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Academic malpractice

This page contains links to University guidance documents, including information for staff on dealing with suspected cases of plagiarism. It also provides links to other useful internal and external information, including School training modules for students on good academic practice and avoidance of plagiarism.

Guidance and resources

The following University documents offer guidance on or, are relevant to, academic malpractice: 

The central Division of Teaching, Learning and Student Development has a web page on Academic Malpractice and Plagiarism which contains links to the main University guidance documents on these issues as well as links to other useful internal and external information, including School/Department training modules for students on good academic practice and avoidance of plagiarism.  A Contract Cheating Toolkit is also available.

The University of Manchester Library has a resource called Original thinking allowed: Avoiding plagiarism and a Referencing Guide.

The Library also has an on-line skills programme called My Learning Essentials which has a number of resources, including some on writing skills which includes an on-line resource exploring the principles behind referencing, highlighting why it is good academic practice, outlining when and how students need to reference, and how to read a reference when following up a source listed on a reading list or bibliography.

Turnitin has produced guidance on interpreting similarity reports which may be useful to FSE colleagues.

The Students' Union has produced a video for students about academic malpractice.

The University follows, for the most part, the OIA's Good Practice Framework. You can read the OIA's guidance on academic disciplinary procedures on its website here.

Detecting cases

Dealing with a case of suspected academic malpractice by an undergraduate or postgraduate taught student always starts at the local (School) level, and may be referred to Faculty and/or University level depending on the apparent severity of the offence(s).

In cases of suspected academic malpractice, examiners of assignments should do the following:

  • Acquire the original source material (where possible) and indicate sections of the material taken by the student, cross-referencing to the material’s location in the student’s work. (Contact if you would like to see an example of cross-referenced source material.)
  • Produce a brief statement, explaining why they consider there to be malpractice in the student’s work.
  • Continue to mark the work where possible as if the work does not contain academic malpractice. (Any mark should be withheld from the student pending any potential disciplinary action.) It is acknowledged that marking can prove difficult in some cases especially when there is substantial academic malpractice. If examiners feel unable to mark the work then they should indicate the reasons why in their statement.

Send the above information to the relevant School Officer for assessment (see below).

Assessing cases

The School Officer will usually be an Authorised University Officer (“AUO”) as defined in Regulation XVII (section 7), or a nominee thereof. AUOs are University staff (e.g. Heads of School) who have the authority to investigate and take disciplinary action against students. This includes delegated nominees of the AUO, which may include the School Officer.

AUOs (or their delegated nominees) are empowered to arrange and take part in Summary Disciplinary Panels to consider allegations of misconduct made against students. For breaches of the Regulation occurring as part of an activity forming part of a student’s programme of study (i.e. academic malpractice/misconduct) the AUO would be a Head of School or Dean of the Faculty, or delegated nominee(s).

The AUO will decide whether there is poor academic practice in the work or potential academic malpractice. In the case of the former, the piece of work will be referred back to the examiner in question, with appropriate advice as to how to proceed. In such instances it is essential that the student is given appropriate feedback and guidance. (See Academic Malpractice Procedure section 3.2, ‘Poor academic practice’.)

In the case of the latter, the AUO should arrange for disciplinary action to be taken.

Academic AUOs

This is the current list of academic AUOs in the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

School of Natural Sciences

  • Andrew Horn (General - any concerns/questions or difficult cases to assess)
  • Richard Battye (Physics and Astronomy)
  • Mark Coleman (Maths)
  • Hugh Gong (Materials)
  • Dave Johnson (Earth & Environmental Sciences)
  • Nathan Owston (Chemistry)

School of Engineering

  • Tim Jones (General - any concerns/questions or difficult cases to assess)
  • Peter N Green (EEE)
  • M. Ahmad Syed (MACE)
  • Tingting Mu (Computer Science)
  • Andrew Masters (CEAS)

Foundation Studies

  • Jonathan Sly

Case handling

If it is judged that academic malpractice may have occurred, the case should be handled as per the table on page 8 of the Academic Malpractice Procedure.

In determining whether an instance constitutes a repeat (subsequent) offence, penalties applied in a previous programme of study/award shall not be included. Repeat offences are those which take place in work contributing to a single award (i.e. a penalty for academic malpractice applied during the course of a BA programme does not constitute a previous offence in the case of the same student who is currently studying for a MA).

The Faculty Appeals, Complaints, and Discipline Coordinator (Kathy Morgan) should be informed of all cases referred directly to University level or to the Research Governance and Integrity Manager. Particularly serious cases involving students at any level of study may be referred directly to the University level following consultation with the Faculty (see Academic Malpractice Procedure section 5.4).

Summary Disciplinary Panels (School level)

Cases should be handled as per the Procedure for Summary Disciplinary Panels sections 3 and 4.

Please note, in the Faculty of Science and Engineering the constitution of a School Summary Disciplinary Panel will be as for Faculty Panels, i.e.:

  • Panel Chair - An academic member of staff acting on behalf of the Vice-President and Dean of the Faculty (AUO from another discipline area).
  • One academic member of staff from the discipline area who has not been involved with any allegation of malpractice against the student.
  • One PS member of staff to act as the third full panel member (non-academic AUO).
  • plus a note-taker, who is not a full panel member

Referring cases to the Faculty

When referring cases to the Faculty please make sure you include the following:

  • ‌‌Student Discipline Referral Form
  • Marked up copy of the assignment showing the alleged academic malpractice (underlined, or highlighted in such a way that it is visible in black and white)
  • Major original source material marked up (underlined, or highlighted in such a way that it is visible in black and white) and cross-referenced to the assignment
  • Copy of the Turnitin originality report (if available)
  • Copy of the letter sent to the student informing them of the referral to the Faculty
  • Copy of any previous outcome letter if a second allegation/offence
  • Profile of marks

Turnitin allows the comparison of the work submitted for assessment with other pieces of work or publications stored on its database. The software detects whether there is any similarity in the work to the other sources and produces a report showing where the similarity exists, the amount of similarity, and a reference to the source.

Turnitin alone does not confirm the presence of malpractice; an academic judgement must be made to reach this conclusion.

Please submit your referrals to:

Summary Disciplinary Panels (Faculty level)

Where it is decided by the AUO that the allegation(s) of less-serious misconduct should be referred for further consideration by a Summary Disciplinary Panel (SDP), a panel hearing will normally be arranged within 20 working days of the referral being made and convene within 30 working days. Pending a SDP being convened a student can be informed that a case of suspected misconduct is being referred to the SDP.

The Faculty malpractice panel is made up of:

  • Panel Chair - An academic member of staff acting on behalf of the Vice-President and Dean of the Faculty.
  • One academic member of staff from within the Faculty who has not been involved previously with any allegations of malpractice against the student, including the current allegation.
  • One senior PS member of staff to act as the third Panel member, in line with the Procedure.
  • Optional: an administrative officer who attends the Panel hearings to record the outcome (though this may be done by the PS Panel member).

In order to help the Panel decide on the most suitable penalty, and the impact potential penalties may have on the student’s progression, the School/Department will be asked to complete a penalty pro-forma prior to the hearing. This is included with the referral form.

The SDP has power to require the attendance of a further academic member of staff if it has reason to believe such member is best placed to present an allegation (a Case Presenter). The Case Presenter does not attend as a member of the Panel and will not be involved in deciding whether malpractice has occurred, or in choosing an appropriate penalty.

If a Case Presenter is in attendance the allegation will first be outlined by them. If a Case Presenter is not in attendance, the SDP Chair will draw attention to the information that forms the allegation against the student (detailed in the discipline referral form). See Procedure for Summary Disciplinary Panels section 4.

A number of academic staff are appointed to act as the Chairs of Faculty-level Academic Malpractice Panels, and are inducted prior to acting in this capacity.

Actions to be taken following a Panel decision

A copy of the letter should be placed on the student’s file. The relevant School officer or administrator should ensure that the letter [P] is added to the student’s mark on the mark grids available to the School Examinations Board for the course unit concerned. This suffix will not be seen by the School Examinations Board unless a query arises as a result of a mark apparently out of line with others. The suffix shall not be shown on the official transcript for the student concerned.

If there is any confusion between the intentions of the (Academic Malpractice) Panel regarding the outcome or penalty, and the interpretation of this by the relevant School (Examination) Boards, or if it is not clear how the outcome can be realised within the School, the Faculty Officer/Coordinator who attended the hearing should be informed immediately.

Schools should maintain a record of the number and nature of cases dealt with at School level, including the level of penalty imposed, and will be required to report periodically on such cases as requested.

The Faculty maintains a record of the number and nature of cases dealt with. This information is included in a report for Senate prepared annually by the Division of Teaching, Learning and Student Development.

University Disciplinary Panel (UDP)

When referring a case to University level, a Student Discipline Referral Form should be completed and submitted together with all the relevant documents it specifies to the Head of Campus Life (HoCL).

If the HoCL considers it appropriate, they will arrange for a meeting of the UDP for the purpose of considering the alleged breach of the Regulation. The HoCL will normally arrange a meeting of the UDP within 20 working days of the referral being made and for it to convene within 30 working days of the referral being made. Pending a UDP being convened, a student can be informed that a case of suspected misconduct is being referred to the UDP.

The Secretary to the UDP will inform the Faculty and the School of the outcome of the hearing. In the case of a finding against the student, the letter [P] should be added to the student’s mark recorded on the mark grids available to the officer or administrator servicing the School Examinations Board for the course unit concerned.

The Student Services Centre maintains a record of the number and nature of cases dealt with by UDP, including the level of penalty imposed.

Allegations made after graduation

The University of Manchester has the power under Statute XX.7 to revoke a degree. The document below sets out the procedure for considering allegations of academic malpractice concerning work submitted for an award of the University in respect of a taught programme.

This page updated by Kathy Morgan on 28/09/2021.