Two hands, each holding a pen, with the letter C above


What happens if you're accused of working with, or copying from, another student

Collusion is where an individual piece of work is prepared by more than one student. This could include working with another student too closely, copying someone's work, or willingly sharing your work.

In some extreme cases, students have also had their work stolen when they left their computer or storage device unattended. This is most common in communal study areas like the library or if a housemate or guest accesses your room.

Collusion is usually discovered through large matches on Turnitin reports, but tutors can also discover similarities in how essays were structured, similar unusual sources, or if you've made the same mistakes.

Think about whether anything could have happened while you were writing this assessment that could have led to you matching with another student. If you know whose work you matched with, consider whether you did any studying together or were in the same groups for a project. Did one of you miss classes and borrow notes from the other? Did you plan the essay together or give each other any tips? Did you rely heavily on lecture slides or notes?

Did you share your work with someone who was struggling, or did you ask someone else if you could see their work?

Consider where you were working and whether someone would have had an opportunity to access your essay. Did you leave your laptop or a library computer unlocked for a few minutes while you went to the toilet or to get a coffee? Do any of your housemates study the same module? 

Sometimes students match because they both copied too much from the same source and didn't reference properly. If this has caused the match, it would be a case of plagiarism rather than collusion. You can visit our plagiarism section for more information.

The meeting will usually be with the School's Academic Conduct Officer (ACO), the marker and a note taker. The ACO and marker will tell you why they suspect you worked with another student and explain the similarities they have found. They will give you the opportunity to have your say and ask any questions you have. If you don't know what's happened, they may explore this with you to see if you can find answers. If you have exceptional circumstances, make sure to talk about them as they could impact the decision.

The ACO should be meeting with the other student(s) separately, to ask the same questions. If you meet with the ACO first you may be contacted again for another meeting if new information is given by the other student or if anything needs clarifying. 

The penalties for collusion vary depending on the type of case and the number of cases you have had in the past. The possible penalties that can be applied are in the table on the University website.

If you had exceptional circumstances that affected your work, make sure you tell the ACO and provide evidence. You will also need to explain why you didn't make an Exceptional Circumstances claim at the time. The ACO will consider your circumstances and may decide to lower the penalty.

In most cases, the ACO can make a decision and, if there has been an offence, apply a penalty. If the ACO hasn't been able to determine what happened or who was at fault they may instead refer your case on to the Academic Misconduct Committee. Your case would also be referred to committee if this is your third offence or if the ACO decides the case is too serious to apply one of the standard penalties.

If you have no previous academic misconduct offences you will only be given a warning this time.

If you share your work a second time it will be treated as a major first offence, which means you're given a mark of zero for the assessment, with the normal consequences for reassessment. 

In some circumstances, you may be able to appeal the decision. You will only be able to do this if you can satisfy one, or both, of the following grounds:

  • procedural irregularity in the conduct of the original investigations of the Academic Conduct Officer;
  • exceptional circumstances, providing that these circumstances can be substantiated.

More information on appealing can be found on the University website. Remember that there is a deadline of 10 days to appeal.

If you would like to appeal or need some more information contact us at ASK and we will guide you through the process.

If you are studying a professional course, a record of academic misconduct may have further implications. You should check your School handbook for further details if this applies to you.

ASK can help you to prepare your case and attend the meeting with you, if necessary. 

If you worked with another student and you have reasons for doing so, we can explore these and help you to put your case forward to your school Academic Conduct Officer or an Academic Misconduct Committee.