Here we've demystified what 'Collusion' is, and rounded up some handy tips to avoid it.
I get it. We’re all a little bit stressed at the mo – to be honest, ‘little’ is probably a massive understatement, we’re a big bit stressed at the mo - and the last thing you need is me harping on about AcaDemIc MiSCondUct – and more specifically, collusion. I think this is one of those topics where people know what it is in practice, like if I gave you context you’d probably say “oh yeah that’s not great”, but maybe don’t know the word ‘collusion’ itself. This is going to be a whistle-stop tour, and by no means is this an exhaustive consolidation of content, so if you want to know more I’ll link some useful stuff at the bottom.
Collusion? More like Confusion.
Whistle-stop tour station 1 - let’s demystify it. Okay so, at a foundation level, there are certain academic standards expected of all students (read more here). In brief, collusion is a form of Academic Misconduct where someone else contributes in some way to an independent piece of work that you, as an individual, have submitted - and from this you gain an unfair advantage. There’s a really fine line here, especially given literally everything is online this year, with most of us not having been in a uni building since last March. Those casual conversations you would have had in the corridors have now moved to texts, group chats, and documents – which opens a door for collusion. Honestly, it’s a hard concept to grasp – especially after the year we’ve had, where everything (not least uni work) has felt so difficult, and asking a question in a group chat, that you would have normally asked over coffee or in the library, could now become quite problematic. This is obviously different to group work and projects where you have been explicitly encouraged to work with others. “We should be sure to proof read work” I hear you cry. Like I said, hard line to draw. Try not to panic, tips coming soon.
The Technical Bits
Station 2. Something really important to highlight here is that academic misconduct can take place regardless of your intent, or lack of, to do so - a strict liability approach.
What’s more, the University don’t have to prove that collusion definitely occurred, but that it was more likely than not that you did – this is called the balance of probabilities.
Basically, these are some things you might want to think about to avoid the possibility of an allegation being raised about your intention to “collude”:
- Just literally b e i n g in an online chat - even if you don’t contribute.
- Starting exams at the same time as your friends or housemates could raise suspicions that you were working collaboratively.
- Answering questions at the exact same time or thereabouts.
- Sharing revision notes, or using someone else’s revision notes and ideas in your own work – what if they use them too? Even though you’re not working together as such, on the balance of probabilities an allegation of collusion could be upheld.
I know this seems like scary stuff, but I promise I’m not writing this to worry you – I’m here to help! I hope you’re keeping up.
All aboard for station 3.
5 Tips to Avoid Collusion
Station 3 – hopefully this helps just a little.
1. Get Familiar
Speak to your academic and personal tutors to get a really in-depth knowledge of what you can and can’t do according to your specific programme and assessments.
2. Be Cautious
If all else fails, be cautious. Just think about what you’re typing, saying or sending before you do it.
3. Don’t Rush
The worst thing you can do here is panic and accidentally breach standards of academic integrity. Plan well ahead, so that you’ve got enough time to do that extra bit of research if you need to. If you’ve got some personal stuff going on, start to panic, and your deadline is fast approaching – apply for extenuating circumstances. Better to have the extra time than not be happy with what you’ve submitted because of the circumstances you’re in.
4. The Techy Stuff
Some schools use Turnitin as a self-checking tool to help you identify the similarity of a document before submitting it. This will then tell you how much of your document is identical to other sources, and can be a good indication of whether you should maybe take a second look at those highlighted bits and check sources, footnotes, referencing etc.
NB: Most Schools use Turnitin as a standard to identify where your work matches others’ when it shouldn’t. Turnitin will still flag your work even if you change the odd word…
5. The Fine Line
Please tell me some of you got the Harry Styles reference. Anywhooooo…
We’ve all likely been told to talk to our peers about content and material in order to gain a better understanding – which honestly makes this whole thing even more confusing. This links back to my first tip, talk to your tutors to understand what is expected of you. It’s been a really hard year, and the last things you need now are to, firstly, not understand the material itself, and secondly be accused of Academic Misconduct for trying to understand it, but going about it in the wrong way. There are also tips on the Intranet for Study Skills, so definitely make use of those. Think about that group chat, or that text, or that conversation – assess the risk.
The take-away from all this should hopefully be caution. The last thing I want you to do is panic. Have a read of the advice pages below, and definitely contact Student Advice if you fancy some extra clarity.
Avoiding Academic Misconduct
Academic Misconduct Procedure
Sometimes your personal circumstances can influence your ability to focus on your studies, and we can’t deny how difficult this year has been, particularly for students. If you are struggling at the moment and this is preventing you from revising or finishing that coursework, you are not alone. If you think your mental health may be affecting your studying capacity, do check our Mental Health support page for some super helpful resources. Also, take a look at the Student Advice webpage; you might find that you are eligible for Extenuating Circumstances or reasonable adjustments for your upcoming assessments. There is loads of support available from the University should you need it. If you have any questions, or you want to know more about the support available, or how these policies and procedures could be applied to you, you can contact Student Advice using the contact details at the bottom of this page.
This blog has been written by Charlie Mallinson from the Student Advice Team in the Students’ Union. If you would like further help and support with the issues raised in this blog, or any aspect of your student experience, please get in touch using the following links:
Contact Student Advice
+44 (0)2920 781410