Guidance for students where concerns are raised about their use of unfair means


Use of unfair means

If an academic department has concerns that you may have used unfair means, you will be contacted in writing by the department who will outline to you what the concerns are, and invite you to attend a meeting to discuss those concerns. 

In the case of a PhD thesis following submission, the viva examination is immediately postponed pending an investigation by the academic department.


You can usually expect to be given at least two to three working days’ notice of the meeting and you are entitled to bring a friend or adviser with you to the meeting. Independent support and advice can be obtained from the Student Advice Centre.

It is very important that you attend this meeting, as it is your opportunity to give your explanation to the above concerns. If you do not respond to the invitation or fail to attend without good reason, this may lead to your case being escalated to a Discipline Hearing and/or to a more severe outcome being imposed. 

Even if you did not intend to use unfair means, but it is clear that you have done so, you will be considered to have used unfair means and appropriate action taken.

Departmental action 

If you have used unfair means, the department may take the following actions:

  • A warning 
  • A reduction of grade for the assessment or the module component 
  • A grade of 0 for the assessment or the module component 
  • A refusal of credit for the module 
  • Refer you to a Discipline Hearing in line with the Student Discipline Regulations 

In deciding which of the actions to apply, consideration may be given to, but not limited to, the following factors:

  • the amount and extent of the unfair means 
  • the type of the unfair means 
  • the academic significance of the unfair means and the assessment 
  • the level of study
  • whether you have used unfair means before 
  • whether you have cooperated with the above meeting and answered the department’s questions openly and honestly 
  • whether you appear to have acted dishonestly e.g. trying to deceive the department; using another student’s work without their permission
  • any other relevant information 

If you do not accept that you have used unfair means but the department is satisfied that there is clear evidence that you have done so and they consider the appropriate outcome is to reduce a grade, award a grade of 0 or refuse credit for the module, they will first need to obtain the Faculty’s approval to do so. 

Where the Faculty do not approve the proposed outcome, your case may be referred to a Discipline Hearing so it can be given the fullest consideration. 

The department will keep a record of any action taken and should you use unfair means again in the future, the department is likely to impose a more serious outcome or refer you to a Discipline Hearing, where any previous use of unfair means will be taken into consideration when deciding on any penalty.

Right of Appeal 

You can appeal against the action taken by the academic department by submitting an academic appeal within 15 working days of being notified of the action taken in line with the Academic Appeals Procedure.

Your appeal will be considered by the Faculty. If the Faculty decide not to uphold the department’s action, it will usually refer your case to a Discipline Hearing so it can be given the fullest consideration. 

Discipline Hearing 

If you are referred to a Discipline Hearing you will contacted by the Student Conduct and Appeals Team about arrangements for the Hearing.