Academic Misconduct

Please note that this page provides information regarding the academic misconduct policy for non-HYMS Undergraduate and Postgraduate Taught programmes at the University of York.

The academic misconduct policies. for Postgraduate Research students and HYMS students are different. If you are a Postgraduate Research or HYMS student, please contact the YUSU Advice and Support Centre at asc@yusu.org (for Undergraduates) or the GSA Advice Service at advice@yorkgsa.org (for Postgraduates) for advice and guidance.

What is academic misconduct?
While at University, you are held to the principles of academic integrity, which is an expectation that students will behave with honesty, respect, trust, fairness and be responsible in the way they carry out and present academic work. Any behaviour or activity by a student that undermines academic integrity and gives them an unfair advantage in assessments over others is considered as academic misconduct.

Plagiarism, collusion, cheating in exams, commissioning essays and fabrication are some types of academic misconduct. In addition to this, there are forms of academic misconduct that could also be treated as disciplinary offences, including personation, deception and unethical research behaviour, to name a few.

You can find definitions of the different forms of academic misconduct at 1.2 in the University’s Academic Misconduct Policy.

How can I avoid academic misconduct?
YUSU and the GSA’s advice services  have produced a briefing sheet on avoiding academic misconduct, which you can find here.

In order to avoid academic misconduct, we would also really encourage you to complete the University’s academic integrity tutorial, which you should be able to find in your VLE.

You may also find it helpful to refer to the guidance the University has produced on avoiding plagiarism and avoiding collusion.

When are academic misconduct procedures initiated?
Academic misconduct procedures start when it has been identified that a student may have committed academic misconduct in an assessment. In the case of an open assessment, this would usually be when the assessment is being marked. In the case of a closed assessment, this could be during the exam itself (for example, if an invigilator suspects that you have been referring to notes during an exam which doesn’t permit this).

What happens if I’m suspected of academic misconduct?
The processes followed if you are suspected of academic misconduct can vary depending on the form of misconduct you are suspected of.

Generally,  if your marker suspects that you may have committed academic misconduct, this will be reported to the University’s central academic misconduct team, along with evidence of the suspected offence. At this point, a Standing Academic Misconduct Panel (StAMP) will be formed. The StAMP consists of three members of academic staff from your faculty. The Chair of the StAMP will be a member of academic staff from your department.

The StAMP will then decide if there is a “case to answer” (i.e. if they think that it is possible that academic misconduct has occurred). If they do think that there is a case to answer, you will be sent a letter. This letter will notify you of the suspected offence by email, and will be accompanied by evidence of the suspected offense (such as a Turnitin report highlighting possible issues or plagiarism)

In most cases, the letter will also give you the opportunity to respond to the suspected misconduct either in writing or by attending an interview. In some cases, you will only be asked to attend an interview.

The letter sent to you will give you a deadline by which you would need to submit a written response, or request an interview – this is usually 7 days from the date the letter has been sent to you. At this point, you are strongly encouraged to make an appointment with the YUSU Advice and Support Centre or the GSA Advice Service (for postgraduates).

If you are suspected of personation, deception, unethical research behaviour, or academic misconduct involving staff members, the process followed is slightly different, as these offences are investigated under the University’s disciplinary procedures (Regulation 7). Again, you can contact the YUSU or GSA Advice Services for support if you are notified that you are suspected of a disciplinary offence.

If you are invited to respond to the suspected misconduct, we would strongly encourage you to do so. This is your opportunity to tell the StAMP your account of the situation, and how any issues may have occurred in your assessments. The information you give will be used by the StAMP when determining if misconduct took place and, if so, the penalty which should be applied to the assessment.

What penalties can be applied if I’m found to have committed academic misconduct?
The penalty imposed if a student is found to have committed academic misconduct may depend upon the academic misconduct offence they are suspected of having committed, as well as on the extent of the misconduct in the assessment. Penalties also depend on if a module is probationary or non-probationary.

Full details of the penalties which may be applied if a student is found to have committed academic misconduct are described in AM3 of the Academic Misconduct Policy, which you can find on the University website here.

I’ve received a letter/email stating that my work has been referred to a StAMP and I need to submit a statement or attend an interview – what do I do now?

If you don’t respond with your statement or request for an interview by the given deadline, your case will be considered by the StAMP without your statement or information given during an interview. The information you provide helps the StAMP to understand what’s happened, so it’s really important that you do respond, if you are able to.

You’ll first need to decide if you’d rather provide further information to the StAMP by attending an interview or submitting a written statement. The letter or email which has been sent to you will tell you the deadline by which you need to submit your statement or request an interview.

There is no advantage either to attending an interview with a StAMP or submitting a written statement – it’s just what you prefer and would feel most comfortable with. Some students would rather attend an interview as they feel that they can explain what has happened better in person, and some students prefer to submit a statement as they feel that they can provide a better written explanation. It’s really up to you.

What information should I include in my statement or response?
It’s really important that you are open and honest in your statement. This is your opportunity to explain your side of the story, and to address any issues raised by the StAMP.

The information it’s helpful to include in your statement according to the form of suspected academic misconduct. However, we would recommend that you address the answers to the following questions in any statement:

  • What is the form of academic misconduct you are suspected of?
  • Why is this form of academic misconduct a problem? For example, what impact does it have on you or other students?
  • Are you able to identify and acknowledge any issues which have occurred within your assessment (such as unclear referencing, lack of citation or poor paraphrasing)?
  • Why do you think these problems have occurred? What is your explanation for what has happened? – For example, can you identify any issues with your note-taking practices, or your use of sources, which you feel may have contributed to the issues present within your assessment? Were you experiencing any particular difficulties which prevented you from being able to follow your usual practice when completing this assessment?
  • How will you prevent this problem from happening again?
  • Were you experiencing any personal difficulties or illnesses when you were writing this assessment?

When writing your statement, it is also helpful to consider the evidence which has been sent to you by the StAMP. If you understand how the evidence provided could imply that you had committed a form of academic misconduct, it is helpful to acknowledge this, and to explain why you feel this problem has occurred in your work.

If you have been sent a Turnitin Report, we have included information below about how to read this, and the questions you may wish to answer in your statement. If you have been sent another form of evidence, and don’t know how to respond to this, you are welcome to contact the YUSU Advice and Support Centre (for undergraduates) or GSA Advice Service (for postgraduates) for advice and guidance.

You are also welcome to contact the YUSU or GSA Advice Services (for posgraduates) for guidance on key information which it may be helpful for you to provide in your statement, or for help preparing for a StAMP meeting. We are also happy to take a look at your statement and let you know if any changes might be helpful.

What happens during an academic misconduct investigation meeting?
An academic misconduct interview sounds really scary. Please be reassured that, at the YUSU and GSA Advice Services, we have accompanied students to lots of different interviews, and they are always less scary than they sound!

The interview will be conducted by members of the StAMP, and at least two members of the Panel need to attend the interview.

Generally, the interview will start with the StAMP introducing themselves. The Chair will also outline the purpose and structure of the meeting.

You will then be asked questions by the StAMP, or may be invited to tell your side of the story. You can find more information about the sorts of questions which might be asked of you during the interview below.

You have the right to be accompanied to your interview by any one of the following:

  • A registered student at the University
  • A staff member at the University
  • A member of the YUSU or GSA Advice Services, or
  • A YUSU or GSA sabbatical officer.

What questions will I be asked in a StAMP meeting?

The questions you might be asked in your interview can vary, depending on the form of the suspected misconduct, as well as on the members of the StAMP. However, the general themes of the questions asked are very likely to be similar to those you would answer in a written statement, such as:

  • What do you think the problems are with your assessment?
  • Why do you think these problems have occurred?
  • How will you prevent this problem from happening again?
  • Were you experiencing any personal difficulties or illnesses when you were writing this assessment?

The Panel may also ask you to provide a general description of your working practices whilst completing the assessment in which you have been suspected of academic misconduct. This may include, for example:

  • how you chose your assessment topic
  • how you had identified sources for use within the assessment, and
  • how you had taken notes for the assessment.

The Panel may also ask you questions regarding your understanding of referencing and academic integrity generally.

The Panel may also wish to ask you about specific problems they have found with your work and the evidence which has been sent to you.

If you have been sent a Turnitin Report, we have included information below about how to read this, and the questions you may be asked in your interview. If you have been sent another form of evidence, and don’t know how to respond to this, you are welcome to contact the YUSU Advice and Support Centre (for undergraduates) or GSA Advice Service (for postgraduates) for advice and guidance.

As when writing a statement, it’s really important that your answers in the interview are open and honest.

I’ve been asked to attend a meeting  or submit a statement regarding suspected academic misconduct, but I haven’t been sent any evidence of the misconduct. What do I do?
It’s really important that you have access to all of the evidence which the StAMP will be considering in regards to your case, so that you are given a fair chance to respond.

If you haven’t been sent any evidence of the suspected misconduct, we would advise responding to the email which has been sent to you, and requesting that a copy of any evidence considered by the StAMP be sent to you.

I was experiencing exceptional circumstances when completing the work which is suspected of misconduct. Can this be taken into consideration?
The University does not consider exceptional circumstances to be a defence for academic misconduct. However, if the StAMP determines that misconduct has occurred and that a student was affected by exceptional circumstances when completing the piece of work, a lesser penalty may be imposed.

This is only possible if a student is able to provide compelling evidence that:

  1. They were experiencing severe personal circumstances which impacted their judgement, or
  2. They have a specific disability or other chronic condition which impacted their judgement or ability to comply with academic standards and, for no fault of their own, the disability or condition has not been mitigated through reasonable adjustment of the assessment (such as through an SSP).

You are welcome to contact the YUSU or GSA (for postgraduates) Advice Services for further information about exceptional circumstances and academic misconduct.

I’ve been sent a Turnitin report as evidence of suspected misconduct – what does it mean?
When work is submitted through Turnitin, Turnitin will compare the work with a database of other student’s papers, journals and sources available on the internet. If it detects a match between the work submitted and sources or other work in its database, it will highlight the match in a colour, and place a number above the matching text.

At the bottom of the Turnitin report, you’ll find a list of sources and student papers. Each paper will be highlighted in a colour, and will have a number next to it in the matching colour – these indicate the sources with which Turnitin has found a match throughout your work. The sources are listed in descending order, with those which your work has the highest similarity with listed first.

At the end of the Turnitin Report, you will also see a “Similarity index” – this tells you the percentage similarity Turnitin has detected between your work and the papers and sources in its database.

Have a look through your work and find the parts which are highlighted, and which have a match of 1% or higher with another source. Did you use this source when writing your work? Have you tried to paraphrase, or is it a direct quote? Have you directly quoted without using quotation marks? Have you included full reference information for each source (including secondary sources, where appropriate)?

If you haven’t used this source, have a think about how the similarity could have occurred. For example, are the words highlighted very commonly used in your field?

It is also helpful to check through the work for any examples where there may be extended text matches i.e. large parts of sentences or paragraphs. Even where the overall text match with a source may be relatively low, examples of exact or very close text matches like this may be deemed significant and require an explanation.

I’m a Social Work or Nursing student – will academic misconduct be referred to the Fitness to Practise procedure?
If, following investigation, the StAMP determine that a Nursing or Social Work student has committed academic misconduct, this may be referred to the Fitness to Practise proceedings.

If you are notified of this, you are strongly encouraged to contact YUSU’s Advice and Support Centre (for Undergraduates) at asc@yusu.org or the GSA Advice Service (for Postgraduates) at advice@yorkgsa.org.

I’ve been found to have committed academic misconduct and I want to appeal or complain. What do I do?

You can find information about the University’s appeal process on the University website here and the GSA website here.

What support is available to me from the Students’ Unions?

The YUSU Advice and Support Centre (for Undergraduates) and the GSA Advice Service (for Postgraduates) are here to help you. We provide independent, confidential and non-judgemental advice to students on a range of issues, including academic misconduct.

We are able to help you to understand the issues that have been identified with your work, to decide if you would rather submit a written statement or attend an interview regarding misconduct, and can advise you on the sort of information you may wish to include in your statement and the questions which might be asked by the academic misconduct panel. We are also happy to take a look at your statement for you.

If you do choose to attend an interview, we are usually able to accompany you to this, but we aren’t able to make representations for you, or speak on your behalf. We would be able to clarify terms you might not understand, as well as any procedural questions. We would also take notes of the meeting, and would be there to support you.

YUSU Advice and Support Centre (ASC)

YUSU Advice and Support website

email: asc@yusu.org

GSA advice service(for postgraduates) 

GSA website 

email: advice@yorkgsa.org

Links to further information
If you have further questions about academic misconduct or academic integrity, you may find the following links helpful:

The University’s academic misconduct policy
The University’s referencing guidance
You can find the University’s academic integrity tutorial in your VLE
The University webpage on academic integrity
This University webpage has Information about Turnitin, including how to use Turnitin
The University’s webpage on good academic practice
Guidance from the University on avoiding plagiarism and avoiding collusion
YUSU & The GSA’s guide to avoiding academic misconduct
The University’s Writing Centre offers writing support which you may find helpful – this includes 1:1 sessions, skills workshops, community groups and online resources.