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University Investigations involving Allegations of Misconduct or a Breach of the Student Code of Conduct

Potts Lawyers > Litigation  > University Investigations involving Allegations of Misconduct or a Breach of the Student Code of Conduct

University Investigations involving Allegations of Misconduct or a Breach of the Student Code of Conduct

Code of Conduct


Students who face allegations of misconduct with their educational institutions, are increasingly engaging lawyers to obtain advice in defending those allegations.

This article explores the many reasons why students are entrusting lawyers to assist them in these situations.

Obviously, a finding of misconduct could have an adverse impact on your ability to complete your degree or certificate since the disciplinary action may include suspension or even expulsion from the University.  In the case of expulsion, some credits may not be transferrable or the student may be required to move to a different region to complete there studies at another university.

These consequences can all be avoided in many cases if legal advice is obtained early or immediately upon being notified of the allegations.


Why are Students Engaging Lawyers?

Students who are facing allegations of misconduct engage lawyers for a variety of reasons, however the most common reasons are as follows:

  • A University’s Codes of Conduct and Disciplinary Regulations are often hundreds of pages, and difficult to navigate without legal training;
  • Disciplinary investigations and hearings are a stressful process, and students attempting to respond to the allegations without assistance, will find that the matter disrupts their studies and personal life;
  • The ramifications of an adverse finding can be serious – for example, suspension or expulsion from the University;
  • In cases of academic misconduct, or any other allegations of dishonesty, those allegations may affect the student’s ability to obtain registration in their chosen profession (for example, to become admitted as a solicitor).
  • The cost of engaging a lawyer is often less than the money lost in non-refundable tuition fees, having to relocate to a new region, and/or enrolling in additional courses for credits which are not transferrable.
  • In some cases, an allegation of misconduct can involve elements of criminality (for example, sexual assaults, theft, property damage). In those cases, students should obtain legal advice from lawyers before responding, since all information provided to the university can be used by police in a criminal prosecution.
  • Engaging a lawyer improves your chances of successfully defending the allegations.


What is the Disciplinary Process like?

Each University will have its own disciplinary guidelines which will be unique to that educational institution.  However, broadly speaking, a University’s Disciplinary Regulations will usually have rules in relation to:

  • The Student Code of Conduct and when a breach of that Code amounts to “misconduct”;
  • The reporting of misconduct;
  • How the University deals with reports of misconduct;
  • The criteria for which the University can decide to investigate a report of misconduct;
  • How the student is provided with an opportunity to respond to the allegations (in writing, in a meeting, by phone, etc);
  • The circumstances in which the University can refer the matter to a disciplinary committee;
  • The composition of the committee and the committee’s powers;
  • The rules in relation to evidence, witnesses, and legal representation;
  • The rules associated with the hearing and whether submissions can be made in writing or only orally;
  • The penalties that the disciplinary committee can impose upon students; and
  • Any appeal rights the student may have if they are found guilty of misconduct or if they disagree with the penalty imposed.


How does Engaging a Lawyer Improve Success Rate?

Engaging a lawyer to assist you in responding to allegations of misconduct can increase your prospects of succeeding for a variety of different reasons.

Firstly, a lawyer will be trained to analyse and interpret the University’s code of conduct and disciplinary regulations to appropriately advise the student on the process and their options, including the option of attending a hearing or preparing written submissions.

Secondly, if written submissions are appropriate, a lawyer can assist students in preparing comprehensive responses to allegations which are persuasive, which annex relevant supporting documents, and which apply common law principles which are relevant to the determination of the matter (for example, on matters of evidence, the credibility of certain witnesses, and procedural fairness).

Thirdly, if the response is a partial or full admission of guilt, a lawyer can assist a student in  preparing submissions which minimise the risk of serious action being taken against them.

In these circumstances, a successful outcome may involve the University giving the student a “warning” or “reprimand”, instead of suspending or expelling the student from the University.

Carefully prepared submissions on the student’s mitigating circumstances with the assistance of a lawyer, increases the prospects of this occurring.


What happens if there is a Police Investigation or allegation of criminal conduct?

Students who face allegations involving criminality are in an even more precarious position, since any information disclosed to the University can be provided to the police, and could result in a criminal prosecution.

Students in these situations are often placed in a difficult position, where they have to decide between continuing their University education or avoiding criminal sanctions.  However, if those students can get advice from lawyers experienced in both of those areas of law (such as those at Potts Lawyers), these risks can be managed appropriately, so that a student can still defend the allegations, without disclosing information which might otherwise prejudice their position in a criminal investigation.

For more information on these matters, read our article titled “Allegations of Criminal Wrongdoing in Civil Disputes – What You need to Know”.


If the University concludes I engaged in Misconduct, Can this affect my Career Prospects?

Students who are guilty of misconduct can also suffer from additional consequences in the future.  For example:

  • a law student may have difficulties being admitting as a solicitor if they have engaged in plagiarism;
  • a graduate may be required to answer questions in relation to any academic misconduct when applying for jobs.
  • some professional associations or government licences require applicants to disclose any “disciplinary” investigations against them.


Why Potts Lawyers?

Potts Lawyers are experienced at assisting students defend allegations of misconduct being investigated by Universities, and have assisted students in obtaining the best possible results, so that students can focus on what matters most: completing their education and gaining entry to their desired profession.

Students who face allegations of misconduct, are usually very stressed, which often affects their ability to prepare detailed submissions which are effective.   Students in this position often feel so much anxiety, that they themselves do not realise that their submissions have been prepared poorly.

If a student is in this position, and is suspended or expelled from the University, their appeal options may be limited.  This is why it is always best to obtain advice from a lawyer early. Potts Lawyers has a team of solicitors who are experienced in this area of law and can assist students who are facing allegations of misconduct, including when those allegations involve elements of criminality.

Overall, preparing comprehensive submissions with the assistance of a lawyer, which make specific references to the student’s unique version of events, the Student Code of Conduct, the Disciplinary Regulations, and any mitigating circumstances, are essential to maximising the chances of succeeding.


Contact Us For Legal Advice

Potts Lawyers stand ready to assist all students who are facing allegations of misconduct.

Call Potts Lawyers today to assess your eligibility for a free consultation with a lawyer or to obtain an obligation free estimate.

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