Guidance for Staff on the Use of Unfair Means in the Assessment Process

Assessment, whatever form it takes, is the means by which the University tests whether or not a student has achieved the objectives of a degree programme and the standards of an award. It is fundamentally important that students are assessed fairly, and on equal terms with each other for the same award. Any attempt to use unfair means to gain advantage over another student in the completion of an assessment, or to assist someone else to gain an unfair advantage, is seen as cheating. This undermines the standards of the University's awards and disadvantages those students who have attempted to complete assessments honestly and fairly. It is also an offence against the core values of the academic community.

The University aims to ensure that the highest possible standards are maintained in the conduct of assessments, to protect the interests of its student body and avoid any damage to the University's reputation. All incidents of the use of unfair means must therefore be investigated promptly, thoroughly and fairly.

The University regulator, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) has published the OIA Good Practice Framework: Disciplinary Procedures. This will inform the way that the OIA consider complaints relating to disciplinary matters from 2019/20 onwards and this guidance has been updated to reflect this.

Students do not necessarily arrive at the University equipped with the right study skills to avoid using unfair means. Academic departments therefore need to inform students at a very early stage as to what constitutes unfair means and to help them to acquire the relevant study skills to develop good academic practice and understand how to meet the University's expectations. There should be a consistent approach to this.

Several of the key skills and attributes of the Sheffield Graduate are relevant to the prevention of the use of unfair means, particularly those relating to information literacy, effective written communication, critical engagement and effective collaborative work. Students should be able to demonstrate these skills and attributes through their assessed work.

This guidance is intended to help departments achieve consistency of practice across the University in investigating and dealing with cases of the use of unfair means. Departments should use this guidance as a framework within which to develop specific departmental practice within their individual subject areas.

It is good practice for departments to appoint an unfair means/plagiarism officer or other named member of academic staff. Their role would be to maintain an overview of cases of unfair means arising in the department, advise colleagues on the best way to deal with any difficult cases and ensure full records are kept of all cases.

Where a case involves students registered on dual degrees or taking modules in other departments, there must be effective communication between the two departments to ensure that details are shared and effectively recorded.