Academic Misconduct (Postgraduate Research Students)
Cardiff University have fundamental core values that they expect students to abide by in their academic work. These values are detailed in the University's Academic Integrity Policy and include integrity, honesty, openness, rigour, accountability, care, and respect.
As a student, you are expected to maintain high standards of academic practice and not to engage in academic misconduct. Academic Misconduct, in principle, is working in a way that means you obtain an unfair advantage, or a higher mark, that you would otherwise not secure.
For PGR students, the individual who identifies the concern may be a member of your supervisory team, a reviewer or an examiner, but it can also be an any other individual internal or external to the University. As such, concerns about academic misconduct can be raised at any stage during your studies, or following the award of your degree. The Academic Misconduct Procedure for PGR students varies depending on when these concerns occur. If you are being investigated for academic misconduct it is important that you read this information in full, so that you are aware what part of the procedure should be followed in your circumstances.
Balance of Probabilities
The decision as to whether academic misconduct has taken place, or not, is based on the balance of probabilities. This means that if the person deciding your case considers it more likely than not that academic misconduct has taken place, the allegation will be upheld.
Concerns Raised During your Programme
It may be possible for concerns about the academic integrity of your work to arise at any point during your programme. The individual who identifies these concerns will be required to submit a report, with supporting evidence, to your Director of Postgraduate Research. Similarly, if a concern is raised during an Annual Review, the Chair of your Review Panel will be asked to produce this report on behalf of all the Panel members.
From this report and evidence, the Director of Postgraduate Research (or their nominee) will decide on the appropriate course of action. You may become aware of concerns regarding your academic integrity as:
- You may receive a letter from the University stating that your work is being investigated under the Academic Misconduct Procedure;
- During an examination you may be notified by the Director of Postgraduate Research that the examination process is being suspended pending a review;
- During your viva, the chair may bring the viva to a close and no decision will be recorded. At this point you may be notified by the Chair that the examination process is being suspended pending investigation.
The options that are available to the Director of Postgraduate Research, depend on the stage of the programme in which the concerns have been raised.
For concerns raised during your studies prior to examination, the Director of Postgraduate Research may:
- To dismiss the concerns; or
- To take remedial follow up action; or
- To refer the concerns to the Head of School for a Stage 2 formal investigation.
For concerns raised during any part of the examination process, the Director of Postgraduate Research may:
- To dismiss the concerns; or
- To refer the concerns to the Head of School for a Stage 2 formal investigation.
Dismissal of Allegations
Following a report to the appropriate authority, if an allegation of academic misconduct is dismissed, no documentation relating to the allegation will be retained on your student record. Furthermore:
- Any suspended examination will continue and your thesis may be examined in the usual way.
- You may be required to attend a continuation of the viva, unless the Examiners strongly believe that a decision can be reached on your previous performance.
Remedial Follow up Action
Following concerns raised about academic misconduct prior to the examination process, if the Director of Postgraduate Research feels that the concerns are well-founded, but the gravity of the concern is not enough to refer the case to Stage 2, they may instead suggest that alternative remedial actions are taken. This could include, but is not limited to:
- Being required to attend further training;
- Being required to revise the written piece of work or research method
- The implementation of the Unsatisfactory Progress or Engagement Police and Procedure (Research Students).
Stage 2: Formal Investigation
If the case is referred for investigation, an investigating officer will be appointed by your Head of School to consider the allegation of academic misconduct. They will meet with you, and the other relevant parties to understand the facts of the case.
If you are invited to an investigation meeting, don't panic and don't respond in a hurry. It is really important to prepare and make sure you fully understand the concern before you say anything.
You should be given at least 14 days’ notice of the meeting, and you should be asked to confirm your attendance within 7 days’ of receiving this invitation. Additionally, you should be given a copy of the written allegation and all the available evidence at least 7 days before the meeting.
If you are unable to attend the meeting in person, the academic regulations state that you may request to have the meeting via telephone or other electronic means. We strongly advise you to attend the investigation meeting if you are able to; if you do not, the meeting will go ahead without you.
Preparing for the Meeting
It is important that you prepare thoroughly for the meeting so you are able to respond to the allegations made against you. In Student Advice we refer to the OIA Best Practice Framework, which covers what an investigator and decision maker should consider (section 73 to 77).
You will need to explain what has happened from your point of view and we recommend reading the following in preparation:
In your preparation you will need to:
- Make sure that you fully understand both the University’s rules on Academic Integrity, Academic Misconduct and the referencing rules for your course.
- Look at the evidence that has been sent to you and try and work out what has happened.
- What was your intention when you wrote this piece of work? Did you intend to gain an unfair advantage? If not, what happened? The issue of intention is not relevant to the finding of Academic Misconduct (you can be found guilty of Academic Misconduct even if you had no intention) but it is relevant to the penalty imposed.
- Ask yourself if there are any mitigating factors that might have affected your judgment and obtain evidence. Section 77 in Part A of the OIA Good Practice Framework above covers possible points of mitigation. We advise to think about points such as if this is this your first assignment of this type, if you missed study skills training, if English is your second language, or anything else you can think of that may mitigate what happened.
- Did you have any Extenuating Circumstances at the time that may have affected your judgment? If so, be sure to include a full explanation of what was happening and how it affected your judgment and work at the time.
- Consider the impact that some of the possible outcomes of the Academic Misconduct procedure could have on you. The OIA Good Practice Framework says that the University should consider any additional impact when deciding on a penalty.
- Write a list of all points you want to raise, so you can be sure you don’t miss anything.
- Think about if there is any evidence you can get to support what you say and try to get the best quality evidence possible. Good quality evidence is evidence that is independent and time specific, e.g. a doctor’s note that confirms you were unwell for the week of the assessment, or a letter from a Counsellor to say that you have been having ongoing sessions with them for anxiety that covered the period you submitted your work. Evidence should be in English or Welsh, signed, dated and on headed paper. It is a good idea to try and get it in advance of the meeting but, if this is not possible, you can explain what evidence you will get and submit it with your statement later.
- Make notes in the meeting of any points you feel you would like to expand on in your statement later, or any questions you were asked that you were not expecting. This will allow you time to think and cover anything you want to say in more detail in your statement.
Attending the Meeting
As above, the purpose of this meeting is to establish the facts relevant to the allegation. During the meeting the Academic Misconduct Coordinator will discuss the concerns with you. Your module leader, or the person who marked the work, may attend to explain the concerns about your work. A note taker may also be present. During this meeting it is important that you answer the questions you are asked as honestly as possible. Keep in mind the University's core principles of integrity, honesty, openness, rigour, accountability, care, and respect.
As advised in the preparation section above, we recommend that you cover the following points in the meeting, where applicable to your case:
- Reflection to show care and respect. You ideally look to show an understanding of why academic integrity is so important and why your work or conduct has caused concern;
- Apology to show accountability and respect. Even if your work has breached the Academic Integrity rules unintentionally;
- Intent. Did you intend to gain an unfair advantage? If not, what happened?
- Context. Explain how you produced the work. Show that you understand it and point out if and where you have attempted to reference. Note if you reached out for help from a staff member. If the case record does not accurately capture your explanation of how you went about your work, how you understand it and/or why you think there may be similarities, explain this as best you can in your statement.
- Benefit. If the allegation is upheld, how much advantage would you have gained from the academic misconduct?
- Mitigation. Is this your first assignment of this type? Did you miss, or were you not offered, study skills training? Is English your second language?
- Extenuating Circumstances. Was anything affecting you when you were writing the assignment/going into the exam?
- Impact. Explain if a penalty will have additional impact on you, such as delaying graduation, or if you will be withdrawn because this was your final attempt.
- Conclusion. What have you learned from this investigation? How are you going to prevent this from happening again? If you are denying the allegation, how important is honesty to you? How important is this course to you?
After the Meeting
Following the meeting, the Academic Misconduct Coordinator will complete a written record of the meeting for submission to the Head of School and will send this to you, normally by email. You have 7 days from receipt of this record in which to write to the Head of School, to either dispute the concern and/or add any comments you have about the content of the meeting record. This is your opportunity to say what you want to say to the Head, who will then make a decision on your case. We strongly advise that you:
- Take time to go through the case record and make comments on anything you feel is inaccurate or needs supplementing. The record is not supposed to be a verbatim record or minutes of the meeting but should cover all the main points raised. If it is so brief that it is not an accurate record of the meeting, e.g.. the meeting lasted 20 minutes but the case record is only a few sentences long, be sure to say this to the Head of School.
- Submit a clear statement of your case and respond fully to the record of the meeting. Your statement should cover all the points recommended above (reflection, apology, intent, context, benefit, mitigation, extenuating circumstances, impact, conclusion).
- Submit good quality evidence where appropriate and possible.
The Head of School, or their nominee, will then decide to:
- Dismiss the allegation; or
- Require remedial action; or
- Refer the case to Stage 3: Academic Integrity Panel.
You may challenge a decision to require remedial action under the University Review Procedure.
Stage 3: Academic Integrity Panel
If your case is referred to an Academic Integrity Panel, a Student Adviser can help you to prepare for the hearing. It is important to contact us as soon as possible if you would like us to do so.
The panel will be made up of 3 members of academic staff, all from outside of your School. One panel member will act as Chair and a member of Student Cases staff will oversee the hearing, to ensure that the panel follow procedure as they should. Your Head of School, or their nominee, will be invited to attend the meeting in order to discuss the allegation.
If your research studies are/were founded by a UK Research Council, the Research Council will be notified that an Academic Integrity Panel has been convened to consider alleged academic misconduct. A representative from this research council will be invited to attend the panel as an observer, but they will not be permitted to participate in the investigation.
At least 14 days before the date of the panel, the University will write to you with:
- information of the allegation;
- copies of any documentation to be considered by the panel, along with the details of any witnesses who will be called;
- the date, time, and venue of the panel meeting and ask if you would like the panel conducted through the medium of English or Welsh.
You must reply within 7 days and confirm if you plan to attend or not. If you do not reply within the expected time, do not attend the panel, and all reasonable efforts have been made to contact you, the panel may proceed in your absence.
You must also send any additional information you want to be considered and the names of witnesses you intend to call and/or the name of anyone who will accompany you. This includes an additional statement should you want to submit one.
Preparing for the panel is much the same as preparing for the initial investigation. One important difference is that the Academic Integrity panel are able to impose much harsher penalties and, if your case is referred to one, it is likely because the Chair feels that a harsher penalty is appropriate.
Whether or not you decide to submit a further statement depends on whether or not you want to change or add to anything you have already said. If, for example, you denied the allegation earlier but now want to admit it and apologise, it is important to submit another statement with an updated reflection and sincere apology.
Conduct of the Panel
The Academic Misconduct Procedure covers what happens and when. It dictates the following order:
- The Chair of the Examining Board/Academic Misconduct Investigator (or nominee) will present the concerns for the panel and bring witnesses, if appropriate.
- The panel and you (or your representative) may ask questions of the Chair, the Investigating Officer, and the witnesses.
- You will have the opportunity to give evidence and call witnesses.
- The panel members and the Investigating Officer will ask questions of you and any witnesses. If you are denying the allegation, be prepared to answer a lot of questions. If, for example, the allegation is plagiarism, the panel may ask you to go through every single highlighted part of the text and explain how and why that is a direct match to another source. If your answer is simply that it is a coincidence, is that coincidence believable?
- You will have a final opportunity to make any additional comments.
- The panel will then withdraw to consider all the evidence and make a decision about the case and any penalty that may be appropriate and proportionate.
- The panel will usually provide the decision to you on the day but, If this is not possible, the outcome will be sent to you in writing within 7 days.
The panel's role is to consider the available evidence and;
- Determine whether or not the allegation is substantiated;
- If the allegation is not substantiated, the panel will dismiss the concern;
- If the allegation is substantiated, determine the penalty that should be imposed, taking into account any mitigating factors. The sanction will be proportionate to the case being considered and will take into account any previous substantiated cases of academic misconduct.
If the allegation is substantiated, the sanctions available to the panel are:
- Require remedial action;
- Require you to provide a written apology to your supervisor or any other individuals affected by the misconduct;
- Permit you to amend your thesis and resubmit for a further examination within a specified period of time;
- Recommend to the Academic Registrar that you are excluded temporarily for a specified period;
- Recommend to the Academic Registrar that you are excluded permanently from the University.
If you are not happy with the outcome of the investigation, you can challenge the decision under the University Review Procedure.
Concerns Raised After the Award of Your Degree
If there are concerns raised about your academic integrity after your degree has been awarded, the identifier will be asked to submit a written statement, and supporting evidence, to the Chair of the Awards and Progress Committee.
In this case, the Director of Postgraduate Research or the Chair of the Academic Standards and Quality Committee will initiate a preliminary review of the reported concerns. This is Stage 1 of the academic misconduct process. From this review, they will determine whether it is appropriate for the case to be escalated to Stage 2, as above.
If it is decided that your case warrants a formal investigation, your thesis will be held with restricted availability in the University’s digital repository or library until the investigation has concluded. If the allegations are later dismissed, your thesis will be made available in the University’s digital repository or library, subject to any agreed period of embargo.
If a concern is raised about a group project
If the allegation relates to you and student(s) from other Academic School(s), an Investigating Officer will be appointed by the Heads of the Schools involved in the allegation if the case is escalated to formal investigation.
In the case that the allegations are referred to an Academic Integrity Panel, your case may be heard at the same time as the other parties involved, and by the same Panel. You can request that the case be heard separately, however any mitigating circumstances can be discussed individually, regardless of whether you are sitting the panel as an individual or a group.
Contact Student Advice
+44 (0)2920 781410