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Durham University

Welcome to Durham University's Common Awards website

Assessment Irregularities Including Plagiarism

Consult this policy for information on:

  • Plagiarism, collusion, and other assessment irregularities
  • Procedures for dealing with assessment irregularities, including referral to the University

Also recommended:

Our short guide on 'Interpreting the Process for Dealing with Suspected Plagiarism in a Common Awards Context' will help TEIs to implement the procedure set out below.

What are 'Assessment Irregularities'?

Assessment irregularities are disciplinary major offences which will be dealt with in accordance with the University’s General Regulation IV. Assessment irregularities take various forms including plagiarism, multiple submission and collusion. TEIs must ensure that all students are aware of the seriousness of these practices, and of the penalties which may be incurred.

Plagiarism unacknowledged use, including quotation and close paraphrasing of other people’s writing and ideas, amounting to the presentation of other person’s writings or thoughts as one’s own. This includes using material which is available on the internet, and in any other electronic form, and ‘contract cheating’ i.e. obtaining an essay from an essay writing site, or equivalent source, and submitting it for marking, as if it were your own work.
Multiple submission the inappropriate submission of the same or substantially the same work of one’s own for summative assessment, in connection with an academic award.
Collusion working with one or more other student(s) to produce work which each student then presents as their own in a situation in which this is inappropriate or not permitted and/or without acknowledging the collaboration of the other student(s). Please note – an allegation of collusion is always made against two or more students. The submission by one student of another student’s work as if it were their own (without the other student’s knowledge) constitutes plagiarism rather than collusion.
Impersonation presenting work on behalf of someone else as if it were the work of the other individual.
Cheating using any inappropriate or unauthorised means to achieve credit for a piece of coursework or an examination answer.
Use of inadmissible material using material which is not permitted to achieve credit for a piece of coursework or an examination answer.
Facilitation it is also an offence for a student to provide work such as essays to facilitate plagiarism, for example, by placing work on a website.

Dealing with Suspected Cases

In the case of formative assessment, plagiarism or collusion should be dealt with informally by the TEI involved, but the serious nature of the dishonest practice should be made known to the student concerned. In the case of summative assessment, the first stages of the procedure are part of the examinations process and not a disciplinary procedure.

Cases of suspected plagiarism or collusion should be reported immediately. There should not be any delay over taking action since the consideration of such allegations at the end of the academic year can give rise to additional complications. The evidence of alleged plagiarism or collusion should be shown to the student, and the student should be asked to account for the work that they submitted.

The table below presents the procedure for dealing with suspected plagiarism. TEIs are also advised to consult our short guide on implementing the procedure for dealing with cases of suspected plagiarism.


If it is suspected that a student has breached the regulations, a report detailing the evidence should be made immediately to the chair of the TEI’s board of examiners. The TEI should automatically check all the student’s work for the year, to see whether there is other evidence for similar behaviour. Where two examiners have been appointed to examine a piece of work the examiners should consult over the matter before the submission of a report. In the event of one of the examiners being the chair of the TEI’s board of examiners, a deputy should act in his/her place.


If an external examiner suspects that a student has breached the regulations, they should consult with the internal examiner(s). The internal examiner should then prepare a preliminary report detailing the evidence; the report should be submitted immediately to the Chair of the TEI’s Board of Examiners.


If, in the view of the Chair of the TEI’s Board of examiners, the report of the examiner(s) provides sufficient detailed evidence of an offence, a sub-group panel of the TEI’s Board of Examiners, appointed by the Chair, shall be formed comprising the Chair and two other members of the Board (but excluding the reporting examiner(s)) to consider the case.


The student(s) concerned are required to meet the panel together with the reporting examiner(s). The student should normally receive at least 5 working days notice of the date of the meeting and should be told of its purpose. They should be offered the opportunity to be accompanied at the panel by a member of staff from the TEI (for example, the student’s personal tutor or equivalent).


If the allegation is collusion both students should normally be seen together, to enable them to hear the other student’s evidence against him/herself. Each student may say his/her mitigation in private before the panel, with the proviso that the other student will be given the opportunity to respond to any reference to him/her in the mitigation statement. In the case of final year students where the case of alleged plagiarism or collusion is brought to light at the end of the degree programme it may be necessary to hold a meeting without the 5 days notice, provided that the student concerned agrees in writing to this procedure. This course of action may be necessary in order to permit the TEI’s Board of Examiners the opportunity of considering the case without necessarily causing any delay to the normal process of consideration for the award of a degree to the student concerned.


Following the meeting, a written record of the meeting must be made immediately. The report must be sent electronically to the Common Awards Team as soon as possible. The Common Awards Team will forward the report to the relevant University Liaison Officer, and will use the report to monitor practice within and across the TEIs.

Possible outcomes

At the end of the meeting, the panel - excluding the reporting examiner(s) - must decide upon the quantitative and qualitative extent of alleged plagiarism or collusion. This decision must be made in the light of: (a) the evidence presented; and (b) the account given by the student including any mitigation offered. Based on this decision, the panel must agree on the appropriate action to be taken. A written record of the meeting, and the panel's recommendation, must be made immediately and sent electronically to the Common Awards Team as soon as possible.

The panel's recommendation must also be communicated to the student in writing by the Chair of the TEI's Board of Examiners. The panel’s recommendation may be as follows:

1 that no further action be taken, because, on the balance of probabilities, plagiarism or collusion or multiple submission had not taken place
2 that the Board apply for a concession or grace period on the student’s behalf, because, whilst there is clear evidence of plagiarism/collusion/ multiple submission, due to exceptional mitigating factors, a punishment is inappropriate;
3 that there is clear evidence of plagiarism/collusion/multiple submission and that the Board apply one of the following punishments:
A. mark only the student’s own contribution to the work, or in the case of multiple submission, mark only the proportion of the work which complies with the TEI’s guidance. (This may be most appropriate where the plagiarism/collusion/multiple submission is not extensive or it is a first-offence, or a first-year student; or the TEI’s Board accepts the student’s mitigation);
B. award a mark of 0 for the work (this may be appropriate where the plagiarism/collusion/multiple submission is more extensive, the work makes a significant contribution to the module/programme as a whole, or it is a repeat offence or there is clear evidence of dishonesty) and permit the student to resit/resubmit the piece of work with a mark capped at the pass mark (within the resit limitations set out in the Core Regulations for the Common Awards programmes);
C. award a mark of 0 for the entire module in which the plagiarism/collusion/multiple submission occurred (this is the most severe punishment open to the TEI’s Board of Examiners). The student will be required to resit the entire module with a mark capped at the pass mark (within the resit limitations set out in the Core Regulations for the Common Awards programmes). In the case of students in Level 6 of the BA programme, at which level resits are not permitted, this may result in the student failing their programme. The punishment should be used only in the most serious cases.
D. that the level of misconduct goes beyond the examples cited in A-C and, therefore, it should be referred to the University as a possible major offence under the University’s discipline regulations. In this case, the plagiarism panel should choose an academic outcome from A-C (above), and should contact the Common Awards Team as soon as possible to receive advice on progressing the case under the University's discipline regulations.
4 Where one of the above recommendations is applied, a written report of the work submitted together with the student’s explanation and the Panel’s recommendation should be presented to a meeting of the TEI’s Board of Examiners for consideration. The Board should consult the external examiner(s) before making a decision about cases involving work submitted for final honours. The report should also been sent electronically to the Common Awards Team as soon as possible; the report will be forwarded to the relevant University Liaison Officer for review.
5 In all cases in which the student is not in the final Level of their programme of study or has other summatively assessed work to complete, an appropriate member of teaching staff in the TEI must arrange a meeting, preferably in person, to counsel the student on how to avoid infringing the assessment regulations in future. A note of the date and time of the meeting is to be kept in the student’s file.

Further Information

a) Procedures for dealing with plagiarism, collusion, and multiple submission are based upon the principle that teaching staff with subject-specialist expertise should exercise their academic judgement as to the extent to which the alleged misconduct amounts to plagiarism/collusion/multiple submission in the context of the given case.

b) The facilitation of plagiarism through publication may also be classed as a dishonest practice under General Regulation IV, 5(a) (x) and may lead to expulsion from the Common Awards programmes. See also General Regulation XI, Intellectual Property Rights.

c) In line with Ministry Division requirements, all written assignments must be uploaded to a plagiarism detection system to check for possible academic offences at the discretion of each TEI. All students are therefore required to sign a declaration at registration authorising the uploading of their work onto such systems.

d) TEIs should ensure that all students, including those from other cultures and academic traditions, know what is required and what is acceptable to be awarded a degree. All students should be made aware of acceptable and appropriate means of referencing (including the use of quotations and citations) and of paraphrasing the views of others. Where TEIs advise students that it is acceptable practice to use a commercial proof reading service, clear guidance should also be provided as to the level of acceptance that is acceptable and what level of assistance goes beyond this and amounts to ‘ contract cheating’ and thus plagiarism.

e) At the start of each academic year, each student must complete a form which includes a declaration that states:

‘All assessed work to be submitted for my degree [or other qualification] will be a result of my own work except where group project work is involved, and that I will comply with the TEI’s guidance on multiple submission. In the case of a group project, the work will be prepared in collaboration with other members of the group. In all other cases material from the work of others not involved in the assessment will be acknowledged and quotations and paraphrases suitably indicated.’ Or:

f) It is required that the form is: (i) completed once a year at Registration and held in the TEI for a year; and/or (ii) completed each time a student submits any piece of written work, other than in a formal examination, which is to be assessed as part of the requirements for the qualification for which they are registered.