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Academic Misconduct – The General Process

Potts Lawyers > Litigation  > Academic Misconduct – The General Process

Academic Misconduct – The General Process

Anxiety, stress and student at university with anxiety for misconduct. Young man with headache, worried and frustrated sitting on the floor. Burnout in education, learning and stressed


Facing allegations of academic misconduct is no doubt a stressful time for students. A finding of academic misconduct can not only adversely affect a student’s grade or enrolment in a university but also their prospective registration to practice within a specific field or even future employment.

If you find yourself in this position it is important that you take the allegation(s) with the utmost seriousness and seek assistance as soon as possible, preferably as soon as you become aware of the allegation(s).

This article will provide a general overview of the process in relation to academic misconduct and highlight the importance of seeking competent and independent legal advice.

This article is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you are seeking legal advice, you can write us, or call us on 07 5532 3133 to speak with one of our firm’s litigation lawyers who are well-versed in assisting clients with matters relating to academic misconduct.

Types of Academic Misconduct

The term academic misconduct refers to various types of conduct, including, common:

  • obtaining an unfair academic advantage in an assessment;
  • plagiarism;
  • misrepresentation;
  • fabrication.

When determining the case for academic conduct, it is irrelevant whether a student engaged in it intentionally or unintentionally.

Universities general procedure to deal with academic misconduct

Each university usually has its own policy (which is usually publicly available) when dealing with matters involving academic misconduct.

Broadly and generally speaking, a university will usually provide procedural fairness to the student and will also:

  • arrange meeting(s) with the student and a support person (who can sometimes also be a lawyer) to discuss the allegation ;
  • provide the student with an opportunity to ‘show cause’ within a certain timeframe, which may be in writing or at a meeting;
  • have a hearing about the findings and outcome of the academic misconduct.

Importance of a response in dealing with academic misconduct

As most universities will provide the student with an opportunity to respond to allegations of academic misconduct, it is imperative that the student’s response is well-written, appropriate, and consulted by a lawyer who practices in this area of law.

A sound and well-thought-out response can be the difference between the different types of penalties (as set out below) that may be imposed, which can range from a warning or reprimand to being expelled from a university.

Further, depending on the degree the student is studying, a finding of academic misconduct could have a significant impact on their registration for their chosen profession.

Accordingly, any responses given to a university, whether at a meeting or in writing, should not be taken lightly and should be treated with the utmost seriousness.

Types of penalties for academic misconduct

As each university has its own policies in relation to misconduct, the potential penalties may vary. However, generally, some of the common types of penalties that may be imposed on a student include:

  1. being warned or reprimanded;
  2. requiring the student to seek or undertake academic integrity modules provided by the university;
  3. reducing the student’s mark based on the portion unaffected by the academic misconduct (if applicable);
  4. allowing the student to re-submit their assessment task and achieve no higher mark than a pass for that assessment;
  5. requiring the student to submit to another assessment and be awarded no higher than a pass for that subject
  6. the student receiving a nil mark for the assessment item;
  7. the student receiving a fail for the assessment;
  8. being suspended from further study;
  9. in the worst case, being expelled from the university.

The type of penalty imposed by the university usually depends on the seriousness of the academic misconduct with reference to the response provided by the student. It is for this reason that students who are the subject of academic misconduct should seek independent legal advice as soon as possible.

Read also: University Investigations Involving Allegations of Misconduct Or a Breach of The Student Code of Conduct

Can you appeal the university’s decision if you are unsatisfied?

If you are unsatisfied with the university’s decision, depending on the university’s policy there may be an avenue to seek a review of the decision by someone or by other academic staff at the university. Each university will publish its review policy if they have one. Generally, there are timeframes to appeal a decision. Failing to submit an internal review within the timeframe may mean that your appeal will be refused.

Further, there may be an external review available, depending on the decision of the university. One avenue for an external review could be to make a complaint to the Queensland or Commonwealth Ombudsman.

Next steps

An allegation of academic misconduct should not be taken lightly. It should be taken with the utmost seriousness, not only because of the potential consequences that may be imposed by the university but also because of how it may affect the student’s future in terms of registration or obtaining future employment.

This article is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you are seeking legal advice, you can call us on 07 5532 3133 to speak with one of our firm’s litigation lawyers who are well versed in assisting clients with matters relating to academic misconduct.

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