Academic Misconduct

What is academic misconduct?

The University has detailed rules which govern the production of academic work. There are requirements designed to ensure that a student’s work is really their own rather than reproduced from another source or person without proper acknowledgement, and that any joint working between students is within well-defined boundaries. Students are also required to adhere to a strict code of conduct during exams.

Sometimes students fail to satisfy these requirements and may find themselves subject to academic misconduct proceedings brought by the University, including meetings with their department or formal misconduct panel hearings.

What to do if you're invited to an academic misconduct panel

Once you have familiarised yourself with the various types of misconduct described below, you may like to take a look at our tips for avoiding it!

Tips for avoiding academic misconduct

Types of misconduct

The University rules define five main types of misconduct. These are plagiarism, personation, collusion, cheating in exams and fabrication of results.

1. Plagiarism

Plagiarism is when you use other people's work and do not correctly acknowledge this by citing them as the source.

If you copy sentences, phrases or expressions from another person's work without saying where you found them then this will be viewed as plagiarism. Even if you just 'paraphrase' someone's work (repeat their argument using your own words) this can still sometimes count as plagiarism if you do not include a citation acknowledging where you found the argument. Basically, each time you draw directly from a source you have to say so in the main body of your work, not just mention it in your bibliography.

The University has detailed rules about exactly how and when you should include a citation. You should always ask your tutor if you are not sure what you should do. You can find lots of information about referencing and citation on the University's Skills Hub Page.

2. Personation

Personation is a more serious form of plagiarism whereby a student takes another person's essay or report and submits it pretending that they wrote it themselves. This could include buying a piece of work from an essay writing company and pretending it is yours, finding someone else's essay on the internet and submitting it as though you wrote it, or arranging for someone else to write your assignments for you.

The University takes personation very seriously and can impose significant penalties on students who are found to have committed this type of misconduct.

3. Collusion

Collusion is when students work together on assignments when the University's requirement for that piece of work was that it should have been completed individually. For some assignments, students may be allowed to work together during the initial stages of the assignment and may even submit initial joint/group work for assessment, but then must work individually on the latter stages of the assignment.

A student who helps someone produce a piece of work is technically guilty of collusion as well as the student who has benefited from their help (unless joint working is specifically allowed for the work). You can also be guilty of collusion if you simply allow another student to see your work before it is submitted, and they end up copying it.

Your module handbook or similar documents should clearly state which assignments, if any, can be worked on in collaboration with others, and exactly which part(s) of the assignment this applies to.

The tutor supervising the assignment should also make this clear during any initial discussion about the work, so always contact your tutor to clarify exactly what the correct instructions are if you are unsure about this.

4. Fabrication of results

When doing lab work, practical work or research projects you will be guilty of fabrication if you make up (invent) your data, or you change, falsify or misrepresent your research findings.

5. Misconduct in unseen examinations

If you take revision notes, other study materials, mobile phones or other electronic devices into an exam room when they are not explicitly permitted in the exam regulations, you will be committing exam misconduct.

If you try to talk or communicate with another person in the room (except for the invigilator), this will also be viewed as exam misconduct, whether or not this was an attempt to share information which would help either of you. Using a mobile phone or other devices to communicate with someone outside the room would also be a breach of exam rules.

It is misconduct simply to try to use unauthorised study materials in an exam whether or not you actually manage to do so. You can be found guilty of exam misconduct even if you insist that you took the notes/phone etc into the exam room by mistake, you will still have broken the exam rules simply by having them on you.

It is important to realise that if you break the University rules and commit one of the types of misconduct mentioned above, then the University can impose a punishment even if you did not actually intend to 'cheat' in any way. For example, you can still be found to have committed misconduct even if you accidentally failed to include the correct citations in your work, if you mistakenly collaborated with someone on an assignment because you thought this was allowed, or you forgot you still had your mobile phone in your pocket when you went into an exam room.

Therefore it is much better to avoid being accused of academic misconduct in the first place! Please see our 'top tips' page for more details:

Tips for avoiding academic misconduct

Contact us for support

Although it can feel stressful and daunting to be accused of academic misconduct, with our help there are steps you can take to increase the chances of a favourable outcome.

If you would like further information about what to do if you are accused of academic misconduct we strongly recommend that you contact us.

Our Student Union Advisors can advise you about what is likely to happen next in your case, help you challenge an accusation of misconduct if appropriate, and assist you to prepare for any misconduct meeting or hearing you are invited to. We may also be available to accompany you to any meeting/hearing.

It's best to get in contact as soon as you hear that you have been accused of academic misconduct as this gives us as much time as possible to help you.

Here to help

If you'd like to discuss your concern further, our Student Advice team are here to help. Our service is confidential and independent from the University.

Student Advice, 1st Floor, Falmer House, University of Sussex.