Some statistics The OIA Scheme
Complaints about plagiarism & disciplinary offences • Over 100 cases since April 2004 • About one third involve plagiarism
The plagiarism case • Student was withdrawn from course after being accused of plagiarism • He alleged it was scientific collaboration and he had misunderstood the permitted amount • He alleged the penalty was too harsh
Plagiarism decision • Students had been specifically warned against plagiarism but he had not read the Handbook • Student had not raised queries with his professor • There was no evidence of collaboration • The penalty was within the university’s guidelines • Complaint not justified
OIA & Plagiarism • Impact of plagiarism and determination are issues of academic judgment • Has the university applied its regulations and followed its procedures? • Is the decision by the university reasonable in all the circumstances?
What is academic judgement? “A decision about scholarship that only a suitably experienced academic can make” So decisions about whether plagiarism has occurred and the assessment of plagiarised work are matters of academic judgement But the OIA will look at questions about fairness and procedural irregularity
Academic offences • OIA will look at complaints about the university’s academic offences procedures • Have they been followed properly, no material breaches? • The more severe the punishment, the more closely the procedures will be checked • Have they been applied fairly, not arbitrarily? • Do procedures comply with natural justice, human rights and general consideration of equity?
The forgery case • Student is achieving well in the third year of his medical course • The university discovers that he entered with a forged degree certificate showing better results than in truth he had achieved • Following procedures, he is expelled immediately • He claims mitigating circumstances, that the forgery was by his mother
Forgery decision • The procedures were properly followed • The offence was serious enough to merit instant expulsion • Another student with better marks might have taken the place; honesty is paramount for doctors • The mitigating circumstances were rightly judged by the university to make no difference
Fairness and penalties • Provision for mitigating circumstances • Inconsistent application of penalties • Reasons must be given by the university • There must be provision for an appeal
Mitigating circumstances • OIA unlikely to interfere if they have been properly considered • Special care needs to be taken over disability, mental health, misrepresentation by university official, failure to explain plagiarism to students, foreign students’ cultural issues • Bereavement, health, stress, financial problems, computer failure very common!
Mitigating circumstances Are any mitigating circumstances acceptable in deciding (a) whether the student has committed the offence (b) the penalty? • Poor health? • Mental health? • Death of a relative? • Computer mishaps? • Financial difficulties? • Time pressures? • Cultural issues?
Procedural issues • Natural justice – no bias, charge to be known, both sides to be heard • Bias is not prejudice, it is objective • No financial conflicts • No interested parties with previous involvement • Parity of representation • Panel’s legal advice available to both sides
Principles of fairness • University must give adequate notice of allegation • Adequate hearing of both sides • Appeal body must be and appear to be unbiased • Procedures should not be unreasonably delayed • Reasons for the decision necessary
Was the university’s decision fair? • Did the disciplinary panel consider the appropriate evidence? • What burden of proof is applicable? • Did the university observe natural justice? • Were the grounds of appeal reasonable? • Did the university properly consider mitigating circumstances? • Was the penalty proportionate to the offence? • Was the penalty consistent with other cases?
Relevance of other factors? • Extent of plagiarism? • Student “lulled to sleep” by inaction of university • Poor academic practices, such as failure to explain what plagiarism is and/or the consequences • First year or final year? • First offence? • Deliberate, reckless, negligent or innocent? • Consequences of punishment?
OIA remedies • Reconsider the complaint • Hold a new hearing • Change the penalty • Offer an apology • Expunge charge from the record • Allow resubmission • Pay compensation • Reform university procedures
Learning from complaints about disciplinary matters Monitor – should have a reliable system of tracking complaints, including time taken for each stage and equal opportunities info. (QAA) Review and evaluate – effectiveness of procedures, adequacy of guidance & support, training of staff, deal with common causes (QAA) Report regularly to governing body about complaints (QAA) Seek feedback from students (BS ISO) Publish information about complaints(OIA)
New issues • Are we looking after our overseas students? • Language difficulties and cultural background • Relevance of mitigating circumstances and their proof • Previous similar cases