Academic Offences

Academic Offences 

Plagiarism and or Collusion 

The SU advice team supports many students who have been accused of an Academic Offence such as Plagiarism and/or Collusion.  

We have included some useful information below, but if you have received a letter regarding a possible academic offence, we would encourage you to contact us as soon as possible. 

Send us the letter or email you have received from the University, and the Turnitin report or any other evidence you have received about the issue, remembering that often this is password protected which is typically your student number. We can then arrange to contact you and offer support and guidance.

We know it can be stressful but the students we support tell us this really makes a difference and that they feel much better after talking to us! 

What is Plagiarism? 

Plagiarism is the inclusion of any idea or any language from someone else without giving due credit by citing and referencing that in your work. This applies if the source is print or electronic, published, or unpublished, or the work of any other person. Plagiarism can be intentional or unintentional.  

What is Collusion? 

Collusion is unauthorized collaboration of students (or others) in a piece of work. This can include giving another student a copy of your work, which they plagiarise without your knowledge.

I have been accused of an academic offence what do I do? 

Do not panic! Supporting students who have been accused of plagiarism and/or collusion is part of what we do at UPSU (University of Plymouth Students Union). It can be incredibly stressful to be accused of an academic offence, but you are not alone, and we can support you through the process. We would encourage you to have a read of the information below and then contact us as soon as possible.  

Why has this happened?

All work that is submitted to the University is routinely checked through Turnitin, which is plagiarism detection software. When Turnitin identifies a certain level of similarity with other texts, the matter is flagged for checking by an academic member of staff. If it looks like plagiarism/collusion may be present, you will be notified of the accusation.

It is important to note that whilst you have every right to contest the allegation, we would like to emphasise that the academic offence panel will not be considering whether you intended to plagiarise or collude. They will simply be considering whether the offence has occurred. 

Preparing for an Academic Offence Panel Meeting  

After receiving correspondence inviting you to the panel meeting you should confirm that you will be attending. You will be offered the opportunity to attend in person/via zoom and can submit a written statement for the panel to consider. The decision whether to attend the meeting is completely up to you. If you do not attend a decision will be made based on the evidence and the statement, you provide. If you choose to attend it will give the academic offences panel an opportunity to ask you questions and clarify any points, they are unsure of prior to making their decision. A member of the advice team can support you at this meeting.  

To prepare for the meeting have a look at the following questions that the panel may ask: 

  • What do you understand by the term plagiarism? Is your idea of plagiarism similiar to the University's definition? If you had a different understanding of the term 'plagiarism', say so.  
  • Have you considered the Turnitin report? How would you explain the level of plagiarism highlighted by the Turnitin report? The staff in the meeting will ask you about specific examples of highlighted text from the report.  
  • How did you prepare for this assignment? Did you get books from the library? Or use on-line electronic journals? Did you look at texts suggested by your tutor or in the lecture notes? 
  • How did you organise and gather your information? Did you have a file on your computer for collecting useful notes? Or did you keep information on paper? How did you know what were your words and what were someone else's?
  • How did you write the assignment?
  • Do you understand what is required in terms of referencing your assignment?
  • Have you been given information or training about plagiarism by your School/faculty?
  • Do you have any extenuating circumstances that you would like us to consider? Mention anything that affected you or your work at the time. 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

For example: that you have never done anything like this before, that you have asked your tutor for extra help with referencing.  

Think about what you might say in response to these questions. In the meeting you will not be able to just read out answers but thinking about them in advance and making some notes can be helpful. 

At the meeting 

The meeting can last for between 30-45 minutes but can go on for longer in some cases. Typically, there will be 3 or 4 members of staff at the meeting, some of whom will be from your School and some who you may not have met before. There will also be a person who will take notes so there is an accurate record. You can be accompanied to this meeting by a friend, member of the academic community or a representative from the SU advice team.

At the meeting, you will be asked questions about the Turnitin report (if there is one) and how you approached the work. The questions may be like the list above. The panel may not ask all these questions, and they may also ask other questions. At the end of the meeting you may have an opportunity to tell the panel about any extenuating circumstances that might have impacted on what has happened and you can also ask any questions you might have. The panel will not usually tell you what the outcome will be at this meeting. They will discuss the case afterwards and decide on their recommendations and you will receive email correspondence detailing the decision of the panel. 

What will the Outcome be? 

The University Academic Regulations Section D explain all the possible outcomes but in practice we find that the most common outcomes are:

  • No penalty to your mark, but the plagiarism is recorded on your file while you are at university in case of any future issues.  
  • The mark for the component be capped (at 40% for modules at Levels 4-6 and 50% for modules at Level 7). This penalty can only be awarded if the standard of the work is deemed to be worthy of the capped mark when the material which is the subject of the offence is discounted. 
  • A mark of zero will be recorded for the component.
  • A mark of zero will be recorded for the element.
  • A mark of zero will be recorded for the module.  

How Can the Advice Team help you? 

We can help you throughout the process by explaining the regulations and procedures, helping you prepare for any future meeting and understanding the outcome and next steps. We have worked with lots of students going through this process and we understand how worrying it can be.  

Please get in touch as soon as possible by emailing

View details of Academic, Examination Offences:

You can find the appeals form that you would need to complete should you wish to proceed, via this link:

Last updated: April 2024