3.6 Academic Practice

1.  This section of the AQH should be read in conjunction with the University’s Regulation on Unacceptable Academic Practice which can be found at https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/academic-registry/handbook/regulations/uap/

Good Academic Practice

 2.  All assessments, including examination scripts and coursework, are assessed on the basis that they are a student’s own work. Students are therefore personally responsible for ensuring that the work that they present for assessment, and their conduct in examinations, are consistent with the University’s principles and requirements for academic practice.

3.  Students will be informed of the precise conditions governing the formal examination part of each module, e.g. what materials they will be permitted to take with them into the examination. In some cases, they may be allowed to make use of books, notes, mathematical tables, calculators, etc., and they are advised to ensure that they comply with whatever conditions apply. 

Essays and other assignments completed under non-examination conditions should be the result of students’ own study, and the structure and presentation of the arguments should be their own. While it is for each Department to advise students on their precise requirements, the University’s general guidance on good academic practice and referencing is published within Aber Skills https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/aberskills/ and a referencing and plagiarism awareness guide is also available https://libguides.aber.ac.uk/referencing

4.  Students’ risk opening themselves up to be blackmailed if engaging in unacceptable academic practice by using essay mills. The University will investigate any cases of potential UAP it is alerted to. Confidential channels of support are available through Student Support Services, and where criminal activity is involved matters should be referred to the Police.

Investigations of Unacceptable Academic Practice

5.  Members of staff making an allegation of Unacceptable Academic Practice (UAP) should complete Section 1 of the Unacceptable Academic Practice Investigation Report Form (UAPF) with reference to the Regulation. Where applicable, the guidelines on the use of Turnitin should also be consulted (see paragraphs 17 to 21 in this section of the AQH). The form should be submitted to the Chair of the Examination Board at Department level or Assistant Registrar (Examinations) for examination based allegations. For allegations requiring a faculty/university panel evidence that relies only on a Turnitin report, or is incomplete, will not be accepted and will be returned to the member of staff making the allegation.

6.  A full list of the evidence which is enclosed with the UAPF form should be provided. Where possible evidence should be submitted to the Chair of the Examination Board in electronic format. For allegations of plagiarism, the following must be submitted:

(i) Turnitin Report if available;

(ii) A separate marked up copy of the assignment, with cross-references to the suspected sources;

(iii) Copies of the suspected sources used, with clear cross-references to the assignment.

7.  Section 1.3 of the UAPF should be completed by the Chair of the Examination Board/Assistant Registrar (Examinations) in order to confirm the procedure for investigating the allegation of UAP.

8.  Section 2 of the UAPF should only be completed for investigations by the Chair of the Examination Board/Assistant Registrar (Examinations), and should be left blank if the allegation has been referred to a Faculty / University panel (see section 3 UAPF). In accordance with section 8 of the Regulation on Unacceptable Academic Practice, students have the right to request that decisions of UAP by the Chair of the Examination Board/Assistant Registrar (Examinations) are referred to the Faculty Panel for further investigation. Note that students will not be invited to respond to the allegation during the course of an investigation by the Chair of the Examination Board/ Assistant Registrar (Examinations).

9.  If UAP has been substantiated, the outcome should be communicated to the student. The penalty shall be determined in accordance with the points-based penalty system. Any subsequent allegation, if substantiated, will be regarded as a second instance of UAP.

10. The penalty for examination allegations dealt with by the Assistant Registrar shall consist of a formal warning for a first offence and a capped mark for subsequent offences. Such offences are outside of the points-based system and do not count towards other allegations of unacceptable academic practice.

For non examination allegations

11. In coursework assignments only, where appropriate, Panels or Chairs of Examination Boards may refer students to a study skills course which is delivered by the International English Centre. In cases where there the formal penalty does not deduct marks, students will be informed that the assignment mark will reflect departmental marking criteria or departmental statements on the recycling of previously submitted material.

12.  In cases where the student has requested that a decision by the Chair of the Examination Board/Assistant Registrar (Examinations) (see section 2 UAPF) is referred to a Faculty Panel, the Chair of the Examination Board/ Assistant Registrar (Examinations) should not be a member of the Faculty Panel and should take no part in the investigation. The Faculty Panel should be provided with copies of section 1 of the UAPF along with supporting evidence as originally submitted, but should not be in receipt of the report by the Chair of the Examination Board (section 2 UAPF).

13.  If the allegation has been substantiated during a panel investigation, the penalty should be assigned according to the Points-based Penalty System, except for the lowest level of examination allegations. Where there is evidence of exceptional personal circumstances with direct relevance to the case, panels may submit a recommendation that the penalty should be reduced. In such cases the final decision will be taken by the Academic Registrar. In accordance with section 14.6 of the Regulation, panels may also recommend a more severe penalty.

14. Where allegations of UAP are resolved prior to the relevant Examination Board, marks and resit indicators should be confirmed in the usual way at Senate Examination Board. However, in cases where results are withheld by the Board pending the resolution of an UAP allegation, Departments must, once a penalty has been approved, submit a change of mark form confirming the mark and resit indicator for the module(s) concerned so that this too can be approved and results can be released to the student. Module marks should not be entered on AStRA before an UAP investigation is completed and the penalty confirmed by Academic Registry.

15.  Template letters are provided in Section 3.13 for use during UAP investigations by Chairs of Examination Boards, Faculty and University panels.

Points-based penalty system

16.  Penalties for UAP are assigned by panels and chairs of examination boards in accordance with the following points-based system, which is also published within the UAP form.

Guidelines on the use of Turnitin in UAP investigations

17.  Markers should check Turnitin’s similarity reports before they start the marking process. It is crucial that markers scrutinise the similarities identified by Turnitin carefully, as text matches do not always constitute Unacceptable Academic Practice.

18.  Turnitin only matches to text already in its database, and may not always pick up on all instances of UAP. Markers should still rely on their instincts about the originality of a piece of work as they read it, and investigate further if there is a suspicion of UAP.

19.  Turnitin’s similarity report is a text-matching tool, and is thus only one preliminary indicator of possible UAP. It is not perfect, and markers should bear this in mind when determining whether there is a possible case of UAP. Turnitin similarity score thresholds should not be specified.

20.  Where work has been submitted via Blackboard (Welsh-medium assignments and large or multi-part submissions only), no similarity reports are automatically generated. Markers should look for other indicators of UAP in a piece of work as they read it; an individual assessment can be submitted to Turnitin to check for text-matching if appropriate.

21.  Evidence should include the Turnitin similarity report if available, as well as fully marked up copies of the source documents as appropriate. An example of how to mark up an Assignment and Source Materials is provided here. Evidence that relies only on the Turnitin similarity report, or is incomplete, will not be accepted and will be returned to the marker, except as noted below.

22.  For allegations where plagiarism amounts to less than 20% of an assignment a Turnitin report that clearly highlights the problem text and the possible sources would be acceptable. For the purposes of investigation and retention of original sources, screen shots of websites or published works should be submitted. The Chair of the Examination Board may ask for additional evidence if required and should the case be referred to a faculty/university panel additional evidence will be required and will be requested from the department. The report should include details of how the percentage of UAP has been calculated and should not rely on solely on the Turnitin Similarity Score.

Section 3.6 updated: Sept 2022