination conditions, due to a disability or another condition. The deadline to apply for EAAs has already passed, but for those of you whose applications have been approved, you should check that you know what your arrangements are before your exam.

What is ‘academic misconduct'?

This year, the University has seen a sharp rise in cases of academic misconduct, which they define as “anything which is against the rules which govern the assessment of work, and includes things like plagiarism, commissioning and collusion.” A summary of the types of assessment offence this might include are:

  • Plagiarism (the presentation of another person’s work without adequately identifying it)
  • Commissioning (the use of a third party to do your work)
  • Duplication (unacknowledged or unauthorised replication of your work)
  • Falsification (unacknowledged invention or alteration of data, quotes or references)
  • Collusion (for example where collective ideas are presented as uniquely belonging to the individual)

Allegations of academic misconduct are serious and are considered a major offence by the University (for those in second year and beyond). If an allegation of academic misconduct is brought against you, you will be invited to a panel where you will have the opportunity to respond to the allegation and answer questions from members of the panel. You can find out more about the academic misconduct panels in our blog post and on the Advice Centre webpage.

Understandably, going through the process of an academic misconduct hearing can be a stressful and daunting time for students but they are vital in ensuring that academic integrity is upheld. To avoid an allegation of academic misconduct, make sure you’ve taken the ‘Avoiding Plagiarism’ course on Moodle and looked over your department's student handbook – this provides department-specific information on what is expected of students in their exams, coursework, and assessments.

Exam and Assessment Regulations

With the assessment period starting from the beginning of the Summer Term (Monday 26 April), it’s vital that you understand the University’s assessment policies and regulations; this will help you to avoid academic misconduct. The University’s guidance can be found in the 2020-21 ‘Assessments Guidance for Students’ document, which comprehensively lays out what you can and cannot do while sitting an exam.

This is especially important this year as the majority of students will be taking exams at home in the form of ‘alternative assessments’. These are online, open-book assessments carried out within a 23-hour window, submitted online via the Turnitin button on your Moodle page. It is also important that you pay close attention to the assessment’s instruction page when sitting your exam as this will include information specific to that exam – such as the duration of the exam and the word limit – that must be adhered to.

As you may be aware, in February the University updated its ‘Fairness and Assurance Policy’ for the 2021 assessment period. This is a set of policies and regulations that have been implemented in response to the challenges presented to teaching and higher education as a result of Covid-19 and the national lockdowns. The aim of the policy is to prevent any student from being disadvantaged academically as a result of the pandemic. We recommend that you have a read of this or our breakdown of it to understand how the changes impact you and your rights as a student.

So how do I avoid academic misconduct?

Ensure all work is your own

Don’t copy and paste from previous assessments or assignments you have submitted and make sure to footnote any works you are referencing if your department requests it.

Don’t be tempted to message friends during your exam to talk about the questions or your answers. With the nature of online assessments, this has recently become a bigger issue. We suggest switching your phone off and putting it in another room so that you avoid any temptation and to get rid of distractions. You could even ask a parent or housemate to look after your phone and not give it back until you have finished your exam.

Be prepared

If you are feeling stressed about your upcoming exams, remember that you still have plenty of time to work on your revision before the assessment period begins. Oftentimes, breaking down what you have to do into sections or individual tasks can help you visualise what you need to complete or revise before your exams start. For instance, each topic you need to revise for that module and how you are going to revise it (written notes, revision plans, flashcards, the Cornell method etc.). Once you have done this, it becomes a lot easier to create a revision timetable where you can tick off each task and work your way through your revision.

CeDAS’s ‘Skills for Open Book Exams’ guide offers some useful advice and guidance on how best to prepare for your alternative assessments.

Use the services available to you

CeDAS

CeDAS is a service provided by the University to help students with key aspects of academic writing and assessments. You can arrange a 1:1 session with them or visit their drop-ins to discuss how best to avoid misconduct such as plagiarism. You can contact CeDAS either via email at CeDAS@royalholloway.ac.uk or phone them on +44 (0)1784 443368. They also have a Helpdesk, located in Founder’s West 141.

The Library

The Library also has many resources available on how to reference and the specific referencing styles. They also provide each department with a subject-specific librarian, who runs referencing sessions throughout the year which you can attend. We'd also recommend that you check out your course-specific library guide.

Your personal tutor

You can also contact your personal tutor for help and advice on avoiding academic misconduct. They can answer questions you may have regarding plagiarism and referencing, and point you in the direction of any relevant or subject-specific material that can help you with referencing.

In summary

So, whether intentional or accidental, don’t get caught out by academic misconduct. If you’re still unsure about either your academic rights or avoiding academic misconduct, make sure you visit the weekly Zoom drop-ins, run by our Advice Centre every Tuesday afternoon.