This guide explains what you should do if you are accused of academic misconduct. The full details of the Student Academic Misconduct Procedure can be found in the Academic Manual (Chapter 6; Section 9). You can also find more information about Academic Integrity on the UCL website.

What is Academic Misconduct?

Academic Misconduct used to be known as examination irregularities at UCL. It can relate to all methods of assessment (coursework, exams), and both summative and formative assessment. This applies to all current and former students of UCL, including undergraduate, postgraduate taught and postgraduate research students.

You can be penalised for: 

  • Plagiarism, including the use of Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) that exceeds the permitted amount in your assessment brief.
  • Self Plagiarism
  • Collusion
  • Any attempt to gain unauthorised access to the assessed coursework of any other candidate with or without the knowledge of the other candidate.
  • Falsification
  • Contract Cheating
  • Impersonation
  • Online Assessment Misconduct
  • File Sharing without permission from your department
  • Examination Room Misconduct
  • Any other behaviour or action that would give you an unfair academic advantage

You can find out more about the most common types of Academic Misconduct with Case Studies here Definitions and Case Studies

The full list of definitions is available in Chapter 6 of the Academic Manual.

The following are not considered Academic Misconduct:

  • Poor Academic Practice: where a student has not received teaching on Academic Misconduct and proper referencing. Students will not be given a penalty, but a chance to correct their work and resubmit.
  • Language and Writing Review: where a third party has checked areas of academic writing, such as grammar, spelling and structure. This may become Academic Misconduct if substantial and significant changes are made. Always ensure your work remains genuinely your own.
  • File Sharing: if your department have confirmed that it is allowed.
  • Use of Generative AI: as long as it does not exceed what your assessment brief allows.

What happens if Academic Misconduct is found in my work?

Initially, you’ll receive an email from your department about an allegation of academic misconduct. This email will likely not include any further information, because the department will then decide whether there is a case to be heard. After receiving this email, your department will do a preliminary investigation.

Within 10 working days, you should either: 

  • Receive an Academic Misconduct Report. This report will include a summary of the allegation and any supporting evidence. If you don’t receive the Academic Misconduct Report, contact the person who sent the initial allegation email. 
  • Your department may also decide that Academic Misconduct has not happened. You should still receive an email to confirm this. 

If your department decides that Academic Misconduct did not happen, then there will be no further action. 

Next Steps

When you receive the Academic Misconduct Report, what happens next depends on several factors, including your department, the nature of the allegation, and whether this is your first offense. Here are the five possible outcomes: 

Module Leader or Exam Board Chair Investigation

The Module Leader or Exam Board Chair will investigate the allegation. 

They may decide that no academic misconduct has occurred, decide that this is Poor Academic Practice, choose a penalty, or refer the case to a higher authority. 

Investigatory Viva

If there is a suspicion of Contract Cheating, Collusion, or unsanctioned or unacknowledged use of Generative Artificial Intelligence tools (GenAI), the Exam Board Chair may, in the first instance, initiate an investigatory viva (a meeting). 

The purpose of the viva is to assess whether, on the balance of probabilities, there is evidence which supports that someone else wrote all or parts of your assessment. 

The viva should check your understanding of the key concepts and ideas in your work, such as the research methodology used, how you went about writing and completing the work, and what sources you used and why. 

You can present evidence of preparatory work (such as drafts or notes) made in completing the assessment. 

Within 5 working days of the viva, you will be told the result. The viva panel may decide that there is evidence of academic misconduct, you will be told why and the next steps. You may then be invited to an Academic Misconduct Panel, or given a penalty.

At this point, you can also choose to start the Expedited Academic Misconduct Procedure.

Departmental Panel

For significant cases of academic misconduct, the matter may be escalated to a Departmental Panel. 

This panel reviews the case in detail, and you’ll have the opportunity to present your side of the story.  

Academic Misconduct Panel

The most serious cases, including repeat offenses and Examination Misconduct, are handled by the Academic Misconduct Panel. 

Like the Departmental Panel, they will review the case in detail, and you’ll have the opportunity to present your side of the story. 

Expedited Academic Misconduct Procedure

You may be offered a penalty without the need for a panel. You should still receive evidence of the alledge Academic Misconduct. 

If you agree to the penalty and the allegation, then a future offence will be considered your second offence. 

However, it is your right to dispute the allegation. If you do not agree with the allegation and want to present your side, you will be offered the opportunity to have a panel. 

Penalties

If you admit that you’ve committed academic misconduct, or if it’s found that misconduct occurred (after an investigation or a panel), there are several penalties that may be imposed on you. 

Which penalty is given will depend on what kind of academic misconduct has happened, how much of your work consists of offending material, and whether you have done it before. 

Penalties can vary from: 

  • Reduced mark 
  • Mark of zero for the assessment; and a second attempt to sit the assessment which is capped at a pass mark 
  • Failure of the module
  • Expulsion (for serious cases)

You can view the full list of penalties here

Writing a Statement

If you have been requested to attend a Departmental or Academic Misconduct Panel, you are invited to respond to the allegation, in the form of a written statement. Please see our academic misconduct statement guide for information on how to write a statement below. 

Your supervisor or tutor may also be willing to write a short statement on your behalf. If they are happy to do this, some things they could note include:

  • A character reference
  • Some details and/or evidence of past high quality academic work
  • A rationale for why you could have used lecture slides/notes
  • Any information about academic integrity sessions/notes you have been given – did they include information about how to avoid the misconduct you have been alleged of?
  • How your work could be raised as plagiarism - did you use definitions? Formulas which cannot be altered? Are some answers likely to be the same for all students because there is  only one, or a finite number of, correct answers?

Appeals

It is possible to appeal against a decision made using the Academic Misconduct procedure. You can only appeal a decision if it is based on one or more of the following grounds:

  • The decision or panel process was not conducted in accordance with the procedures.
  • Fresh evidence has become available which was not available and could not reasonably be available for consideration during the decision or panel process.
  • The judgement of misconduct was not reasonable given the circumstances of the case.
  • The penalty will have a significant impact on the student given their specific circumstances (this applies to decisions that lead to non-progression or suspension/termination of studies).

You must appeal within 10 working days of receiving the formal decision, using the 'UCL Student Academic Misconduct Procedure - Appeal Form'. In the form you must attach all documentation regarding the appeal (such as emails and the Academic Misconduct Report), write any statements you wish to make, and explain the grounds on which your appeal is being made.

The Advice Service can assist you with making an appeal. The appeal must be submitted within 10 working days of the formal notification of the Panel’s decision so if you require support, please get in touch as soon as you receive your decision. 

How can the Advice Service help you?

Your Advice Service can offer support throughout the Academic Misconduct process, including: 

  • Helping you understand your Academic Misconduct Report Form 
  • Reading through drafts of your statement 
  • Attending a panel meeting as your ‘friend’ for moral support 

To book an appointment, please use our contact form.

You can also use our guide to Writing an Academic Misconduct statement to help you start.

If you receive an allegation of academic misconduct, it can be worrying and upsetting. We recommend that you speak to the Student Support and Wellbeing team if you’re upset by the allegation.