Sometimes students accused of academic misconduct are asked to attend a formal meeting called a 'misconduct panel hearing', where their case will be discussed and a penalty imposed if appropriate.
If this happens to you-- first of all, don’t panic! Read these tips and talk to our Student Voice Advocates as soon as possible about your circumstances so we can guide you through the process and answer any specific questions you have.
If you have to go to a Panel you should receive an email and/or letter giving you information about this, so please look out for this and read it carefully.
Please be aware that you may only get 5 days notice of a date of a Panel (and the 5 days could include a weekend) so you may have a tight deadline to get advice and prepare.
We recommend that you:
- Go and see a copy of the evidence file before the date of your hearing (This is a file which will be seen by the members of the misconduct Panel, and which will include a copy of your marked work together with any relevant comments from the examiner or invigilator). Viewing the evidence file is often the best way of understanding why you have been accused of misconduct, and exactly what the problems are with your work. Your notification email should tell you how to request to see this file.
- Write a statement telling your side of the story, including how you prepared and wrote the assessment; what your understanding was regarding the instructions for the assessment; and if you have made clear mistakes regarding these instructions, what you will do to prevent the same thing happening again in the future. (Our team can help you with your statement if necessary).
- Attend your Panel hearing if possible - It is not compulsory to attend, but the Panel members usually appreciate seeing the student in person and having an opportunity to ask them any questions about their work.
If you would like one of our Student Voice Advocates to attend the Panel with you then please give us as much notice as possible. If we are unavailable you will have the option of asking your Academic Adviser from your Department to attend with you.
What happens at a Panel?
Panels are usually held in a seminar room. The Panel will be made up of two University academics (who will not previously have dealt with you) and one of the Student Union's full-time Elected Officers. It is a formal Panel and should be taken seriously, but it is not the same as going to court. The main concern for the Panel members is that you should have an opportunity to put your side of the story, and that they end up making a fair, correct decision given the particular facts of the case and the relevant University regulations.
There may be someone 'presenting' the case for the University (usually someone from your School who understands the subject area) who will briefly outline the problems which have been found with your work, and someone taking notes for the record.
The Panel hearing will proceed as follows:
- The Chair introduces everyone in the room and explains the purpose of the Panel.
- The presenting officer gives their outline (see above).
- The student is asked whether in principle they agree that misconduct has occurred (This is not the same as admitting that you intended to 'cheat', it may simply be an acknowledgement that you have inadvertently breached University rules. We can advise you further about this).
- The student is then given an opportunity to explain their side of the case, and to outline how they produced the work in question.
- The Panel then asks the student any further questions they may have about this.
- The presenter and student will then be asked to leave the room to allow the Panel to discuss the case and come to a decision regarding an appropriate outcome.
- Finally, the student will be invited back into the room to hear the Panel's decision, which may include a penalty such as a reduction of marks.
Panel hearings usually take anything from 15-45 minutes, depending on the circumstances of the case.
What do the Union's Student Voice Advocates do?
- We mainly help you in advance of the Panel by supporting you through the process and answering any questions you may have.
- We talk to you, discuss your circumstances, go to see the evidence file ourselves and review your written statement.
- We are sometimes able to give you some advice about whether you have a technical defence to the misconduct allegations (although this depends on the circumstances of your case).
- On the day of the Panel we can sometimes attend the Panel hearing with you to provide 'moral support', and can prompt you to raise any important issues or information with the Panel if appropriate.
- We can also raise any concerns about the process with the Panel if appropriate.
- We make notes so we can hopefully answer any questions you may later have about what happened at the hearing, and explain the Panel's decision for you afterwards.