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Student Academic Misconduct Procedures

Category Academic
Type Procedure
Approved by Senate, 24 June 2015
Date Procedure Took Effect 1 August 2015
Last Approved Revision 29 November 2017
Sponsor Director, Academic Services
Responsible Officer Manager, Policy and Compliance, Academic Services
Review Date 29 November 2022

Purpose

The purpose of these procedures is to:

  • set out a clear and consistent process for investigating suspected academic misconduct by students
  • clarify the authority to deal with cases of alleged academic misconduct by students
  • codify possible penalties which can be imposed following confirmed academic misconduct by students
  • ensure that reporting, recording, confidentiality and appeals in the case of confirmed academic misconduct by students are handled effectively and consistently.

Organisational Scope

These procedures apply to all staff and students of the University. Note that academic misconduct in these procedures refers to breaches of academic integrity by students. There are separate policies and procedures relating to academic misconduct by staff.

Definitions

Academic Integrity The basis for ethical decision-making and behaviour in an academic context. This is reflected in norms of acceptable academic practice and is informed by the values of honesty, trust, responsibility, fairness, respect and courage.
Academic Misconduct A breach of academic integrity, that is, actions which intentionally or unintentionally are contrary to the values and practices associated with academic integrity.
Academic Misconduct Register A confidential register of proven cases of academic misconduct at the University of Otago, used solely for investigating and reporting on academic misconduct.
Head of Department For the purposes of these procedures, the Head of Department or the Head of Programme for the paper in which academic misconduct is alleged to have occurred.

Policy Content

1. General Principles

(a) The University shall investigate alleged instances of academic misconduct in a manner which is fair, consistent and transparent.

(b) The University defines three levels of academic misconduct:

  • Level One: A first instance of academic misconduct where a student’s actions may be regarded as unintentional or naïve and contributed to by a lack of understanding of acceptable academic practice.
  • Level Two: Academic misconduct where a student’s actions are perceived to be intentional and where the student could reasonably be expected to understand academic practice, or any repeat instance of academic misconduct.
  • Level Three: Academic misconduct in which actions are perceived as being intentional and of an extremely serious nature including instances of falsification or fabrication of data, impersonation and/or purchasing of assessment, and instances of persistent academic misconduct.

(c) Notwithstanding the definitions provided in clause 1(b), any academic misconduct which occurs in a final examination or thesis or dissertation and from which a student gains a demonstrable academic advantage, shall normally be considered Level Two or Level Three misconduct.

(d) Student actions which represent genuine but flawed attempts to demonstrate academic integrity will not normally be considered academic misconduct, but will instead be addressed through marking and feedback as part of standard assessment processes.

(e) Consistent with the University’s Academic Integrity Policy, Level One misconduct will be primarily treated in an educative manner. Level Two and Three misconduct will result in disciplinary sanctions.

2. Types of Academic Misconduct

(a) Plagiarism:

i. copying or cutting and pasting text from others without using quotation marks or block quotes to identify that text, nor clearly indicating the source (this includes paper and electronic sources)

ii. copying visual materials, images and/or physical objects without clearly indicating the source

iii. using poor paraphrasing of sentences or whole passages without referencing the original work

iv. using another person’s ideas, work or research data without acknowledgment

v. copying computer files or computer code without clearly indicating their origin

vi. submitting another student’s work in whole or in part, where this is not specifically permitted in the course outline

vii. submitting work that has been written by someone else on a student’s behalf

viii. resubmitting portions of previously submitted work without indicating the source.

(b) Unauthorised collaboration: presenting group work in any form of assessment where individual answers are required. This does not include assessment tasks where students are expressly required or permitted to present the results of collaborative work. Unless it is explicitly stated otherwise, each student’s answers should be in their own words.

(c) Multiple submissions of single assessment: submitting substantially the same work for multiple assessments; presenting work submitted previously at the University or another educational institution.

(d) Impersonation: getting someone else to participate in any assessment on one’s behalf, including getting someone else to sit a test or examination on one’s behalf.

(e) Use of unauthorised materials: using notes, books or other material in the completion of assessment unless expressly permitted to do so; taking calculators, computers or other electronic devices (e.g. cell phones or tablets) into a test or examination unless expressly permitted to do so.

(f) Assisting others in academic misconduct:

i. impersonating another student in a test or examination

ii. writing an assignment for another student

iii. giving answers to another student in a test, examination or any other assessment (whether in a current or previously offered paper) by any direct or indirect means
iv. allowing another student to copy answers in a test, examination or any other assessment.

(g) Misrepresentation: feigning disability, temporary illness or injury or exceptional circumstances beyond one’s control, and then claiming special conditions and/or special consideration.

(h) Purchasing assessment: submitting for assessment material obtained from commercial essays, assignment services, other students or any other source.

(i) Falsification: falsifying or fabricating the results of one’s research or laboratory assignments; presenting as true or accurate material that one knows to be false or inaccurate.

(j) Breach of ethics: a breach of a duty of confidentiality, privacy or the terms of any ethical approvals.

(k) Breach of intellectual property: using the intellectual property of others in an unauthorised manner, including copyright breach and the unauthorised sharing of the work of others.

(l) Other misconduct: actions that are deemed to contravene the values and accepted practices associated with academic integrity.

3. Authority for Dealing with Academic Misconduct

(a) In the first instance:

i. all suspected instances of academic misconduct in final examinations must be referred to the Manager, Student Administration

ii. all other suspected instances of academic misconduct must be referred to the relevant Head of Department

(b) Alleged instances of Level One academic misconduct which proceed to a full investigation shall normally be dealt with by the relevant Head of Department (or their nominee – referred to as the Head of Department henceforth).

(c) Alleged instances of Level Two and Level Three academic misconduct, excluding those relating to doctoral degrees, which proceed to a full investigation shall be dealt with by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Division (or their nominee – referred to as the Pro-Vice-Chancellor henceforth) within which the relevant assessment was conducted.

(d) Alleged instances of academic misconduct in relation to doctoral degrees which proceed to a full investigation shall be dealt with by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) in consultation with the relevant Pro-Vice-Chancellor(s) or their nominee(s).

(e) Level Three academic misconduct and extremely serious academic misconduct in doctoral degrees shall be referred to and dealt with by the Vice-Chancellor, if the party that has determined misconduct occurred recommends that the student concerned be excluded from the University.

(f) In instances where the person who would usually have responsibility for dealing with the alleged misconduct may have a conflict of interest, for example if he or she is supervising a student whose research work is to be investigated, advice should be sought from the Manager of Student Administration who will arrange for the matter to be dealt with by a different person with appropriate authority under the Academic Statute.

(g) Any delegation of authority relating to the investigation of academic misconduct, including any standing delegation or delegation due to a conflict of interest, should be documented in writing prior to any investigation taking place.

4. Procedural Fairness

(a) A student shall be presumed innocent unless and until guilt is freely admitted or is determined with appropriate certainty.


(b) The University will ensure that:

i. the student will be informed in writing of the subject matter of the complaint and the possible penalties if misconduct is found to have occurred

ii. the student will have access to information about the allegation of misconduct

iii. the student will be given adequate notice of the process and timelines for dealing with the alleged misconduct

iv. the student will be offered the opportunity to be heard before a determination is made in relation to the alleged misconduct

v. the process of inquiry and determination will be conducted without bias

vi. a determination will be made only on the basis of facts and documentation relevant to the alleged misconduct (this will include the referencing of the Academic Misconduct Register to ascertain whether the student has been involved in previous cases of academic misconduct)

vii. the student will be notified in writing of the outcome including reasons to explain the outcome

viii. the student will be notified of their right of appeal in accordance with clause 5.11 of the Academic Statute 2011.

5. Identification of Potential Misconduct

(a) Where a staff member identifies activity that they believe may constitute academic misconduct, they should first determine whether this meets the threshold for formal investigation under these procedures (see clause 1(d)).

(b) Where the potential misconduct considered falls within the definition of plagiarism, the staff member should take into account:

i. whether the student has attempted to acknowledge the work of others

ii. the extent of the potential plagiarism

iii. the previous opportunities the student may have had to learn correct academic practice, and

iv. whether the matter can be adequately addressed through marking and feedback as part of standard assessment processes.

(c) In determining whether a formal investigation is needed, staff may contact Student Administration to check the Academic Misconduct Register to determine whether the student has any previous academic misconduct which has been formally addressed through these procedures.

(d) Staff members requiring additional advice on whether identified activity meets the threshold for formal investigation should consult with the Associate Dean (Academic) in their Division.

6. Preliminary Investigation

(a) A preliminary investigation shall be carried out where an activity which meets the threshold for possible academic misconduct is identified. This should usually occur within seven days of detection of the alleged offence and should determine either that:

i. there is sufficient evidence that the matter should proceed to a full investigation, or

ii. there is insufficient evidence to proceed, or

iii. there is no case and the matter should proceed no further.

Final Examinations

(b) In relation to final examinations the preliminary investigation shall be the responsibility of the Manager, Student Administration.

(c) Following the identification of a possible academic misconduct in a final examination, normally by an examination supervisor, the Group Leader, Examinations shall:

i. obtain whatever evidence may be possible in the circumstances, including a written statement from the examination supervisorii. interview the student(s), if practicable, immediately following their departure from the examination room and invite the student to make a written statement

iii. inform the student in writing of the nature of allegation and the process for the preliminary investigation

iv. forward a copy of the script to the department so that this may be marked while any investigation is taking place, the result to be impounded pending completion of the investigation

v. ask the Student Records Office to add ‘Result deferred’ immediately to the student’s record until a decision has been reached and, if applicable, a mark awarded

vi. pass all information relating to the instance to the Manager, Student Administration.

(d) The Manager, Student Administration shall either:

i. determine that a full investigation is to take place as per clause 7 below and refer the matter to the appropriate Pro-Vice-Chancellor (or their nominee), providing a completed Alleged Academic Misconduct Initial Report, or

ii. determine that a full investigation is not warranted, inform the student of this and update their record accordingly.

(e) The Manager, Student Administration, may exercise option 6(d)ii in any case in which the University’s Examination Rules were breached, but where it is clear that a student’s actions were naïve and no academic advantage was gained. In such cases the student shall be issued with a warning and the misconduct shall be recorded in the Academic Misconduct Register with a note that it was dealt with under this provision.

All Other Cases

(f) In cases other than final Examinations the preliminary investigation shall be the responsibility of the relevant Head of Department or an appropriate nominee.

(g) In relation to department-run tests or examinations, the process outlined in 6(c)i-iv should be used as appropriate, with the Head of Department (or appropriate nominee) undertaking the role of the Group Leader, Examinations. In such cases the student should be informed if it is determined that a full investigation is not warranted.

(h) If it is concluded that a full investigation is warranted the Head of Department shall contact the Manager, Student Administration (at student.admin@otago.ac.nz) who will, within two working days, provide details from the Academic Misconduct Register on whether the student has previously been involved in academic misconduct at the University.

(i) As regards the full investigation:

i. if the alleged misconduct to be investigated relates to doctoral degrees, the Head of Department shall refer the matter to the Dean of the Graduate Research School, providing a completed Alleged Academic Misconduct Initial Report, for further investigation by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise), otherwise:

ii. if the student has previous offending recorded on the Academic Misconduct Register and/or there is significant reason to believe the alleged misconduct is deliberate, the Head of Department shall refer the matter to the Manager of Student Administration, providing a completed Alleged Academic Misconduct Initial Report, for further investigation by the appropriate Pro-Vice-Chancellor (or their nominee), or

iii. if there is reason to believe the alleged misconduct is unintentional or naïve, and the student has no previous record of offending on the Academic Misconduct Register, the Head of Department shall conduct a full investigation as per clause 7 below.

7. Procedure for a Full Investigation

(a) The investigating party shall inform the student in writing of the subject matter of the complaint and possible penalties if academic misconduct should be found to have occurred, using the appropriate letter template available from student.admin@otago.ac.nz. A copy of this letter should also be sent to the Manager, Student Administration.

(b) The full investigation shall consider any material from the preliminary investigation, any further evidence collected, and the student’s response (see 7(c) below), and shall take account of the following factors:

i. the extent of the misconduct

ii. the student’s intention

iii. contextual factors including but not limited to:

  • stage/level of programme
  • number and severity of previous offenses
  • other information relevant to the case

iv. academic conventions within the relevant discipline

v. the extent to which the misconduct, if undetected, would have resulted in an unfair advantage for the student or any other studentvi. the extent to which the misconduct, if undetected, would have had potential to compromise the integrity of the University’s assessment processes

vii. the impact of particular outcomes on a student’s progression or graduation

viii. information and support provided to the student about academic integrity as part of their course

ix. information about the student held in the Academic Misconduct Register.

(c) The student must be given the opportunity to be heard, before a final decision is made. The student should be given both the option to respond in person (with a support person present if desired) and to provide a written response.

(d) Following their investigation, the investigating party may:

i. find that no academic misconduct has occurred

ii. determine an outcome commensurate with their powers and the level of offending as per Clause 8 of these procedures

iii. for allegations which have been investigated by the Head of Department and for which there is evidence of offending above Level One, refer the matter to the appropriate Pro-Vice-Chancellor for further consideration

iv. for allegations which have been investigated by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor or a Pro-Vice-Chancellor and for which there is evidence of offending at Level Three, refer the matter to the Vice-Chancellor if exclusion of the student from the University is recommended.
In all instances, the final outcome or referral should be reported to the Manager of Student Administration (at student.admin@otago.ac.nz).

(e) The investigating party must keep a detailed record of their investigation.

(f) Where possible, investigations should be completed within a two-week timeframe.


8. Schedule of Outcomes where Academic Misconduct is Proven

(a) The University shall take a primarily educative response to Level One misconduct. The Head of Department or Pro-Vice-Chancellor, or their nominees, shall take one or more of the following actions, including at least one educative action from options i to iv:

i. issue the student with a warning that includes information about the University’s Academic Integrity Policy and resources that are available to support the policy

ii. require the student to enrol in an academic integrity workshop or study skills workshop, or undertake personal consultancy with a Learning Adviser in Student Learning Development, within one month of receiving the letter advising them to do so

iii. require the student to undertake a supplementary, formative reflective assessment on academic integrity

iv. require the student to submit a new or revised version of the assessment affected by the academic misconduct, with the mark awarded for the resubmitted assessment not to exceed the student’s original mark (including any adjustments made under 8(a)v)

v. reduce the mark in the affected assessment so that the student gains no academic advantage from the misconduct; any such mark reduction should:

  • not normally exceed 50% of the total available marks for the assessment
  • take account of any reduction in marks already imposed through standard marking processes, and
  • not penalise the student beyond removing any advantage gained from the misconduct.

(b) In response to Level Two misconduct, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor or their nominee shall include at least one educative response from 8(a)ii – iii above and one of the penalties provided for under the Academic Statute, such as:

i. submission of a new or revised version of the assessment with a maximum of a “pass” for the assessment

ii. a zero mark for the assessment affected by the academic misconduct

iii. a reduction in the overall mark for the paper affected by the academic misconduct

iv. a fail grade for the paper in which the academic misconduct occurred, which may include withholding or withdrawing the granting of terms for the paper concerned

v. the cancellation of any pass or passes for any other part of the student’s course undertaken in the same teaching period as the paper in which academic misconduct occurred, provided that any pass shall only be cancelled with the agreement of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Division in which the paper is taught

vi. the imposition of a non-academic penalty, consisting of a fine of up to $500 or community work of up 40 hours, provided that such a penalty will only be imposed where the student concerned could not have derived direct academic advantage from their misconduct.

(c) In response to misconduct in a doctoral degree, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) may include educational responses from 8(a) above and/or impose one of the penalties provided for under the Academic statute, such as:

i. resubmission of the work affected by the complaint, either fully or in part

ii. disqualification from continuing in the degree.

(d) In response to Level Three misconduct, including extremely serious misconduct in a doctoral degree, any appropriate penalties or responses provided for under the Academic Statute, including those listed under clauses 8(a), 8(b) and 8(c), may be imposed by the relevant authority or by the Vice-Chancellor. In addition, the Vice-Chancellor may direct that the student be excluded from the University permanently or for such period as the Vice-Chancellor may determine.

(e) The Head of the relevant Department shall be responsible for ensuring that any educational requirements as detailed under 8(a) are completed. Failure to satisfactorily complete such requirements shall be reported to the Manager of Student Administration. This may entail:

i. ‘Result deferred’ being reported for the relevant paper on the student’s academic record and the paper being deemed incomplete until requirements have been met, or

ii. the substitution of a penalty under clause 8(b) by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor or their nominee, if a student fails to complete a requirement within a reasonable timeframe and after at least two written warnings have been given. This may include a non-academic penalty as provided for under 8(b)vi.

(f) To ensure consistency in the application of the non-academic penalties provided for under clause 8(b)vi, the Pro-Vice-Chancellors shall maintain and apply a shared schedule of recommended outcomes for types of misconduct which may necessitate such penalties.

(g) The Proctor shall be responsible for ensuring that the requirements of any non-academic penalties imposed under clause 8(b)vi are met. Failure to meet such requirements shall be considered a breach of the Code of Student Conduct.

9. Notification of Outcome

(a) Upon conclusion of the investigation, the investigating party shall advise the Manager, Student Administration of the outcome.

(b) In cases of alleged misconduct in a doctoral degree, the Dean of the Graduate Research School will inform the candidate in writing of the outcome. The Head of Department, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) and, where relevant, Vice-Chancellor, will receive a copy of this letter.

(c) In all other cases, the Manager of Student Administration will inform the student in writing of the outcome. The Head of Department, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and, where relevant, Proctor and/or Vice-Chancellor, will receive a copy of this letter. This communication will normally be sent within two working days of receiving notification of an outcome.

(d) Where an educational task or a penalty is imposed, notification of the student’s right to request a review or appeal the decision, and the mechanism for a review or an appeal, shall be included in the letter to the student reporting the outcome of the investigation.

10. Right of Appeal

(a) A student may appeal an academic misconduct decision made by:

i. a Head of Department, to the relevant Pro-Vice-Chancellor, whose decision on the matter shall be final

ii. the Vice-Chancellor or Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) , or a Pro-Vice-Chancellor, to the Appeals Board of the University Council, in accordance with the provisions of the Appeals Statute.

11. Reporting

(a) The Manager of Student Administration will provide oversight in relation to the completion of educative requirements as outlined under clauses 8(a) and 8(e).

(b) The Manager of Student Administration shall ensure an accurate and up-to-date Academic Misconduct Register is maintained and that this information is kept confidential and accessed solely for investigating academic misconduct and providing reports on academic misconduct.

(c) The Manager of Student Administration shall:

i. ensure that all cases for the previous year are reviewed in January to check for trends, developments and repeat cases

ii. provide a six-monthly update on academic misconduct to Pro-Vice-Chancellors

iii. provide an annual report on academic misconduct to Pro-Vice-Chancellors.

(d) The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) and Pro-Vice-Chancellors shall make reports to Senate and Council following the end of each academic year, containing a summary of all doctoral misconduct and Level Two and Three misconduct dealt with by them during that year. Such reports shall not include the names of individuals and shall as far as possible avoid reference to circumstances which might render any individual identifiable. 

Acknowledgement

These procedures are based on best practice principles developed by the Australian Office of Learning and Teaching (OLT)-commissioned Exemplary Academic Integrity Project (EAIP). The University of Otago has adopted and adapted policy language with the explicit permission of the University of Sydney, the University of Auckland, the University of Canberra, the University of South Australia, Newcastle University, Griffith University, Flinders University and La Trobe University in the development of this policy. The International Centre for Academic Integrity definition of academic integrity has been adopted for these procedures.

Related Policies, Procedures and Forms

Contact for Further Information

If you have any queries regarding the content of these procedures or need further clarification, contact the Manager, Student Administration on david.cross@otago.ac.nz