Student discipline procedure

The university has a student disciplinary process. Regulation 2 is the University regulation that covers student discipline. It includes a general expectation that students will treat everyone (fellow students, University staff and the wider community) with respect, and that they will act in a way which does not cause harm or damage to the University or disrupt peoples' work & study environment.

The Advice Team can give confidential help and advice regarding every stage of the disciplinary procedure, so do consider getting in touch with us, whether you are considering reporting a disciplinary incident, or you are the person being complained about.

Breaches of the disciplinary regulations

These could range from smoking in the residences or use of offensive language to more serious breaches which may constitute criminal conduct, for example, violent behaviour, drug possession/dealing or sexual misconduct. The regulations cover conduct and behaviour on-campus, in the wider community and on social media, so students may be accused of breaching the discipline code even if they have done nothing wrong while on campus.

The university rules have recently changed so that there are now three categories of disciplinary issues:

  • Category 1 issues can include low-level disruptive or 'nuisance' behaviour, or breaches of health and safety rules (for example smoking in University residences)
  • Category 2 issues cover more serious breaches of the disciplinary code, for example threatening behaviour, general harassment/bullying issues, etc.
  • Category 3 issues include behaviour which is so serious that it calls into question a student’s continued registration at the university and/or involves criminal conduct (for example sexual assault or harassment).

The disciplinary process

  • Category 1 cases are dealt with by your School management team ( e.g School of English, Global Studies) or by a manager from the relevant professional service (e.g Residential Services).
  • Category 2 cases are dealt with by the University's central Governance Office, who will appoint an Investigating Officer (an academic or service manager who volunteers for the role) to look into the alleged breach.
  • Category 3 cases are initially also looked at by an Investigating Officer, however, the final decision on the case will be made by a Student Disciplinary Panel (see below).

Category 2 cases

Within 10 days of receipt of a disciplinary report, the Investigating Officer will inform the student of the allegations. At any stage, during the investigation, they may reclassify the allegations as another disciplinary category. Usually, you will be sent a brief outline of the allegations and the evidence which has been considered in the case. You will be given a “ reasonable opportunity “ to submit a statement explaining your side of the case and will invite to meet with the Investigating Officer to discuss the case. (You will probably be asked to outline your version of events, and to answer any questions with the IO may have about the situation). You can be accompanied by another student or a member of staff to this meeting in a general supportive capacity, however, they are not normally expected to speak in detail on your behalf; you will usually be expected to outline events and answer questions directly.

The IO will then decide on the balance of probabilities (ie, if it is more likely than not) whether misconduct has occurred, and if so, and whether to impose a sanction (penalty).

You will be informed of the IO's decision within 10 working days of the decision being made.

Category 3 cases

These are decided by a formal disciplinary panel, so you will be sent details of this procedure when you are notified of the date and time of the panel hearing.

You should get at least 10 working days notice of the panel date- This could be on any date when you could reasonably be expected to be present at university (i.e. in term time). The panel can make a decision based on the available evidence even if you don’t attend the panel.

The panel will usually comprise of three people, two of whom will be selected from a list of approved University staff who have received relevant training, and the third will be an elected Student Union Officer.

You can be accompanied to your hearing by one other person if you so wish. (This would be in the same capacity as outined above, unless the panel agree that the accompanying person can speak on your behalf). It isn't compulsory to take someone, but some students find it helpful to have someone with them. If you do wish to take someone then you must inform the Discipline Team at the Governance Office of the name of this person at least 5 working days before the hearing date).

The usual format for a disciplinary panel is that an Investigating Officer will briefly outine the allegations and the available evidence. The student will then be given an opportunity to indicate whether they accept or deny the allegations and to explain their version of events. Members of the panel will then ask the student for clarification/further explanation of any points which are unclear. Depending on the case, there may also be parts of the hearing where a relevant witness gives their account and is asked questions by the panel, either in-person or via a Skype link.

The 'tone' of disciplinary hearings is usually businesslike and reasonably formal but is not unfriendly or unduly accusatory. The main concern of panel members is to make sure that the student is given an opportunity to tell them anything s/he may want to say about the allegation & related incident(s), and that they (panel members) have enough information and understanding of the case to make a reasonable, informed decision. It is fine to take notes to the hearing and to ask for for a pause in the proceedings to give you time to think about an answer or to ask for a drink of water, at any time.

As above, a panel will make a decision based on whether, on the balance of probabilities, they believe that a breach of disciplinary regulations has occurred; and if so, whether a sanction should be applied.

You will be sent a written explanation of the panel's decision within 10 days of the hearing.

Potential disciplinary sanctions

Here are some examples of potential disciplinary outcomes (the list is not exhaustive):

For all categories of cases, it may be decided that there is 'no case to answer' if, on the balance of probabilities, it is not thought that any disciplinary breach actually occurred.

It may alternatively be decided that a breach did occur, but no sanction is appropriate.

If a breach is confirmed and a sanction is deemed to be appropriate, the following penalties may be applied:

Category 1 cases

  • The student is given a written warning regarding future behaviour
  • Student instructed to 'make good' any damage they caused up to a maximum £200
  • The student is given a fine of up to £200
  • Student instructed to make a written apology to someone they have adversely affected their behaviour.

Category 2 cases

  • The student is given a fine of up to £1,000
  • Student instructed to make good damage up to a maximum of £1000
  • A student excluded (banned) from specific University facilities or premises

Category 3 cases

  • The student is given a fine of up to £2000
  • A student excluded from specific University facilities or premises
  • Student suspended from their studies for up to 2 years
  • Student permanently withdrew from University

Appeals of disciplinary decisions

There is a right of appeal regarding disciplinary decisions. However, in order to have a realistic prospect of succeeding with an appeal, you would need to demonstrate that your circumstances satisfy one of three grounds for appeal:

  1. There has been a 'procedural irregularity' (a mistake of some kind) in the disciplinary proceedings.
  2. There is new evidence which was not known or considered by the person(s) making the original disciplinary decision, and which could not have reasonably been submitted at the time.
  3. The original decision is 'unreasonable' in some way, given the available evidence.

Appealing a category 1 or 2 decision

You must notify the University of your intention to appeal within 10 working days of the date of your outcome letter.

A Pro-Vice-Chancellor (from the University's senior management team) will consider the appeal - Please be aware that they can make a decision or impose a sanction that is more or less serious than the original decision, and their decision is final.

You will be notified of the appeal decision (with reasons) within 5 working days of the decision being taken.

Appealing a category 3 decision

This is slightly more complicated. You still have to request an appeal within 10 working days of the date of the original decision, however, with Category 3 appeals a senior University manager will consider your appeal and decide if it has a “ reasonable prospect of success”. If they decide it does, then a Student Disciplinary Appeal Committee will be arranged within 28 days or as soon as possible.

This will not necessarily involve an 'in person' meeting with the appealing student-- The Appeal Committee will usually make a decision based on a review of the case papers, although they can decide the case should be reheard in-person if they consider this to be the most appropriate way forward.

You will be informed of the outcome of the appeal within 10 working days of the Committee meeting. Their decision is final.

Further tips for people being complained about »

Further tips for people considering making a report about someone »

University disciplinary procedures »

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.