Academic Misconduct

What is Academic Misconduct?

Academic misconduct, broadly speaking, is any action that gains, attempts to gain, or assists others in gaining or attempting to gain unfair academic advantage. It includes plagiarism, collusion, contract cheating, and fabrication of data as well as the possession of unauthorised materials during an examination.


Plagiarism is presenting someone else's work or ideas as your own, with or without their consent, by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgement. Plagiarism can be done either intentionally, or unintentionally, by not citing and referencing your work properly. It is very important to familiarise yourself with the Harvard referencing style used by UCA, as if you are not correctly referencing your assignments, you could unintentionally commit plagiarism.

Essay Mills

Essay mills, or “essay factories”, are businesses that offer a service to write an essay or term paper for students for a fee. These are not your basic proofreading or editing services, but businesses where essays are written for you. Essay mills are illegal - it is a criminal offence to provide or arrange essay mill services for students. They may say that it is a legitimate service, however, it is highly common for students who use essay mills to get caught out and accused of academic misconduct. Using an essay mill is committing academic fraud, so it is very important to avoid these services at any cost and make sure that all work you submit is produced by you.


Collusion is when there is unauthorised cooperation between a student and another person in the preparation and production of work which is presented as the student's own. This is a serious offence, and you could be accused of collusion if:

  • During work for an individual assignment, you work on it with one or more students and the work you hand in is almost identical.
  • During work for an individual assignment, you work together with one or more students to plan, prep and discuss the structure of the assignment. Even if you complete your assessment independently, this joint prep work could lead to your assessments being very similar and this could be considered collusion.
While it is helpful to have a discussion about work with your peers, it is important to be careful and vigilant about how much you wish to work together. Even if you do not mean to commit collusion, you can be accused of it if your assignment is extremely similar to one of your peers.

What happens if I am accused of academic misconduct?

If you are accused of academic misconduct, you will receive an email from the academic misconduct team which outlines how many points you have obtained, what your penalty is and the option of whether to appeal the penalty or accept it. You will have a 10 day deadline to get back to the academic misconduct team, so it is important to keep on top of your mailbox and make sure you reply in a timely manner.

You can contact our Advice and Wellbeing Coordintor to help you through the academic misconduct process on

The points system and penalties for academic misconduct.

Penalties for academic misconduct are worked out on a points system, and the amount of points you have received determines what your penalty will be. The number of points you receive will vary depending on your Turnitin similarity percentage and how many offences you have committed in the past. The number of points received will be calculated by looking at the extent of this offence combined with any offences committed in the past, and coming up with a total points number from that. See below for a table which outlines the penalty for the number of points received.

Points Penalty
50 - 100 A formal warning, which will be logged on the student’s file and the offence will be taken into account when determining the sanction for any subsequent offence.
The plagiarised elements of the work will be disregarded and the work marked on the basis of what remains. (This sanction will be applied by default for all following penalty bands.)
125 - 175 Assessment component awarded 0 - reassessment permitted with no penalty on mark.
200 - 225 Assessment component awarded 0 - reassessment permitted, but component mark capped at 40.
250 - 300 Unit awarded 0- reassessment of unit permitted, but unit mark capped at 40.
325 - 350 All units in this stage awarded 0- reassessment of units permitted with no penalty marks. Unit to be reassessed in it's entirety, this will take place at the next avaliable opportunity, i.e when the unit is next run (normally in the next academic year) and according to pro-rata fees charged.
400 Unit awarded 0 – reassessment not permitted. Credits already achieved retained and exit award issued where applicable.
500 Enrolment terminated and all credits already achieved rescinded.

Appealing academic misconduct allegations

If you are accused of academic misconduct, you will be given the choice of three options from the academic misconduct team. The three options are:

  1. Admit the allegation and accept the penalty (in this case the penalty will be applied without further right of appeal).
  2. Admit the allegation, but not accept the penalty;
  3. Deny the allegation.

Option 1 is worth choosing if you are willing and happy to admit the allegation, and you are happy to accept the penalty. The process will then end there and you will receive your penalty, whether that is a resit or a formal warning.

Option 2 and 3 are the ones you need to choose if you wish to appeal the allegation and have your penalty changed or lowered. Whether you choose option 2 or 3 is completely up to you, and it is important to be honest and maintain integrity when deciding your option.

When choosing option 2 or 3, you must put together a written appeal which explains why you wish to have your penalty lowered, explaining what may have happened, and it is important to attach evidence to this. The evidence may be proof that your work is your own, or proof of something else which you want to reference in your appeal.

Your written appeal will then be sent to the head of school for their review. From here, the head of school may accept the appeal and lower the penalty, or not accept it. If they do not accept it, you can either accept your penalty, or you will be given the opportunity to appeal the head of school’s decision. If you decide to appeal the head of school’s decision, you will be invited to sit in front of an academic integrity board of staff members so you can talk through in your own words exactly what happened and why you should have your penalty lowered. The panel will come to a decision on whether to accept your appeal or not and from here, you will have no further chances to appeal the allegations.