Student Academic Misconduct - Procedures

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Student Academic Misconduct - Procedures

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Approval authority
Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor
Responsible officer
Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor
Designated officer
Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students)
First approved
21 April 2016
Last amended
11 July 2016
Effective start date
12 July 2016
Review date
21 April 2021
Status
Active
Related documents
Administration of Central Examinations - Procedures
Information and Records Management - Procedures
Information Management Framework - Governing Policy
Student Academic Integrity - Governing Policy
Student Complaints and Appeals - Governing Policy
Related legislation / standards
Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2011

Definitions

Please refer to the University’s Glossary of Terms for policies and procedures.

1. Purpose of Procedures

1.1 These procedures relate to investigating any allegations of student academic misconduct in coursework, which is described in the Student Academic Integrity – Governing Policy, and should be read in conjunction with that policy.

1.2 In cases of research misconduct, refer to the University’s Research Misconduct – Governing Policy and Research Misconduct Allegations and Investigation – Procedures. These procedures do not apply to students undertaking a Higher Degree by Research (HDR), except for any coursework, e.g. research methods course.

1.3 For cases of inappropriate behaviour in workplace or industry placements where students are expected to meet professional standards or behaviours as set out in their assessment criteria or in the program outline, cases should first be considered as a matter of Academic Progress. Refer to the Monitoring Academic Progress and Exclusion – Academic Policy and related Procedures.

2. Detection of alleged student academic misconduct

2.1 When a member of staff or a fellow student has reason to suspect academic misconduct, that person must inform the relevant Course Coordinator as soon as practicable. The allegation can be made either verbally or in writing to the Course Coordinator and any supporting evidence must be provided at that time.

2.2 In the case of suspected student academic misconduct in an examination the incident must be reported immediately to the invigilator or the Course Coordinator. Refer to section 8 regarding alleged misconduct in central examinations.

2.3 The University has available a range of tools, such as the SafeAssign text matching tool, as part of Blackboard Learning Management System, to assist in the identification of possible cases of plagiarism and collusion. Reports generated by software tools must be examined thoroughly in context, and the academic judgement of the teaching staff is relied upon to determine whether or not material is plagiarised.

3. Preliminary assessment of alleged misconduct

3.1 A Course Coordinator who receives a report or identifies alleged student academic misconduct, makes a preliminary assessment to determine if either:

(a) there is no case for the student to answer and the matter proceeds no further; or

(b) there is sufficient evidence that the matter should be investigated.

3.2 As part of the preliminary assessment, the Course Coordinator may:

(a) examine any documentation relating to the incident, including any report;

(b) check the information provided to students on the assessment item;

(c) analyse the assessment item; and

(d) contact the student or another person to clarify details of the incident.

3.3 The Course Coordinator should at this stage take care to avoid any pre-judgement of the student or the veracity of the allegation by not seeking access to any previous records or knowledge about previous allegations or findings of academic misconduct related to the student. Evidence of recidivism, if any exists, should be considered when determining penalties.

3.4 At this point the Course Coordinator may choose to contact the student by email advising that a concern has been raised and returning a copy of the student's assessment item, keeping the original (where applicable) for investigation.

3.5 If, following the preliminary assessment, the Course Coordinator determines that there is no case for the student to answer, no further action is taken. If the student concerned was contacted regarding the alleged academic misconduct the Course Coordinator immediately informs the student of this outcome. If the allegation was made by a member of the teaching team or another student the Course Coordinator advises them that the matter has been resolved.

3.6 Where the Course Coordinator determines that there is evidence to support an allegation of academic misconduct, the Course Coordinator completes the allegation section of the Student Academic Misconduct Details Form and provides a copy to the Head of School, who considers the circumstances of the allegation and identifies an appropriate member of academic staff to undertake the investigation (the Investigator).

4. Investigation

4.1 The investigation commences by the Investigator notifying the student of the allegation of student academic misconduct. During the investigation the Investigator should discuss the matter with their supervisor or Head of School. At their discretion, the Head of School may reassign responsibility for the investigation to another academic staff member or may assign another staff member to mentor or assist the Investigator.

4.2 Where the Investigator determines that the academic misconduct is likely to be Category 2; the Investigator should confer with the relevant Program Coordinator and/or Head of School, before completing the Student Academic Misconduct Details Form or notifying the student of the allegation of student academic misconduct.

4.3 The task of the Investigator is to prove or disprove, on the balance of probabilities, that some or all of the misconduct occurred, by gathering evidence. This may include oral evidence (recollections from witnesses, which should be documented), documentary evidence, and expert evidence (e.g. technical advice on data, text-matching reports, etc.). Investigators should be mindful of the principles of natural justice (procedural fairness) highlighted in section 8 of the Student Academic Integrity – Governing Policy.

4.4 Investigators must maintain an appropriate investigation file, which is a complete record of the investigation, documenting every step, including all discussions, phone calls, interviews, decisions and conclusions made during the course of the investigation. This file must be stored securely to maintain confidentiality. Refer to section 13. Recordkeeping.

5. Notification

5.1 When a notice regarding the allegation is sent to a student, it should be sent within 10 business days of the original allegation, using the specified templates associated with these procedures.

5.2 All notices to students are sent to their USC email address and clearly identify the details of the allegations of academic misconduct. For Category 2 allegations, notices are also posted to the student’s official address for correspondence.

5.3 The notice includes a copy of any documentary evidence related to the allegation of academic misconduct and links to the relevant university policies and procedures. This includes advice on the potential outcomes of a substantiated finding that academic misconduct has occurred, including potential consequences if, on further investigation, it is referred to a more senior decision maker.

5.4 The notice provides an opportunity for the student to attend an interview at a time identified, and advises the student that they may provide a written response (by email) to the allegation. The time set for an interview must be no more than 15 working days, from the date of the notice.

5.5 If there is no response to the notification, the Investigator makes one final reasonable attempt at contacting the student, by telephone or email. If there is still no response five working days after this attempt, or the student fails to arrive at the scheduled time and place, the Investigator makes a determination in the student’s absence.

6. Interview

6.1 Where the student participates in an interview, the purpose of the interview is to review the evidence available, allow the student the opportunity to respond to the allegation, discuss the matter with the student and allow the Investigator to determine whether misconduct has occurred and the appropriate response.

6.2 Category 1

The interview for a Category 1 case should focus on being a positive learning experience, giving the student a chance to discuss the reasons that misconduct occurs and approaches for prevention in the future. During the interview, the Investigator records their brief notes of the conversation on the Student Academic Misconduct Details Form. On conclusion of the interview this information is made available to the student.

6.3 Category 2

6.3.1 Students may have a support person accompany them to the interview, but are advised that this person must not be legally qualified or act as an advocate.

6.3.2 It is recommended that an appropriate member of staff attend the meeting as an independent observer.

6.3.3 During the interview, the Investigator or the staff member observing records their brief notes of the conversation on the Student Academic Misconduct Details Form. On conclusion of the interview this information is made available to the student.

7. Determination

7.1 If possible, the student is informed of the determination verbally at the conclusion of the interview and to follow in writing. The Investigator may seek such further information or advice as necessary before making the determination.

7.2 If the Investigator determines that there is no case for the student to answer, no further action is taken. The signed Student Academic Misconduct Details Form and all relevant records should be retained (refer to section 13. Recordkeeping). If the student concerned or any other parties were contacted during the investigation, they are advised that the matter has been resolved. A copy of the Student Academic Misconduct Details Form is provided to the Head of School for information.

7.3 Where the Investigator is satisfied that on the balance of probabilities there is sufficient evidence that some or all of the alleged student academic misconduct occurred, they must determine any educative process, remedial activities and/or penalties to apply. Where necessary, the Investigator confers with and seeks written approval of higher order penalties from the appropriate authority.

7.4 The Investigator notifies the student in writing of their determination. The determination notice is posted to the student's official address for correspondence, and a copy is sent to the student’s USC email address. The notice must:

  • give the student full details of the determination;
  • advise that the student may contact the Investigator to seek clarity about any remedial activities required as part of the determination; and
  • advise the student of the option to seek a review of the decision and/or to lodge an appeal via the Student Complaints and Appeals – Procedures.

7.5 In the case of a decision to impose higher order penalties for Category 2 academic misconduct, the notification to the student must wait until written approval is received from the appropriate authority, as per section 10 of the Student Academic Integrity – Governing Policy.

7.6 In all cases that are proven, the signed Student Academic Misconduct Details Form and all relevant records should be retained and summary data added to the Student Information System (refer to section 13. Recordkeeping). The Investigator ensures that the Head of School is provided with a copy of the Student Academic Misconduct Details Form for information.

8. Student academic misconduct in central examinations

8.1 In central examinations, it is generally an invigilator who detects cheating or an attempt to cheat.

8.2 The invigilator may permit the student to complete the examination, provided that further infringing conduct can be prevented or the unauthorised material is removed.

8.3 The invigilator completes a Student Academic Misconduct Details Form on the incident and provides it to the Director, Student Services and Engagement or nominee, immediately after the examination. Any unauthorised material which is confiscated should accompany the Student Academic Misconduct Details Form. Upon receipt of this Student Academic Misconduct Details Form, the Director, Student Services and Engagement or nominee, may, as appropriate, contact the Course Coordinator to confirm that unauthorised material is relevant to the course.

8.4 The Director, Student Services and Engagement or nominee, forwards the Student Academic Misconduct Details Form and any other pertinent information to the Head of School as soon as possible.

8.5 The Head of School investigates, following the same process as outlined above in sections 4-7 for a Category 2 offence.

9. Collusion involving a USC student who is not enrolled in the course where the misconduct occurred

9.1 When the allegation of academic misconduct involves a student who is not enrolled in the course in which the academic misconduct occurred, the Course Coordinator refers the allegation to their Head of School who investigates, following the same process as outlined above in sections 4-7.

9.2 If the case of academic misconduct is proven, on the balance of probabilities, the Investigator can impose a penalty if the student is currently enrolled in a program offered by their School. If the student is enrolled in a program offered by another School, the Investigator can make a recommendation to the relevant Head of School, who is then responsible for sending the Determination Notice to the student.

9.3 In such cases, the full range of penalties identified in the Student Academic Integrity – Governing Policy are unavailable as the student is not enrolled in the course in which the academic misconduct was identified. The only penalties available are (a) formal warning or reprimand; suspension or expulsion.

10. Collusion involving a person who is not a USC student

10.1 When the allegation of academic misconduct involves a person who is not enrolled in the University, the Course Coordinator refers the allegation to their Head of School who investigates, following the same process as outlined above in sections 4-7.

10.2 If the case of academic misconduct is proven, on the balance of probabilities, a report is provided to the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor. The Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor may seek appropriate legal advice to determine whether the person should be pursued through the criminal justice system.

11. Educational/remedial action

11.1 The educational/remedial actions required to be undertaken by the students should be relevant to their needs. The Course Coordinator or Investigator interviews the student to discuss the issues of academic integrity, academic misconduct and how the student can implement strategies to avoid future cases.

11.2 The Course Coordinator or Investigator may require the student to attend a session with an Academic Skills Adviser or to participate in a tutorial or online tutorial in Plagiarism and Referencing. Students may be required to show evidence of having undertaken the educational remedial action and be given the opportunity to have this action recorded as having been completed.

12. Implementation of penalties

12.1 The range of available penalties are set out in section 10.1 of the Student Academic Integrity – Governing Policy. For penalties (e)-(h), a copy of the Determination Notice should be sent to the Director, Student Services and Engagement.

12.2 Factors determining application of penalties

The Investigator determines a penalty for a particular student on the basis of the evidence, any extenuating circumstances and any record of past misconduct in the context of the following factors:

(a) whether the misconduct was a deliberate act of deception or cheating;

(b) whether the student is a relatively new and inexperienced higher education student;

(c) whether the student has a history of academic misconduct (refer to 13.6);

(d) the extent to which processes relating to education on student academic integrity had been implemented with respect to the student;

(e) any admissions by the particular student in relation to the misconduct;

(f) the nature and extent of the misconduct;

(g) where applicable, the nature and extent of the misconduct relative to the nature of the course concerned and its assessment requirements;

(h) the extent to which the misconduct, if undetected, would have resulted in an unfair advantage for that particular student;

(i) the extent to which the misconduct, if undetected, would have had potential to inflate another student’s assessment grade or otherwise result in another student gaining an unfair advantage;

(j) the extent to which the misconduct, if undetected, would have had potential to compromise the integrity of University’s assessment processes; and

(k) the extent to which the misconduct approximates an offence in the wider community that under law might lead to legal proceedings, e.g. theft, fraud, false representation.

12.3 Imposing a penalty of suspension or expulsion

12.3.1 If the determination is to impose a penalty of suspension or expulsion, the Executive Dean makes a request in writing to the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, including a copy of the Student Academic Misconduct Details Form accompanied by a rationale for the imposing of the proposed penalty and in the case of suspension, details of any remedial actions or conditions that would need to be completed prior to readmission.

12.3.2 Readmission following a period of suspension is not automatic. The student may apply for readmission to the program, providing evidence of completion of any required remedial actions.

12.3.3 Readmission to a program following expulsion is not permitted. Any future applications for admission to any program at the University by a student who has been expelled requires the approval of Council.

13. Recordkeeping

13.1 All relevant records of investigations, for cases both proven and not proven, are captured in an approved records management system. Each record (e.g. letter, email, form, text-matching report) must be added digitally to the official file, and where physical original records exist, the physical file securely stored.

13.2 As per information security set out in the Information and Records Management – Procedures, Student Academic Misconduct information and records are classified as ‘restricted’. This means the information is extremely sensitive and intended for use only by various named individuals.

13.3 The Executive Dean of each faculty nominates a limited number of staff to be responsible for managing academic misconduct records. Access to student academic misconduct files is authorised by the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor and provided by the relevant system administrator.

13.4 Nominated staff members populate the student academic misconduct summary data in the Student Information System.

13.5 The data collected in the Student Information System for annual reporting purposes includes:

  • student’s name and ID
  • student’s Program
  • form of misconduct (cheating, collusion, plagiarism, other)
  • category of misconduct (1 or 2)
  • course(s) in which the misconduct occurred (separate entry for each course)
  • Course Coordinator
  • brief description of the case
  • teaching period and year
  • the determination - the name of the Investigator and/or decision maker and date of the determination

13.6 Investigators who have made a determination under 7.3 that academic misconduct has occurred may seek details on any prior academic misconduct through a formal request to the faculty's nominated staff member, to decide on an appropriate penalty.

A Flowchart, staff guidelines, forms and templates are available on MyUSC (staff login required). https://my.usc.edu.au/student-success/supporting-student-learning/student-academic-integrity-and-academic-misconduct

END OF PROCEDURES

Schedule 1 - Types of academic misconduct

As per Section 6 of the Student Academic Integrity – Governing Policy, academic/research misconduct includes, but is not limited to:

(a) plagiarism, including using another’s expression or ideas without appropriate acknowledgement;

(b) collusion, including giving, swapping or providing for sale, one’ own work;

(c) cheating, including in examinations or by accessing restricted assessment materials;

(d) fraud, including falsification or fabrication of data or work; or in any other way participating in activities which are intended to give the student an unfair or dishonest advantage in their learning activities, assessment or research.

The following should not be considered an exhaustive list:

Type of misconduct Further details
plagiarism presenting the thoughts, words, phrases or works of another as one's own, by: copying or paraphrasing material from any source without due acknowledgment using another's expression or ideas without appropriate recognition or due acknowledgement (e.g. by failure to use an academic referencing system)
falsification or fabrication of data altering data, or creating spurious data, obtained from experiments, interviews, surveys, or similar activities
falsification and misrepresentation making changes to work submitted for assessment after that work has been assessed and then lodging a grievance or appeal with a claim that the work was incorrectly assessed
misrepresentation in group work that is presented for assessment, falsely representing the contribution made by an individual student or research collaborator to the work of the group;
accessing restricted assessment-related material acquiring, attempting to acquire, possessing, or distributing (either physically, electronically or orally) restricted assessment-related material or information, such as examination questions or an examination question paper, without the prior authorisation of the relevant Course Coordinator
self-plagiarism/ resubmitting previously assessed work Submitting assessment work that has been assessed previously and counted towards completion of another course
cheating taking unauthorised materials into an examination
cheating during an examination: communicating with other students undertaking the examination; reading or copying the answers of another student undertaking the same examination; failing to start or stop writing at the appropriate times, as directed by the examination supervisor or invigilator
academic fraud making arrangements for another person to falsely represent himself or herself as that particular student for the purpose of undertaking an assessment activity or producing work to be submitted for assessment
academic fraud and collusion impersonating another student in an examination or other assessment activity (e.g. undertaking an examination or a work placement for another student)
academic fraud participating in any other actions that are intended to give a student an unfair or dishonest advantage in learning activities and assessment, including but not limited to, purchasing, commissioning or exchanging assessment items
collusion jointly undertaking the whole or part of work that is to be presented for assessment in the knowledge that each student will claim that the work is wholly their own work
collusion encouraging and assisting a student in committing, or in attempting to commit, academic fraud, for example in any of the ways described in above, in particular: enabling the student to copy answers produced during an examination providing the student with a copy of work which was completed by another student on the same or a similar assessment task making available assessment items (for example essays, assignment answers, presentations) for use by others, whether for sale or otherwise
Non-compliance Failure to comply with legal requirements or University policies and procedures, e.g. breaching code on ethical treatment of animals, surveying people without approved ethics clearance, etc.
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