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Student Guidance on the Implementation of Academic Integrity Regulations

1. Introduction 

All members of the University’s community have a responsibility to be alert to the potential for academic misconduct, to adopt and promote good academic practice and to safeguard the integrity of the University’s degrees and other awards. This includes students.  

This guidance sets out how St Mary’s University will identify and deal with potential infringements of its regulations on Academic Integrity. It should be read in conjunction with the Regulations on Academic Integrity (see sections 29-30 of the Academic Regulations).

2. What has changed?

During 2020/21 the Regulations and accompanying processes associated with Academic Misconduct were reviewed by a cross-University Review Group which included strong student representation. The review had six objectives: 

  1. To enhance and update the regulations relating to academic misconduct.
  2. To produce a set guidance that accompany the regulations.
  3. To improve the guidance & training available to students on academic integrity.
  4. To improve the guidance and training available to academic staff on academic integrity.
  5. To put in place measures that effectively combat contract cheating.
  6. To ensure that SMU’s regulations and procedures are aligned with QAA guidance on Academic Integrity (June 2020). 

A number of changes resulted from the review which are summarised below:  

2.1 Leadership of Academic Integrity

  • The Dean of L&T to be SMU institutional lead on Academic Integrity, with a responsibility to monitor the impact of the revised regulations and procedures.
  • The University will appoint Academic Integrity Leads (AILs) in each department (max of 16), with bespoke training provided for them.

2.2 Changes to regulations 

The regulations now include sections on: 

  • Clear explanation of the purpose of the regulations. 
  • Clearer definitions of different types of academic misconduct. 
  • New sections on whistleblowing, post-graduation rescinding of degrees, contract cheating, multiple referrals, second findings and implications for PSRBs. 
  • Revised penalty tariffs, including division into ‘low’, ‘medium’ and ‘high’ level breaches, with penalties that are aligned with the severity of the breach/infringement. 

2.3 Enhancement to processes

  • Introduction of a two-tier system for dealing with academic misconduct breaches depending on severity (see Appendix 2 and Appendix 3 for flow charts of stages in the processes).
  • Formalisation of a ‘poor academic practice’ process to deal with low severity infringements (see Appendix 4 for details).
  • Enhanced use of viva voce examinations (oral presentations) for checking authorship of submitted work. Each programme will in future include at least one oral formative or summative presentation assessment in each stage/year of study.
  • Introduction of Turnitin ‘Authorship’ tool1 as an additional investigative tool at St Mary’s. 
  • Programmes will be required to explain how issues related to academic integrity are addressed within their programmes during programme validation/re-validation.
  • External Examiners will be given the opportunity to feedback to and advise programme teams on adjustments to assessments that could help to safeguard the integrity of assessments and help to ‘design-out’ opportunities for plagiarism/collusion etc.  

2.4 Improved training for staff

  • St Mary’s has subscribed to a new suite of staff-facing online Academic Integrity training modules designed by Epigeum. Completion of these will be mandatory for all new academic staff during 2021/22, and completion of modules 3-5 especially by more experienced staff will be strongly encouraged by line managers
  • Enhanced in-house training and guidance will be provided to all academic staff. 

2.5 Improved training for students

  • Slides on Academic Integrity will be made available to all programme teams to share with students. 
  • Links to Academic Integrity Regulations and student support materials will be flagged in all Moodle sites and course handbooks. 
  • Each programme to facilitate student self-checking via Turnitin prior to submission for at least one submission in each stage/level of study. 
  • St Mary’s has subscribed to a new suite of student-facing online Academic Integrity training modules designed by Epigeum. Completion of these will be mandatory for all students during 2021/22. 
  • Workshops on academic integrity will be incorporated in all courses prior to first assessment hand in deadline. 
  • New resources on proof reading will be available to students.  
  • The University will pilot an ‘Academic Integrity Awareness Week’ in Oct 2021. 
  • All students who have findings of academic misconduct will be required to complete/repeat training to avoid subsequent repeat infringements.  

2.6 Improved training for panel members

  • Enhanced in-house training and guidance will be provided to all academic staff who sit on university panels.  

2.7 Improved record keeping

  • Data on academic misconduct cases will be more regularly and more transparently reported via normal committees (e.g. QAEC, ADC, Academic Board + Exam Boards). Information/data on cases of infringements/findings will also be considered in Programme Boards, along with actions to be taken to minimise future cases. 
  • The annual programme review process will require programmes to review the occurrence and outcome of academic integrity cases.  

2.8 A focus on contract cheating

  • New measures have been put in place to combat contract cheating services e.g. blocking access to the 20 most used contract cheating websites in the UK from St Mary’s Wifi network and from University work stations and halls of residence etc.
  • IT services will provide ‘counter messages’ to students advising them to ignore any adverts associated with Essay Mills/Contract cheating sites - ‘counter-messaging’ to focus on how/where students can access information, guidance, and support.
  • IT services have introduced enhanced security measures to prevent contract cheating sites and other malicious companies accessing university systems.
  • All staff to be vigilant re advertising methods like posters, flyers and social media used by contract cheating sites, and to report them to Security Team immediately.  

2.9 Subscription to QAA Charter on Academic Integrity

  • The University became a signatory to a new QAA Charter on Academic Integrity. The changes set out above ensure that St Mary’s regulations and approaches to combatting academic misconduct are aligned with the Charter. 

If you have any queries on any of the above, please feel free to contact the Academic Misconduct Team at academic.misconduct@stmarys.ac.uk.


3. Appendices

Appendix 2 - Flowchart for Two-Tier Route

      A non-digitally accessible version of this is available in Flowchart format here.

Appendix 3 - Flowchart for University Panel Route

  • Academic and AIL consider whether there is a case to answer
  • Academic completes a referral  form setting out concerns about the  work , and notifies student of their concerns
  • Registry ensure that all the necessary information has been included, and convene panel
  • Registry notify student and programme of the arrangements for the meeting with the panel
  • Meeting takes place
  • Registry send formal notification of outcome to student and programme, and make any necessary adjustments to student record

A non-digitally accessible version of this is available in Flowchart format here.


Appendix 4:  Poor academic practice route to deal with low severity infringements

Henceforth, cases of suspected academic misconduct will be dealt with in a two stage process, depending on severity. 

Step 1

The first marker will be responsible for identifying concerns with a piece of work. 

Step 2

The case is then referred to the departmental Academic Integrity Lead (AIL). A decision will be made as to whether there is

  1. No case to answer
  2. Evidence of poor academic practice (to be dealt with at programme level)
  3. Evidence of academic misconduct (to be dealt with at university level)

(If there is a dispute between the first marker and AIL then the matter will be referred to AIL from another department to make the final decision.)

Step 3

In the case of poor academic practice the first marker and the AIL will meet with the student, explain their concerns and use the meeting as a positive training session for the student. The student will be told that the work will be marked ignoring the material of concern. This is likely to result in a reduced mark, if the material at issue is so extensive as to result in a fail then the normal resit procedures will apply. 

The mark penalty for poor academic conduct will be at the discretion of the Programme in consultation with the Academic Integrity Lead. 

The outcome of programme level poor academic practice meetings must be recorded and logged by the AIL who will report cases to the Registry (Academic Conduct Manager). This enables tracking of repeated cases. Particular care must be taken to check the records of students who are taking joint degrees. 

Students presenting poor academic practice for a third time, irrespective of the extent of the material at issue, should be referred to a university panel. 

Step 4

In the case of academic misconduct the case will be referred to the Registry using the standard Academic Integrity Referral Form and the normal procedures for an academic misconduct panel will be pursued.