Information for Students – Suspicion of Academic Misconduct
For the full regulations governing Academic Misconduct, please refer to:
Hard copies are available from Academic Services on request.
I have received a letter informing me that there is an allegation of Academic Misconduct against me; what does this mean?
This means that you have been suspected of committing Academic Misconduct, a referral has been sent to one of the School’s Academic Integrity Officers (AIO) who has determined that, based on the evidence put forward, a prima facie case has been established against you.
What is a prima facie case?
A case that is based on the first impression; accepted as correct until proved otherwise. (Oxford Dictionary definition of prima facie, available on-line – https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/prima_facie; accessed 15/11/2017).
When a prima facie case is confirmed, this means it has been agreed that the case needs to be investigated. The decision on whether or not a case is substantiated, and if it is, what the penalty would be, will only be made after the student has had the opportunity to respond to the allegation, either in writing or by interview.
Who is making the allegation of Academic Misconduct?
The allegation will usually have been made by a member of teaching staff in the School, who was involved with the marking or moderation of your assessment.
What is Academic Misconduct?
It is Academic Misconduct to commit any act whereby a person may obtain for himself/herself, or for another, an unpermitted advantage. This shall apply whether candidates act alone or in conjunction with another/others. An action or actions shall be deemed to fall within this definition whether occurring during, or in relation to, a formal examination, a piece of coursework, or any form of assessment undertaken in pursuit of an academic or professional qualification at Swansea University.
In cases related to coursework or written assignments, this usually includes the following (for a more complete list please consult the regulations):
- PLAGIARISM – which can be defined as using, without acknowledgement, another person’s work and submitting it for assessment as though it were their work, e.g. through copying or unacknowledged paraphrasing. Poor referencing can lead to unintentional plagiarism; however, whether it is intentional or unintentional, it still constitutes plagiarism.
- COLLUSION - is defined as two or more students (or other persons) working together without prior authorisation in order to gain an unfair advantage, producing the same or similar piece of work and then attempting to present this work as entirely their own. Also included here is when students share data, materials or other coursework with other students that is then presented for assessment without the knowledge or permission of the originators.
- COMMISSIONING – is the act of paying for, or arranging for, another to produce a piece of work that is then submitted for assessment as though it were the student’s own work.
Examples of plagiarism could include the use of quotations from the published or unpublished work of another person(s) that have not been clearly identified as such by being placed in quotation marks and acknowledged appropriately. In addition, the summarising of another person’s ideas, judgements, figures, software or diagrams without appropriately attributing that person in the text and the source in the reference list, the use of unacknowledged material downloaded from the Internet and the submission of another student’s work (current or former) as though it was one’s own, also constitutes plagiarism.
Please note that in the case of self-plagiarism, i.e. used work that has previously been submitted for another assignment, this is not deemed by the University to be Academic Misconduct in the formal sense. Instead, it is considered poor practice and as such will be addressed through the marking process, and will usually result in a reduced mark.
What evidence do you have?
You will have been sent copies of any evidence with the allegation letter and, in most cases involving suspected plagiarism or collusion, this will be either a copy of the TurnitIn report that relates to the relevant submission or a copy of the assignment marked up indicating where the problem areas are. However, in addition to TurnitIn, members of Academic Staff will use a variety of detection methods when marking assessed coursework, including checking for unusual formatting, odd changes in layout or font, inconsistent use of language or jargon, sections or sentences that do not relate, inconsistencies of style within the assignment and between the student’s other work. It may also be appropriate for staff to request an Academic Integrity Viva (what’s a viva? See Page 4) if they have concerns, particularly in the case of work that is suspected of being commissioned.
I have not used the source identified in the Turnitin Report / The Report says I used work submitted by students at other Universities that I did not have access to.
The Turnitin software matches un-referenced text in your work to the first source held on the Turnitin database. Therefore, it may identify the sources incorrectly. The important point is that the system believes the text to be taken from a source that has not been acknowledged, rather than identifying the actual source used. For example, the report may match your work to that of a student at another University. However, in reality, you and the other student have not been in contact with each other. This may be explained by the fact that both you and the other student may have used the same text book/source. The important issue is whether the source you have used has been acknowledged/referenced.
The Turnitin Report has highlighted parts of the cover sheet and/or questions/headings that all students will include in their work. Will this be held against me?
The Turnitin Report is used as a guide for the Academic Staff and Academic Integrity Officer/s. Staff are aware that common elements of assessments can be highlighted by Turnitin and these elements will be disregarded. Decisions will only be based on the content of the work itself.
What if I did not deliberately intend to plagiarise?
Whether or not you intended to commit AM is irrelevant under the University’s Code of Practice. Students have a responsibility to make themselves aware of the correct way to reference etc., and ignorance of the conventions will not be taken as a valid excuse. Information on Academic Misconduct and guidance for referencing and good academic practice are available to students in the Student Handbooks and Student Guide that are issued to students at the beginning of every academic year. In addition, there are comprehensive referencing guides available from the Library accessed via the following web link:
Who can I talk to regarding the allegation?
Advice and support for Academic Misconduct is available from the Students' Union Advice Centre. You can contact them by email at Advice@Swansea-union.co.uk. They have advisors that can help you.
You can also seek help and guidance from your Academic Mentor/Supervisor to discuss the issue of academic misconduct and obtain advice on how to avoid it in the future. The School’s Academic Integrity Administration Team are also available and if you are unsure of how to proceed and need further guidance, please email email@example.com to speak to one of the Team.
It is completely natural that you will be feeling upset or worried about the allegation, and if you feel you need additional support, the School has a Student Information and Support Officer that will be happy to meet with you and discuss your issues confidentially. Contact details for the SEOs are given below:
This hasn’t happened to me before; what can I do to respond to the allegation?
In the case of suspected plagiarism, you will need to respond formally to the allegation, in writing, being mindful of the deadline outlined in the letter that was sent to you. As previously mentioned, you can obtain help and guidance with this from the Students' Union Advice Centre or your Academic Mentor.
If the allegation involves suspected collusion, then you will normally be invited to attend an interview the School of Management, on Bay Campus. This will take the form of a Zoom meeting between yourself and a minimum of two members of Academic Integrity staff. It is also possible that the Module Co-ordinator or other relevant member of academic staff will be present. There will also be a member of the Academic Integrity Admin team present to record the business of the meeting – these notes will form part of the evidence gathered during the investigation. You can bring someone with you to the meeting who is either another member of Swansea University (such as a housemate or a friend), or a Students’ Union representative (to include an advisor from the Students’ Union Advice Centre). If you cannot attend, you should communicate this to the Academic Integrity Admin Team and if possible, an attempt to re-arrange will be made.
Whatever the allegation pertains to, you should outline any mitigating circumstances that you would like to be considered, and you should submit any relevant documentary evidence in support.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT IF YOU FAIL EITHER TO ATTEND AN ARRANGED MEETING OR SUBMIT A WRITTEN RESPONSE WITHIN THE TIME LIMIT, THE SCHOOL WILL DETERMINE YOUR CASE ON THE EVIDENCE AVAILABLE.
What will happen next?
If this is the first time you have been subject to an allegation of Academic Misconduct, all the evidence gathered and any accompanying correspondence/documentation from you will be submitted to a second School Academic Integrity Officer, who will examine the case again in the light of the evidence presented. This member of the Academic Integrity Team will be a different person to one who confirmed the initial prima facie case. The second Academic Integrity Officer will consider the evidence and decide whether the case against you is substantiated and if so, what the appropriate penalty will be. The University issues the Academic Integrity Officers with guidance on penalties, and this will be adhered to when applying an appropriate penalty. Further information on penalties; please see the specific section of the regulations:
https://myuni.swansea.ac.uk/academic-life/academic-regulations/assessment-and-progress/academic-misconduct-procedure/ section 13
You will then receive a letter specifying the outcome of the investigation, and detailing the penalty applied, if appropriate. If the allegation is unsubstantiated, i.e. the Academic Integrity Officer is content that no misconduct took place, you will be informed in writing and no further action will be taken against you.
How can I appeal this decision?
If your case is substantiated, the letter you are sent contains information on how you can request a review of the decision. However, you should be aware that there are strict grounds for the consideration of a review, and these, together with details on the procedure, can be accessed from the University’s website at:
What if this isn’t my first offence?
If you have had a case of Academic Misconduct against you substantiated in the past at Swansea University, all the evidence gathered and any accompanying correspondence/documentation from you will be submitted to the University’s Director of Academic Integrity, who will examine the case again in the light of the evidence presented. If considered necessary, the Director will set up a Committee of Enquiry to consider the case, and you will receive a letter from the University Academic Registry inviting you attend. This letter will contain details regarding the Committee and all the evidence to be considered will be attached. The School will inform you when the case has been referred to the Director of Academic Integrity.
My letter says that I have to attend an Academic Integrity Viva, what does this mean?
In cases where the School has concerns that the work submitted may have been written by someone else, and has then been submitted as though it was the student’s own (i.e. commissioned), they can opt to conduct an Academic Integrity Viva. Under the University’s Code of Practice governing the procedures for dealing with academic misconduct, the viva allows the School to test the student’s knowledge of the work in person.
The notification of the date and time of the viva will be contained in the letter, and you will be asked to confirm your attendance. If you cannot attend, the viva can be rearranged to another time. If you fail to attend the academic integrity viva without good reason, inferences may be drawn in relation to the failure to attend. A written record of the viva will be kept, and forms part of the evidence considered by the School’s Academic Integrity Officers.
Following the viva, if it is considered, or suspected, that academic misconduct has occurred in relation to the work submitted, the case would be referred to the University’s Director of Academic Integrity, who will examine the case again in the light of all the evidence presented. If considered necessary, the Director will set up a Committee of Enquiry to consider the allegation, and you will receive a letter from the University Academic Registry inviting you to attend. This letter will contain details regarding the Committee and all the evidence to be considered will be attached. The School will inform you when the case has been referred to the Director of Academic Integrity. However, following the viva the case is unsubstantiated, it will not be referred, you will be informed in writing and no further action will be taken.
I am still unsure what to do…
If, after reading these FAQs, you still have a question – please do email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will do our best to help.