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Discipline Issues

Our hope is that you have the best student experience possible whilst at UEA.

Yet we do know that situations and events happen that are far from ideal. If you find that you have been accused of breaching one of the University's Discipline Regulations, you don't have to go it alone - we are here for you.

Our advice(su) team can;

  • provide you with free, independent and impartial advice through a named advice worker from start to finish
  • advise on how best to engage with the process and those who are investigating or are the decision-makers
  • help you best present your side to the University
  • help you form an appeal if you disagree with a verdict or penalty
  • provide you with advocacy and represent you in meetings as appropriate

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Fitness to Practice

If you are on a course that leads to a professional qualification such as nursing or social work, you will be expected to meet the standards of professional conduct expected of you by the professional body which validates the course you are on.

Fitness to practise is a mechanism to ensure that someone is fit, capable and suitable to practise in their chosen profession. Above all, it should be a supportive process aimed at protecting you and the public. Below is our guide to help you understand what fitness to practise is and prepare should you need to attend a fitness to practise meeting.

This is general guidance and isn’t able to account for every situation. There are times it is necessary for a School to action outside of what is set out below. If you find yourself in a situation where you are unsure of what is happening or why and you need support, get in touch with us.

If you are on a course which leads to a professional qualification such as nursing, you will be expected to meet the standards of professional conduct expected of you by the professional body which validates the course you are on. In the case of nursing and midwifery, this is the NMC. If you study on an OT, PT, SLT, ODP or Paramedic course, the professional body that governs your practise is the HCPC.

If there are concerns that you may not be meeting these standards, your school will follow a process, called “Fitness to Practise” (“FTP”), to decide whether there is any evidence of:

  • professional misconduct, or
  • behaviour inconsistent with suitability for your profession

If you have long term or serious health problems (either physical or mental), this may also have an impact on your fitness to practise and trigger the process.

It is important to remember that consideration of fitness to practise will not always lead to a disciplinary process. In the first instance it is intended to find out whether there is a problem which needs to be dealt with, and where possible to resolve that problem. Sometimes, a fitness to practise process does uncover misconduct which needs to be dealt with as a disciplinary matter. However, in most cases an issue can be sorted out by advice and support.

If you are unwell or worried about how things are going, one of the standards of conduct expected of you is that you seek appropriate help. Don’t hold back from doing this. Your personal advisor, mentor and other sources of support are there to help you progress with your studies.

The process can be triggered by:

  • a written report, or "cause for concern" of inappropriate behaviour or conduct being made about you via an official cause for concern form
  • a "cause for concern" being raised at work/placement or by a member of academic staff. This might be about your professional practise, or a concern about your welfare
  • a referral about you from the plagiarism officer for your school
  • a referral about your attendance or engagement.

Concerns may be submitted by members of the public.

Sometimes, before a decision is made about whether the FTP process should be triggered, the FTP lead will appoint an investigating officer to gather evidence, or you will be referred to Occupational Health.

If an investigating officer is appointed, they may interview you and other witnesses and report to the FTP lead who will then decide on the next step.

Remember, if someone raises a cause for concern about you, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are in trouble or that a Fitness to Practise process will be triggered.

I have received a letter calling me to a meeting to discuss my fitness to practise - what will happen next?

The meeting is your chance to explain what has happened, and whether there are any circumstances affecting you which may have led to problems arising. The letter you receive should:

  • explain why you have been called to the meeting
  • tell you when and where the meeting will be
  • remind you that you can be accompanied to the meeting, if you wish, by a friend or an advice worker from the advice(su) team.

If you feel unsure why the meeting has been called, you can talk to an advice worker, who may be able to help you understand the reason for the meeting or, if you need more information, can request it on your behalf.

It is important that you attend any fitness to practise meeting you are invited to. If you are unable to go to a meeting because of an important prior reason, you should contact the school as soon as possible to explain why you can’t go and to ask if it can be re-arranged. Be prepared to show evidence of the reason you can’t attend.

The preparation needed will depend on the reason you have been called to the meeting, and an advice worker can help you with specifics, but in general:

  • reflect about why this problem has arisen and be prepared to discuss it openly and honestly.
  • if the allegation made is true, or partly true, it is much better to admit what happened and to show you understand the reason why the incident is a matter for concern.
  • even if there has been a misunderstanding and you have acted with professionalism, reflect on how this misunderstanding may have come about and show understanding as to why it needed to be investigated.
  • gather any evidence you can, for example copies of relevant emails, and take it to the meeting.
  • if the reason for the meeting relates to your health, think about what you can do to take care of your health in future and what support you can access to help you.

It is often a good idea to write a statement summarising what has happened from your point of view, to help you to make sure that you mention everything at the meeting that you want to explain. An advice worker can help you with advice on what to include.

It is really important to show humility and insight when it comes to issues of fitness to practise. If it is felt that you are being arrogant, blasé or don’t see why something could be an issue, this in itself could raise a concern over your suitability for the profession.

What will happen in the meeting?

The meeting will be chaired by an academic member of staff/the FTP lead where possible. There will usually be two other members of the panel. One of these members would normally be a practising member of the profession.

The Chair will introduce everyone at the meeting. The reason for the meeting will be explained to you and you will then be given a chance to give your side of the story. You may then be asked questions to clarify anything you have said.

If you have someone accompanying you, such as an Advice Worker, they cannot answer questions on your behalf. If you are uncertain about anything raised in the meeting, you can ask to take a break to speak to them privately to ask for advice during the meeting.

At the end of the meeting the Chair will sum up what has been said and tell you when you can expect to hear the outcome.

You will be told the outcome of the meeting within 5 working days.

The panel may decide that:

  • there are no fitness to practise concerns, in which case no record will be kept of the allegation or meeting unless it is required by the relevant professional, statutory or regulatory body.
  • no further action is needed but that you should be given a warning that action may be taken if you continue the behaviour.
  • you should be referred to services such as UEA Student Support for more help.
  • you have not met the professional standards required of you and you will be withdrawn from the course.
  • you will be referred to the SSDC to consider whether you are guilty of misconduct.
  • you should receive a formal warning from the Head of School.

Our advice team have are highly experienced in supporting students who find themselves in the FTP process. We offer appointments by phone, face to face, Microsoft Teams or by email.

In your appointment, your advice worker will discuss with you all of the options open to you and provide you with their advice on what course of action you should take. Your advice worker can also help you make contact with the University and others if more information is needed, attend and support you during any meetings with the university you may have, help you find the right language to respond to concerns raised against your practice and also provide you with representation. You do not have to face this alone - we are here for you.

To download a PDF copy of this advice, click here.

Plagiarism and Collusion

Academic writing can be tough at the best of times, let alone if you don't have much experience of it before coming to UEA. Sometimes this can lead to unwittingly making mistakes with referencing and paraphrasing or unintentionally sharing ideas with your friends when studying together.

This can lead to issues with plagiarism and collusion and it's important to remember you don't have to have intended to cheat to fall foul of plagiarism and collusion. Below we set out what plagiarism and collusion are, what you should do if this has become an issue and how we can support you.

The university policy defines plagiarism as:

  • (a) The reproduction without acknowledgement, of work (including the work of fellow students), published or un-published, either verbatim or in close paraphrase. In this context, the work of others includes material downloaded from computer files and the internet, discussions in seminars, ideas, text and diagrams from lecture hand-outs.
  • (b) Poor academic practice which is unintentional.
  • (c) The reproduction, without acknowledgement, of a student’s own previously submitted work.

Plagiarism can happen in ‘open-book’ examinations and/or coursework assessments including essays, reports, presentations, dissertations and projects.

Collusion is a form of plagiarism involving unauthorised co-operation between at least two people. It does not include assessments which are designed to be collaborative that are undertaken in line with published requirements. The university policy says that collusion can take the following forms:

  • (a) The conspiring by two or more students to produce a piece of work together with the intention that at least one passes it off as his or her own work.
  • (b) The submission by a student of the work of another student, in circumstances where the latter has willingly lent the former the work and where it should be evident that the recipient of the work is likely to submit it as their own. In this case both students are guilty of collusion.
  • (c) Unauthorised co-operation between a student and another person in the preparation and production of work which is presented as the student’s own.
  • (d) The commissioning and submission of work as the student’s own where the student has purchased or solicited another individual to produce work on the student’s behalf. This would include submitting an essay downloaded from an ‘essay mill’ or commissioning someone to write your essay for you.

The university uses plagiarism detection software called ‘Turnitin’ to investigate suspected cases of plagiarism/collusion.

If a marker suspects Plagiarism or Collusion they will continue to mark the work as if it is not plagiarised. They will keep a separate copy of the annotated work as evidence and collect evidence for the school Plagiarism officer (“PO”) to review. Evidence could include the original material which has been used or copied and/or a report from ‘Turnitin’.

The PO may look at other work you have completed on your course.

The PO then reviews the evidence and decides whether the plagiarism is of a low, medium or high level.

In low-level cases, the PO may decide not to call a meeting and will instead suggest an appropriate learning package. You can still request a meeting if you would prefer.

If they think that the issue isn't low-level, you will receive a letter inviting you to a plagiarism meeting to consider your case. With this letter, you will usually receive a copy of the ‘Turnitin’ report and an annotated copy of the work in question so that you can see the areas of concern.

This meeting is to establish what has happened and why. You'll be given the opportunity to explain why you think there has been an issue and let the School know of any extenuating circumstances that have been affecting you. You do not have to go it alone, we can attend this meeting with you and provide you with support.

Low-level cases:

The plagiarism officer will not impose a mark penalty and, in certain circumstances, you may be given the opportunity to resubmit the work as if for the first time, no later than 5 working days after the decision is made.

Medium-level - plagiarism:

The mark is adjusted to reflect what is your own work. For a formative item of assessment, the offence should be recorded as a medium level plagiarism offence.

Medium-level - collusion:

Where two or more students have worked together and it is impossible to determine who has produced the work, the pieces of work will be marked as they stand and the highest mark of those awarded will be divided equally

High-level cases:

Penalties vary depending on whether the offence is part of serial plagiarism and/or collusion. They can include being given a mark of 0. All high-level offences are referred to the Senate Student Discipline Committee (SSDC) for further action. Where your course is part of a professional qualification, the Head of School may refer your case to a Fitness to Practise Panel.

Our advice team are experienced and have a wealth of knowledge in supporting students who have been called to a plagiarism/collusion meeting.

In your appointment, your advice worker will discuss with you all of the options open to you and provide you with their advice on what course of action you should take. They can support you in any meetings and help you find the right language to respond to concerns raised. You do not have to face this alone - we are here for you.

You can find our full guide to plagiarism and collusion here.

The full university policy can be found here.

Non-Academic Discipline and Misconduct

UEA has a disciplinary process that is used where allegations of misconduct are made against a student. In this guide, we use the term “misconduct” to mean breaches of university regulations - usually Regulation 10, whether or not the conduct is also a criminal offence. The university will consider misconduct that has been alleged to have happened both on campus (including in UEA accommodation) and off-campus.

If you find yourself either having an allegation made against you, you have or would like to report the behaviour of someone else or have been asked to attend a disciplinary as a witness to something, you do not have to go it alone - we are here for you. We can be with you every step as a companion at meetings or, in some cases, advocate on your behalf.

In the sections below we set all the processes of non-academic discipline at UEA.

  • Smoking in UEA accommodation
  • Antisocial behaviour such as excessively noisy social gatherings
  • Theft of or damage to university or other students’ property
  • Breach of copyright and intellectual property law
  • Possession or supply of controlled substances
  • Bullying and harassment
  • Physical or Sexual assault

Allegations of academic misconduct (for example plagiarism, collusion, and cheating in exams) are dealt with under different processes (for example, plagiarism and collusion and conduct in exams)

If the allegation made is something which might be a criminal offence, the UEA has the discretion to postpone taking action or to deal the case using internal procedures immediately. This decision will be made after an assessment of risk to others, the risk of interfering with criminal investigation or of jeopardising a student’s defence or prosecution.

If the incident is related to occupation of university accommodation, it will initially be considered by the Deputy Accommodation manager. Other disciplinary incidents are initially considered by the Student Services Co-ordinator.

At the first stage, the incident is categorised as low level, medium or high level, which determines how the case is dealt with. There is no appeal against this decision.

Low/medium level incidents

These will be investigated by the same officer who will either:

  • Give advice about the terms on the terms of occupation of university accommodation and a warning.
  • Impose a penalty such as a warning, a restriction on having a guest in your accommodation, require you to undertake relevant training ( e.g. fire safety or sexual consent up to and including requiring you to move to different accommodation, or leave university accommodation altogether, or pay for damage to be put right.
  • Refer the matter for informal resolution. This means that, in a case of allegations such as bullying and harassment, where the alleged victim consents and the case is regarded as suitable after a risk assessment, the case is dealt with by a discussion between the alleged offender and the Student Services Coordinator.

There is a right of appeal against the decision or the penalty. advice(su) can advise you about whether you have grounds for appeal and help you with the process. Grounds for appeal include that the evidence wasn’t fully considered, or that there is new information that should be considered.

High level incidents

If an incident is categorised as high level (or there are a number of incidents at least one of which is regarded as high level), the case will be dealt with by the University Disciplinary Officer (“DO”), who will start by considering the referral; and requesting any extra information needed to resolve the matter fairly.

Based on that information, they will decide whether:

  1. there is no case to answer, in which case no further action will be taken
  2. they will consider the case at a disciplinary hearing
  3. to refer the matter straight to a Senate Student Discipline Committee (SSDC)

Before a DO hearing, the DO must email the student accused, at least 5 working days before the date of the hearing, stating:

  • What the allegations are
  • When and where the meeting will be held
  • What penalties could be imposed, including what penalty will be imposed if you don’t respond to the email
  • That the DO can decide to refer the matter to the SSDC at the hearing

You have 2 working days to respond to this email. If you don’t, the DO can go ahead and make a decision on the information available without considering any additional evidence you might have.

If you accept that the allegations are true, and consider that the proposed penalty is reasonable, you can respond by agreeing to the penalty, in which case you need not attend the meeting.

If you don’t agree that you have done what you have been accused of, or want to offer mitigating factors which should be taken into account when the penalty is decided, you should reply to the email saying that you will attend the meeting. You are allowed to take someone with you to the meeting to support you (this person is known as a companion), and if you do, you should give the DO at least 2 days’ notice of who you are taking with you as your companion.

Anyone who has no involvement with the alleged incidents can be your companion. advice(su) workers can help you to prepare for the hearing and act as your companion, including helping you present your case. You could also take a friend or relative. Your companion cannot answer questions on your behalf, and if a companion disrupts the hearing, they can be excluded from the meeting.

You will receive an email with the DO’s decision within 5 working days. The DO may impose a penalty, or if the matter is considered very serious, send the case to be considered by an SSDC.

Penalties include the same penalties as can be imposed for low or medium level offences, plus:

  • Requiring you to do community service
  • Requiring you to write a reflective essay
  • A fine of up to £500

You can appeal a decision of the DO. advice(su) can advise you on grounds for appeal and the process.

At an SSDC hearing, your case will be considered by a panel of two senior academics and a student. You will get at least 5 days’ notice of the hearing. It’s important to prepare for a hearing as thoroughly as you can, so contact advice(su) as soon as you know your case has been referred to the SSDC. We can help you to start to prepare for the hearing even before you get a formal notice of when it will take place.

You are entitled to advance notice of the evidence against you, and will receive this when you get notification of the hearing. We can help you prepare a response to that evidence.

The hearing itself could last several hours, and a lot of evidence may be considered. We can talk you through what to expect, and if you wish, arrange to act as your representative at the hearing. That means we can help you to put your case as well as offer you support.

The SSDC has all the powers of the DO, including fines up to £1000 and can also exclude you from your course temporarily or permanently, if it considers that your conduct has been sufficiently serious, or if it finds that you have been dishonest in your defence. The SSDC makes its decisions on the basis of the “balance of probabilities” which means that it does not have to find the allegations are true beyond reasonable doubt – just that it is more likely than not that they are true.

So what should I do if I am called to a disciplinary hearing?

Whatever type of meeting you’ve been invited to, it’s important not to ignore the summons or delay doing anything about it. Make sure you respond to any invitation to a meeting, and if you don’t accept that the allegations against you are true, get some advice.