Facing internal university procedures? Don't panic - read this
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If you are lucky, most of you will go through your university life without ever experiencing any form of internal university procedure. You will never have cause to appeal an academic grade/mark, you will never need to defend yourself when the university accuses you of academic misconduct (which can be anything from fabrication of results to plagiarism), your university will never attempt to throw you off the course because they deem you unfit, you will never have cause to complain, you will never need the university to give you some leeway because something significant has happened in your life and you will plod along at university just fine. Unfortunately, for a number of you life is just not going to be that simple. When internal procedures occur the balance of power can be heavily weighted in favour of the university, which can result in a student feeling pressured to accept the decision of the university. Should you be thrust into the world of internal university procedures, you will get a crash course in university Rules, Regulations and Policies, all there to make life just that little more complicated. The various rules and policies governing the submission of academic appeals, academic misconduct appeals, extenuating/mitigating circumstances, or complaints can be pretty complex. That, together with short deadlines, set by the university, to submit such appeals can make even the savviest of students feel overwhelmed. Imagine then, if you are an international student and English is not even your first language? It does not make for a pleasant process to be caught up in. Let’s take the example of the student accused of plagiarism. I should say at this point that plagiarism can occur in so many forms and on occasion without the student even knowing, but that’s a different topic altogether… Back to the student. They were brought in for an “informal” chat with their tutor. Told that the university suspected them of plagiarising an assignment and that they will probably be awarded a zero as that is a breach of the Misconduct Regulations. The tutor produced a Turnitin report (yep that dreaded report) and placed it in front of the student. The student then had 10 days to appeal the decision. The first time the student even read the Misconduct Regulations was following the meeting with the tutor. So, was the “informal chat” with the tutor the formal decision? And where was the formal written decision detailing the exact allegations, or was that the role of the Turnitin report? The student had 10 days to understand the Misconduct Regulations, the Turnitin report and to write a well-structured appeal explaining why the assignment was not plagiarised. The student is also expected to attend (and concentrate) on lecturers, seminars and tutorials. A student left on their own to deal with this may not highlight the severe procedural errors on the part of the university. It is not uncommon for universities to fail to follow their own Regulations and if students do not challenge them, then who keeps tabs on the university? Students are often left feeling vulnerable and reluctant to fight the might of the university.
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