academic advice

Academic misconduct

The University defines academic misconduct as any type of cheating in an assessment. Academic misconduct can include offences such as plagiarism, collusion, ‘contract cheating’ or bringing prohibited materials into an exam, among others. Academic misconduct can be intentional, or unintentional.


Plagiarism is including someone else’s work in your assessment without proper acknowledgement of that work or person. Plagiarism can be intentional such as taking the ideas or words of another person and passing them off as your own without citing your source. It can also be unintentional, where students may forget to correctly cite their sources using the proper referencing format.

We have often had cases where a student copies and pastes text from another source, intending to return to it later and rewrite it into their own words but then forgets to do so. While unintentional, this is still academic misconduct.

Intentional or not, plagiarism is normally detected when your work is submitted via Turnitin. Turnitin analyses a database of submitted work from across the academic world as well as the internet and will detect matches that have not been correctly cited or acknowledged.

This means that by submitting work early and using Turnitin effectively you can ensure your work is properly cited before final submission.


It is also possible to plagiarise yourself by re-using work you have previously submitted to be marked without acknowledging it.

Whether or not this will be considered to be academic misconduct or simply poor academic practice will depend on whether you have cited your previous submission as well as how substantial the quotation is in length.


Collusion is normally defined as two or more students working together to complete coursework and submitting the result. It can also include two or more students arranging to cheat in an examination.

Allegations of collusion can also occur where work is shared in good faith or where work is stolen. You may find yourself accused of collusion if another student were to obtain your work and submit this without your permission. In many cases the match in similarity between the two pieces of work will be detected via Turnitin and both students will be investigated.

For this reason, we advise you to never share your work with another student, even if you are trying to help and have good intentions or trust the person you are sharing your work with. Collusion can happen unintentionally and not sharing your work eliminates the possibility of it taking place.

Contract cheating/buying essays/ Using AI in your work

This area typically involves the use of “essay mills” or “essay writing services” by students. These services write an essay on a student’s behalf for payment. They may also claim to be discrete and state that any such essay will avoid detection via Turnitin.

No matter how desperate you feel, there is always support available via the UEL Academic Tutors, your academic adviser or other academic staff. The use of essay mills or AI is a conscious choice and will be seen as a serious instance of gross dishonesty and such an allegation could have serious consequences for your studies.

If there is any suspicion that you may have purchased your essay, you are likely to be investigated via a “viva voce” meeting. To find out more, click on ‘I have been invited to a viva voce interview’ below.

Bringing prohibited materials into an exam room

This can include a wide range of items or materials. Prior to an examination, you will be told which items you are allowed to bring into the room. Any other items are prohibited. You can be accused of cheating or importation if you are found with:

  • Paper or notes
  • Writing on your hands, body, or clothing
  • Notes or paper stored in other locations on campus (such as the toilet)
  • Labels of drink bottles
  • Audio/visual devices or other prohibited electronic items (headphones, phones, recording devices, smartwatches etc.)
This list is not exhaustive. You could also be asked to remove hats or headwear or other loose items of clothing.



What can I do to avoid Academic Misconduct?

Everyone wants to do well at University and pass their course. For the best possible chance at academic success, we recommend following these simple rules: You should use Turnitin ahead of your submission to check your “originality index” and correct any areas where you have not referenced correctly.

You can also utilise the support of the UEL Academic Tutors and your academic adviser for more assistance. There are also many resources online to assist you with Harvard and APA referencing.

It can be tempting to help students on your course, but you should not share your work with anyone and be careful in group work assignments.

If you feel you are struggling with referencing, you can prepare a draft of your work and present this to your module leader or academic adviser to see if you have followed the correct referencing guidelines. It depends on the lecturer and how busy they are, but you can request further help if you really need it in such circumstances.


What should I do if I have been accused of academic misconduct?

If you have received notification from the University that they believe you have breached the Academic Misconduct regulations, you will need to participate in the Academic Misconduct process.

I have been invited to a meeting with my School

This means meeting with your lecturer and another member of School staff to discuss the allegation. This meeting can only give the lowest of penalties (a Level A penalty) and is intended to help you to avoid repeating your mistake and to help you improve your practice in the future.

The meeting is intended to help you to understand what the problem is and how to avoid it in the future, and it is likely you will be informed of further areas of support such as the academic tutors for English and Maths or your academic adviser.

This meeting does not aim to impose severe penalties or punish you, but simply to try and support you to avoid further breaches.

You should attend this meeting, as if you do not attend a penalty can be applied in your absence. If you cannot attend due to other commitments, you must inform the University in advance. Do not miss this meeting while waiting for an appointment with a Students’ Union adviser. We can provide advice via email if there are no appointments available prior to your meeting.

I have been invited to a meeting with the Academic Misconduct Officer

This meeting will usually take place if you did not accept a Level A penalty at a School Meeting, or if the offence occurred in an exam or for any other serious offence attracting a high penalty (Level B and above).

The meeting is arranged to discuss the allegations and whether you accept the allegation or not. Any available evidence will also be provided to you. You will have every opportunity to talk about your side of the case. You may feel as if the allegation is not fair and you have grounds to challenge the allegation.
If this is case you may bring evidence (such as drafts, notes or other material) to show that you did not breach the regulations.

The Academic Misconduct Officer will also discuss with you what your options are. Generally, the three options available to you will be:

  • To accept the penalty. This means you accept the allegation made against you is correct and the penalty that is being suggested is appropriate.
  • To accept the allegation but reject the penalty. This means you accept the allegation but feel that the penalty being applied is too harsh for what took place.
  • To reject the allegation. This means you do not accept what is being alleged against you and you wish to challenge it.

If you accept the penalty, they will notify your School and the penalty will be applied.

If you decide to reject the allegation, they will explain the process for rejecting the penalty and you will be asked to draft an Evidence Based Proposal within 10 days from the date of deadline. Please read our guide on writing an Evidence Based Proposal. We would highly recommend that you speak to a Students’ Union adviser if you have not already.


I have been invited to a ‘viva voce’ interview

This usually forms part of the University’s investigation process when they have reason to believe that the work you produced is not entirely your own, but the assessor has not been able to identify an alternative source for the work.

Often this would happen in the case of collusion, however we have seen cases where this procedure is used when there is a suspicion that the student has had another person write their assignment for them or used AI technology.

You will be told by the module leader or subject tutor that they believe the work you have provided may not be written by you. A viva is held for you to prove that this work belongs to you and has been written by you. You will be given the opportunity to explain and go through your work. The panel will ask you about your work, sources, ideas and theories, including explaining terms and sentences. Some students may be asked to write a paragraph from their essay in the meeting.

You could bring any evidence with you to the meetings if you feel that will help prove that the work was written by you.



What penalty might I be given?

The level of penalty you are given depends on the severity of the academic misconduct, with higher penalties given for intentional conduct, and lower penalties awarded for accidental conduct that often constitutes poor academic practice.