Academic misconduct (Cheating, plagiarism, collusion, and other such issues)

The University Definition:

”Academic misconduct may be defined as any attempt by a student to gain an unfair advantage in any assessment.” - Staffordshire University.

What are the main issues?

  • "Plagiarism" - presenting someone else’s work or ideas as your own (for example, not referencing quotes)

  • Allowing "plagiarism" to happen - letting someone else copy your work

  • "Collusion" - working with another student on an individual assignment and presenting these ideas as your own work (group projects are different - get advice from a tutor if you're not sure)

  • "Commissioning" - getting someone else to write your assignment for you

  • "Duplication" - submitting the same piece of work twice for different assignments

The above is not a full list. See the Procedure for Dealing with breaches of Assessment Regulations or our Plain English guide to the regulations here for the complete information.

Why is this a big issue?

  • UK universities take plagiarism very seriously

  • You can be caught by tutors, by software (like "turnitin"), or even by changes in your writing style

  • The penalties can be very severe

What happens?

Your tutor will analyse your assignment with another member of staff.

If they think "minor" Academic Misconduct might have happened, you'll be told by your tutor. If you disagree, you can appeal.

What you can do if this happens:

If you think the decision was wrong, get advice from us unless you're already totally sure you can completely refute what's been said. You only have seven working days to make the appeal.

If they think "major" or "gross" Academic Misconduct might have happened, you will be invited to a panel meeting.

What you can do if this happens:

1) Read any documents you're sent.

2) Get advice: we strongly suggest speaking with us and showing us all the documents so we can help you prepare. This is really important if you want to challenge the case against you or want to explain any mitigation.

3) Sometimes, presenting evidence will help your case - we can advise you on this too.

4) You should get at least a week's notice of any panel meetings: if you want us to go with you, let us know the date, time, and meeting location at once (we're a small team: the more warning we have, the more likely we are to be available for you at the right date and time)

Sometimes, Academic Misconduct is accidental (for example, "I was ill and rushed my work - I forgot to reference properly"). If this is what happened, we'll advise on presenting mitigation.

Sometimes, we will be able to help you argue technicalities either to challenge the case or to reduce a penalty.

What happens at the panel meeting?

The panel will explain what the suspected problem with your work is, and ask for your comments. What you will need to tell them depends on what the issue is - there is no general approach other than to be honest (they're very good at seeing through lies) and to evidence what you're saying if you can.

At any point during the interview, if you feel you need a few minutes on your own, just ask.

After the meeting, the panel will decide whether Academic Misconduct happened or not and, if it did, whether it was "Major" or "Gross". You will be informed of the decision within five Working Days.

The panel does not set the penalty - that's done by the Assessment Board that considers your marks. The panel can make recommendations, though, so it's important the panel knows any mitigation you have.


The Assessment Board will decide the penalty (these are outlined in sections 3 and 4 of the Academic Misconduct procedures). They can range from awarding the assessment a zero mark to, in very serious cases, failing the Award.

Appealing the decision

You can't appeal the decision on whether or not Academic Misconduct happened - the panel decision is final. This is another reason to get advice early on.

You might be able to appeal against the level of penalty, but there are very limited grounds for this. Get our advice if you want to make such an appeal.

Where can I get help?

The Student Advice Centre can help you with the following:

  • We can advise you on the University regulations and procedures

  • Accompany you to meetings/interviews

  • Help you prepare your case and written statement

Please contact us at Student Advice Centre to arrange a meeting to discuss your case.