VP Education Kate Roberts clues you up on academic misconduct panels and what you can do to ensure you avoid facing them.
At the SU we are here to represent your academic interests and improve your education, a key part of this relies on you, as students, being aware of your rights and what you should expect from your academic experience.
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In this blog I am going to give you some information on academic misconduct panels. The first thing to say is that if you have been asked to attend an academic misconduct panel, it is a serious, formal process and I’d really encourage you to get in touch with the Advice Centre at the SU to support and guide you through it.
An academic misconduct panel is a meeting held if you have been accused of an assessment offence, whether through accident or not. A summary of the types of assessment offence this might include are:
When you submit your academic work it often goes through a program called Turnitin. This is a text matching software that indicates whether what you are submitting matches something that has already been written; whether that be by someone else or previously submitted work by yourself.
If your work comes back with a high percentage of matched text from either one or multiple sources and there is suspicion of academic misconduct, you will receive a written report which sets out the specific allegation, including relevant evidence, and you will be invited to a panel.
The panel consists of a Chair, another academic member of staff, someone taking minutes and yourself (along with a student or member of staff if you want to have someone with you).
If you receive an invitation to a misconduct panel, the Advice Centre can prepare you for your panel meeting and accompany you to the meeting itself. Contact the Union Helpdesk and ask for an appointment with the Academic Advisor.
The panel is your opportunity to respond to the allegation and explain how or why you think there may have been similarities in your work. The panel will ask you questions but will also give you space to say what you have prepared. Students are always given the chance to let the panel know if they have any mitigating or extenuating circumstances which could explain their actions. If they are accepted by the panel (who will need evidence) their circumstances will not excuse the misconduct, but may be taken into account to reduce the level of any sanction. They will then outline the possible sanctions and next steps.
The panel meeting will last around 20 minutes. Following this, they will send you a copy of the meeting minutes and ask you to confirm if you agree that the minutes are correct. Once you have sent your response back, you will be given an outcome via email in around seven days.
You do have the right to appeal the outcome within a limited time-frame on certain grounds. See the academic advice pages of our website for more information on what you can and can’t appeal and how you submit this. Similarly our Academic Advisor can help you with submitting an appeal where you meet the criteria.
Your academic department should talk you through Turnitin and plagiarism as part of your first year studies to ensure you understand how Turnitin works and how you can avoid plagiarism.
You should be automatically enrolled on an ‘Avoiding Plagiarism’ module on Moodle which I advise you complete to understand plagiarism in relation to university academic assignments.
For advice on understanding referencing, you can either contact CEDAS who are able to help you with academic writing, or the Library who have resources on referencing and also run sessions for you to attend with your Subject Librarian.
Misconduct allegations are not to be taken lightly and can only be considered minor if you are a first year student; after that it is automatically considered to be a major offence as you are deemed to know what constitutes good academic practice and should know how to reference adequately by your second year.
A record of academic misconduct is kept on your student record and repeat offences can result in a referral to the Vice Principal and in some cases, termination of registration.
You can find out more about the academic misconduct regulations and possible penalties here.
In the meantime, if you have any concerns or questions about plagiarism or other academic misconducts please get in touch with your personal tutor, course leader or the Advice Centre at the SU.
While this blog aims to raise your awareness around your rights, more than anything I’m really hoping that it acts as an early intervention message. Ultimately, I’d love to reduce the number of academic misconduct panels that occur, but this really comes down to you and making sure you are informed on this issue so you can avoid it happening to you.
Every student is entitled to use our Advice Centre at the SU. It is an independent and confidential service offering impartial advice. You can email the Advisors at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively you can book an appointment via the Students’ Union Helpdesk either in person or by calling 01784 276700.
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