What to do if the Use of Unfair Means is suspected

Relevant members of staff should report any suspected cases to their Examinations/Use of Unfair Means Officer or equivalent.  Advice may be sought at this stage from the Student Conduct and Appeals Team, extension 21290 or 29622.  Consistency of practice across the University is key.

Investigation Stage

  1. It is the teaching department which investigates the concerns.  However, where a case involves students registered on dual degrees or taking modules in other departments, there must be effective channels of communication between the two departments, to ensure that details are shared and effectively recorded.
  2. The student must be informed in writing of the department's concerns as soon as possible and given the opportunity to provide an explanation for their actions. They should also be informed that guidance on their position can be sought from the Student Advice Centre run by the Students' Union.
  3. If the student is resident in Sheffield, they should be interviewed, by at least two people (for example by the Module Leader and the Examinations Officer or equivalent) and be invited to bring a representative or friend to the meeting. At least two to three days' notice of the meeting should be given. Alternatively, if the student is no longer resident in Sheffield they may be asked to provide an explanation of their actions via email (by a certain date) or by telephone (with the department keeping a record of the conversation). Meetings may also be conducted via Skype. For guidance on Skype meetings see Skype Interview Checklist.
  4. Once the initial concerns have been investigated and the department is satisfied that unfair means has been used, other assessed work previously submitted by the student may be reviewed (including those assignments where credit has already been awarded). Colleagues in other departments where the student is registered may be asked to do likewise. If plagiarism has occurred in previous work, this may be taken into account when the department decides on the appropriate action to take on the initial concerns.
  5. If a student has not been given feedback on one or more previous incidences (i.e. the use of unfair means was not picked up at the time), then it can be argued that the latest incidence constitutes a first offence.
  6. A written record of the meeting should be made and a template is available from the downloads box on the right.
  7. If departmental action is taken (see the Table of Departmental Actions) then a "warning" letter should be sent to the student and the case recorded on file.  An example of a letter is available from the downloads box. 
  8. Action may be taken against a student in less serious cases where the use of unfair means is not accepted/admitted.  However approval must be sought from the relevant Faculty before taking action using the form available from the downloads box and sending it to the Student Conduct and Appeals Office.