Academic Misconduct

The University takes any form of academic misconduct very seriously. In order to maintain academic integrity and ensure that the quality of an Award from the University of Wolverhampton is not diminished, it is important to ensure that all students are judged on their ability. No student should have an unfair advantage over another as a result of academic misconduct; whether this is in the form of plagiarism, collusion or cheating.

When you are in an exam, or preparing coursework you need to make sure that all your information is accurate, that everything you hand in is your own work, and that you have referenced all of your sources properly. By submitting a piece of work, you are declaring to the University that it is your own, and you are responsible for ensuring it comes up to the required standards.

If, when studying for your degree, you commit, or help someone else to commit, plagiarism, collusion, or cheating, it is an offence in the eyes of the University, and you can be punished for it. When deciding on a punishment, it will not matter if you intended to commit academic misconduct or not - in fact, many who go before the misconduct panel did not intend to cheat. It is vital that you understand how to avoid academic misconduct as the maximum penalty for an offence is exclusion from the University.

This webpage will be helpful to all students who study at the University, regardless of your course or level of study. If you have been invited to a Stage 1 Academic Misconduct Hearing then please follow this link to find out what to expect at a hearing.

What is Plagiarism?

The University of Wolverhampton’s Regulations and Procedure for the Investigation of Academic Misconduct (September 2015) define plagiarism as:

‘…the act of taking someone else’s work and passing it off as your own.

This includes incorporating either unattributed direct quotation(s) or substantial paraphrasing from the work of another/others/or yourself.

It is important to cite all sources whose work has been drawn on and reference them fully in accordance with the referencing standard used in each academic school.’

Essentially, plagiarism is using somebody else’s words or ideas as your own: a kind of ‘academic theft’. You cannot use other people’s ideas, words, images and data in your assignments unless you provide full details of your sources.

You must acknowledge all the sources that you use by using the correct referencing system for your course (eg. Harvard).

The most common forms of plagiarism are:

  • Cut or copied and pasted materials from websites.
  • Copying material from a text book or journal.
  • Copying from several sources (web, journals and books)

In many cases, a student will lift ideas, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs from a variety of sources and "stitch" them together into an essay. This is often referred to as ‘patchwork plagiarism’. This is plagiarism as although the structure and composition is the student’s own work, the words are not. Rules of academic presentation require that whenever a direct quote from a source is used, this should be cited.

  • Copying the work of another student (past or present) including essays available through “essay bank” websites – or other data.
  • Self- Plagiarism (using a piece of work that you have previously submitted again). You should not use, adapt, or update an essay written for another purpose.

Substantial paraphrasing -Plagiarism is not just about copying and pasting from the Internet or copying direct from journal articles or textbooks without referencing. You also commit plagiarism if you ‘substantially paraphrase’ somebody else’s work. Substantial paraphrasing means taking somebody’s words, without using quotation marks and failing to put them into your own words. This can catch students out. Some students may be tempted to take a text, change only a few words or just the order of the sentences and then put a reference at the end. Be warned! This is plagiarism in the form of substantial paraphrasing.

Detecting Plagiarism

Tutors have many ways of confirming whether a piece of work has been plagiarised – for example, they can use their own knowledge and experience of sources alongside utilising text matching software

The University's current policy on Maintaining Academic Integrity (June 2015) states that all undergraduate dissertations and masters level projects should be submitted through text matching software in order to check the submissions against other available sources (the internet, other student submissions and academic publications to name a few). As well as this, in work where plagiarism is suspected (this could be any piece of work submitted), students can be required to electronically submit their original work for the purpose of checking it through the software. Overall, this process is important to maintain individual students’ academic integrity by checking the originality of submissions.

To understand how the text matching software is used; when an electronic copy of your work is put through it, an originality report (OR) will be generated. The OR gives an indication, in percentages, of how much of the submission has been taken from other sources.  Depending on the subject studied, different percentages may be acceptable. Due to this, the University has not set an institutional cut off percentage level. Your tutors can advise you on how your subject OR may be interpreted.

It is important to note that if you use a personal version of text matching software to check your dissertation / project before submission, it is possible it will store your submission in the same database that the University's software will check when assessing your final submission. So please check your settings on your personal version.

It’s also worth remembering that tutors are experts in their subjects- they will KNOW the book / paper / website you are referring to. They may even have written it themselves!

Examples of Plagiarism

Ghost of Plagiarism past (make sure you press the cc on the button for subtitles!).

What is Collusion?

The University of Wolverhampton’s Regulations and Procedure for the Investigation of Academic Misconduct (September 2015) defines collusion as:

‘Collusion is when two or more people combine to produce a piece of work for assessment that is passed off as the work of one student alone. The work may be so alike in content, wording and structure that the similarity goes beyond what might have been coincidence. For example – where one student has copied the work of another, or where a joint effort has taken place in producing what should have been an individual effort.’

My friend said I could use their work...

This isn’t acceptable and will be penalised. The penalty usually applies to the student who has copied AND the student who has provided the work to be copied.

If your friends ask you how to approach an assignment and you give them a copy of your work, the chances are they will copy it, even if they say they won’t. You will ALL be penalised if this happens.

I took my friend’s work without her knowing...

Copying from another student without their consent is stealing and is therefore classed as cheating. This is a serious offence and is likely to lead to your exclusion from the University or the restriction of your degree.

Help to ensure other students don’t copy your work by avoiding the following:

  • Saving your work on a hard drive of a computer where other students may have access to it.
  • Losing a USB drive or leaving a printed copy of your assignment where others may find it.
  • Asking someone else to submit your assignment for you, especially if you are handing it in advance of the deadline.
  • Showing your work to other students.

In the above situations the student whose work has been stolen will also be accused of collusion. The onus will be on BOTH students to prove what has happened. If you believe you work has been stolen, contact your module leader straight away.

But my friends and I like to share ideas..

Sharing ideas with others can be an excellent way to learn, as you can bounce ideas off each other and find alternative points of view. However, there’s a fine line between sharing ideas and colluding. If you produce common ideas, common structures or common words and quotes then it is more likely that your assignments will be seen as similar, and therefore more likely that you, and the rest of your group, will be penalised for collusion. Similarity in assignments would not occur if you studied independently.

To avoid this make sure that you always write your assignments up alone, away from your friends. You need to be 100 per cent confident that your work is different to their work. Don’t for example use similar quotes or structures to your friends.

Group Work

Group work is a reality of working life and is seen by many module leaders as an important part of learning. When working on individual assessments, however it’s vital that you work alone and that the work you produce hasn’t been seen or discussed in detail with another student. If you’re in any doubt about whether or not you should be working in a group, contact your module leader in good time before the deadline. 

The University of Wolverhampton’s Regulations and Procedure for the Investigation of Academic Misconduct (September 2015) defines cheating as:

‘Cheating is defined as any attempt to gain unfair advantage in an assessment by dishonest means.’

This is not an exhaustive list and other common examples of cheating would include:

  • Being in possession of “crib notes” during an examination.
  • Breach of examination regulations.
  • Copying from the work of another student.
  • Stealing another student's work.
  • Prohibited communication during an examination.
  • Unauthorised use of electronic devices (this includes having a phone on your person during an examination, whether it is turned on or not, or whether this is used).
  • Submitting essays downloaded from the internet.
  • Commissioning an assessment from a third party.
  • Impersonation of another student.

The University’s exam regulations for students can be found on the University of Wolverhampton's site. We recommend that all student familiarise themselves with exam regulations before taking their first exams.

The Students' Union has produced a video on Cheating and its consequences.

Learning and Information Services - Skills For Learning

Learning and Information Services run a full programme of Skills for Learning workshops covering a range of topics in support of your studies (including such areas as: finding and evaluating information, referencing, academic writing, assignment planning and staying up-to-date in your subject area).

For more information on their services and how to access them check out the University of Wolverhampton's website.

Academic Staff

If you’ve got any doubts regarding academic misconduct contact your module leader or personal tutor for clarification.

University Policy and Regulations

The University’s regulations and the procedure for the investigation of academic misconduct can be found via the following PDF document.

An Academic Misconduct hearing with the Conduct & Appeals Unit forms part of the investigation into an accusation of Academic Misconduct.

You will usually receive a letter inviting you to attend a hearing, giving a date and time at which you should attend.

If you are off campus (study abroad for example) you will usually receive your letter (by email) inviting to send in a statement for the panel to consider in your absence.

All you can do at this stage is write a statement for consideration, ahead of the panel meeting.

You should do this by email to conductandappeals@wlv.ac.uk by the date given in your letter.

If you genuinely don’t know what you have done you should state this and ask the panel to consider your previous good record. However, in our experience, if you submit a statement, the panel may be more sympathetic, but it is likely that a penalty will still be applied.

You will be informed of the severity of this once the panel has met to consider the evidence.

When you attend a hearing in person, Conduct & Appeals Unit will present its evidence an ask for your comment on this.

Where the evidence clearly demonstrates you have committed Academic Misconduct, even if you didn't realise until this moment and didn't mean to do it, it is important that you are honest in your discussion with the hearing panel.

The hearing is intended to help you understand how you can avoid Academic Misconduct in the future, including identifying academic support and any University procedures that could mitigate personal difficulties.

Where your feel the evidence does not support an allegation of Academic Misconduct against you (for instance, another student has copied your work without your permission), the hearing offers you the opportunity to present your own evidence.

Many common causes of Academic Misconduct unfortunately do not excuse it.

Examples include;

  • I’m new to the English education system / I’ve been out of education for many years

    Do not be afraid to ask for help. The University recognises that some students will need more support than others. Academic writing support, referencing, English language support is all provided by the University and you are expected to seek these out and encouraged to engage with them.
  • I started late and missed the Research Methods and Study Skills lectures.

    Speak to your lecturer about where you can find the information that you missed, you can also seek support from an Advisor in the Learning Centre.
  • I didn't have enough time to do my work. It was rushed.

    The modules should be spaced out to give enough time to do all your assignments. Skills for Learning also run sessions on Time Management throughout the academic year.
  • My lecturer saw my work before I submitted it and they didn’t tell me that I had committed Academic Misconduct when they saw it.

    It is your responsibility to ensure that you do not commit Academic Misconduct. Lecturers will offer guidance, but do not act as proof readers.
  • I had a lot of personal issues at the time.

    The University acknowledges that unexpected events can impact on your studies. Procedures exist to allow students to suspend their studies and extend assessment deadlines. Please refer to problems affecting your study for more information.
  • I didn’t think they would copy my work; we’ve been best friends for years.

    Never give your work to anyone, even if you trust them. If another student asks you for help, direct them back to the lecturer, or other appropriate member of support staff. Always protect your work so that no one can access it without your permission (e.g. lock your desktop when away from a computer, don't leave memory sticks lying around).
  • I accidentally submitted a draft of my work.

    It is your responsibility to submit the correct piece of work.

Before the Hearing

You may see an AM appear next to your results on e:vision.  This is your first indication that you may be called in for a meeting to discuss an allegation of Academic Misconduct for that assessment.

You will be contacted by letter and by email to your University email address.  You should receive this at least 7 days before the hearing is scheduled to take place. The letter will indicate the time date and location of the hearing.   Hearings are scheduled to last for 20 minutes.

Hearings will not be rescheduled unless there is a valid reason, supported by documentary evidence.  If you don’t attend a decision will be taken in your absence. You will be advised that you can bring one person with you to provide support this could be a friend, family member or request representation from the Students’ Union.

You will be informed that an audio recording of the hearing may be made for the purpose of accurate record keeping.

You will be advised that the University applies the “civil” burden of proof which requires upon examination of the evidence, a demonstration that it is more likely than not that academic misconduct has occurred.

You will not normally be invited to an Academic Misconduct hearing unless there is a body of evidence to support the suspicion of academic misconduct.

The letter will contain information about which piece of work is affected and the type of misconduct that you are suspected of. 

This could be:

  • Plagiarism
  • Collusion
  • Cheating

Examples and explanations of these can be found above.

What do I need to do?

  • Confirm that you will attend by contacting the Conduct and Appeals Unit - details of how to do this will be in the letter.
  • Check the time and location of the hearing– make sure you know where you have to go.
  • Notify the Conduct and Appeals Unit immediately if you do not wish an audio recording to be made, so that a note taker can be arranged instead.
  • Notify the Conduct and Appeals Unit immediately of any Special Needs that should be accommodated within the conduct of the hearing, so that arrangements can be made.
  • We strongly recommend that you seek advice from the Students’ Union. If you wish to have an attendee from the Students’ Union with you, this must be arranged in advance - information on how to make the request can be found here.
  • Thoroughly review your own copy of the work in advance of the hearing and identify any areas that you think may have given rise to the suspicion of academic misconduct.
    For example:
    • Are there any un- referenced passages? (plagiarism)
    • Can you identify any sections that have been “cut and pasted” from source material and not correctly referenced? (plagiarism)
    • Is there any extensive paraphrasing? (plagiarism)
    • Could this work be similar/identical to that of another student? (collusion)
    • How closely did you work with others? (collusion)
    • Did you show/give someone else a copy of your work? (collusion)
    • Did you have access to someone else’s work – did you use this in your own work? (collusion)

You should carefully consider the circumstances at the time you did the work; it is very likely that you will have some insight into what may have gone wrong.

The Hearing

An Academic Misconduct Hearing is a formal meeting. You should be aware that the University of Wolverhampton is committed to upholding academic standards and takes academic misconduct very seriously.

Who will be there?

At a Stage One hearing the panel will consist of two (max 3) staff, including:

  • Senior academic representative from the School to which the module belongs. This will normally be an Associate Dean, Head of Department or their nominee.
  • Deputy- Head of the Conduct and Appeals Unit

If an audio recording is not being made there will also be a note taker present. Only members of the panel will address you directly during the hearing.

What will happen in the Hearing?

You will be introduced to the Panel members.  You will be asked to confirm your identity and advised to speak clearly for the recording.  If you have bought somebody with you for support, you will also be asked to confirm their identity for the record.

The Panel will discuss with you, your understanding of plagiarism /collusion /cheating (depending the nature of the suspected academic misconduct to be addressed).

The Panel will ask you a range of questions, to establish an understanding of the circumstances surrounding the suspected academic misconduct.

You will be shown the evidence under consideration and the Panel will discuss this with you.

Where you are aware that academic misconduct has occurred we would recommend that you admit this early on in the proceedings so that the Panel can focus on advising you of the consequences and on how you can avoid it in the future.

At all times you will be treated with respect, but you should be aware that on occasion you may find the questions challenging as the Panel seeks to identify the truth of the situation. 

Can others speak on my behalf?

Your friend/family member/Students’ Union officer is there to provide you with support and should not normally address the Panel directly. However, they may consult with you and you can ask for “time out” (either inside or outside of the meeting room) to discuss any relevant matters. For example they may wish to remind you of something you had forgotten to say.

What happens next?

You may be informed of the possible outcome of the hearing during the meeting. However, the Panel are required to consider and evaluate both the evidence and your comments fully before coming to a decision and this may require further deliberations outside of the hearing.

The Conduct and Appeals Unit will formally advise you of the outcome by letter and by email to your University email account; this will normally be sent within 7 working days of the hearing.

The letter will confirm whether or not the Panel found the case proven and if so it will clearly state the penalty to be imposed and may also contain further advice where appropriate.

The penalty applied will be in line with the University's policy on Academic Misconduct Penalties found on page 9 in the Regulations and Procedure for Academic Misconduct.

You may find it helpful to discuss the outcomes of the hearing with the Students’ Union after the event. 

The letter you receive will include details on how to appeal against the decision...but please note that appeals will only be considered on the following grounds:

  • That an administrative error or material irregularity has occurred in the conduct of the investigation.
  • That there were personal circumstances which you believe would have affected the decision taken by the panel had they been made aware of them. You must have a good reason not to have revealed the circumstances to the Stage One hearing.

Further information on the appeals procedure is available on page 5 in the Regulations and Procedure for Academic Misconduct.

Depending on the nature of the penalty you may also need to seek academic advice from the School or Student Registry with regard to your programme of study.

The Conduct and Appeals Unit maintain a record of all academic misconduct. Penalties for academic misconduct are progressive and repeated offences can lead to exclusion from the University.

Associated links

A variety of information on Academic Misconduct can be found on the University of Wolverhampton's Academic Misconduct webpage

To ensure that all students are treated fairly, penalties are applied consistently in similar cases where an investigating panel has determined that a student has committed an offence.

For full information on the penalties that can be applied and how the decisions are made, please see pages 9 to 11 of the University's Regulations and Procedure For The Investigation of Academic Misconduct (Sept 2015).

If you have any questions about these, please contact the Advice and Support Centre.

Students have the right to appeal against the decision reached by a Stage One hearing, however they MUST have grounds to do so. The grounds are limited to:

  • An administrative error or material irregularity has occurred in the conduct of the investigation.
  • There were personal circumstances which they believe would have affected the decision taken by the panel had they been made aware of them. The student must have a good reason not to have revealed the circumstances to the Stage One hearing.

Appeals must be made within twenty working days of the receipt of the letter which informs the student of the penalty imposed and should be made in writing to the Dean of Students.

All students should contact the Advice and Support Centre for help and guidance if they think that they have grounds for such an appeal.