Academic Misconduct

Academic Misconduct is serious business, and a lot of the time results in automatically failing a course.

Repeat offenders can be suspended from university and, the more senior you are, the more serious the university is going to treat any misconduct. 

Academic Miscon-what?

Crime doesn’t pay, and university misconduct really doesn’t either. Any misconduct can potentially have serious consequences both while you are here and after you finish your degree. 

It could result in automatic failure of your course, suspension from UNSW, and even expulsion in certain cases; and many professional bodies now ask you to disclose about issues related to your character. Do you really want to have to tell the Legal Profession Admission Board that you forged a transcript or copied someone else’s work to get your degree?

It’s also important to know that there isn’t any reference to the allegation or outcome on your transcript, but your mark for the course appears. So if you end up with a zero for cheating in an exam, that might be hard to explain... And your name will be placed on a Misconduct Register which, although only used for internal purposes, means that UNSW does keep track of serial offenders.

What is it?

Misconduct is more than just plagiarism. It's not restricted to academic work at all, and can extend to off campus behaviour as well:

  • Submitting the same assignment twice (for different subjects)
  • Unauthorised materials in an exam room
  • Communicating with other students during online quizzes and exams through a discord server
  • Forging documents
  • Threatening, harassing or intimidating behaviour (to staff or other students)
  • Illegal downloading

Remember that the university is a community and your behaviour is governed by the UNSW Student Code as a condition of enrolment. Your main obligations are to:

  • Act with integrity in academic work, to ensure that all academic work is conducted ethically and safely
  • Observe standards of equity and respect in dealing with staff and peers
  • Use and care for University resources lawfully and appropriately
  • Not diminish the University's reputation

There is no exhaustive list of what misconduct is, and penalties are just as varied:

  • Formal reprimand or formal warning
  • Reduction in marks
  • Failure in the course 
  • Suspension or exclusion from UNSW
  • Delay graduation 
  • A fine

Check out UNSW's Complaints Management and Investigations Policy & Procedure Appendix B for examples of misconduct and descriptions of the potential penalties.

What can happen?

If you are accused of misconduct you should be informed in writing (by email), given details of the allegation and a chance to respond. You always have the right to get advice before replying to an allegation so contact Legal & Advocacy. We can take you through the procedure, explain the best course of action for you to take and, in some cases, advocate on your behalf to the university (this is a free service for all Arc members).

Note: If it’s a plagiarism case, please ask for a copy of the Turnitin report as soon as you get the allegation notice, it will make life so much easier for everyone involved.

Meetings are your opportunity to explain what happened (and deny the allegation where it just isn’t true) and offer any mitigating circumstances. Mitigating circumstances like poor health, personal issues or a death in the family aren’t excuses but may help to explain to an investigator what was happening in your life at the time when the misconduct occurred. 

Everyone makes mistakes and sometimes you just have to ‘fess up and take the consequences. If you did in fact do what UNSW thinks you did, the investigator will appreciate you admitting wrongdoing and apologising, instead of wasting time with far-fetched stories.  

Please don’t ignore emails from UNSW – it won’t make the situation go away. If you don’t respond, the investigator will just decide the allegation and impose a penalty without you.  

Remember you have the right to bring a support person to any meeting you have, so if you don’t want to tell your parents or ask a friend to go with you, please contact L&A (note: while we encourage you to be honest with your parents, please leave them at home. Parents + Meetings = Bad outcomes).

And when it’s all said and done we can also take you through the internal review (procedural review) process if you think that the investigation was unfair (you can only appeal on the basis of procedural fairness, e.g. bias, lack of evidence, no opportunity to present your side or if you have new and compelling information that was not available or known at the time of the investigation). 

Our tips 

  • Treat your fellow students and staff with respect. There’s a difference between free speech and being plain hurtful or harassing people  
  • Leave the mobile phone turned off and under your chair during in-person exams 
  • Don’t write anything on your hand or anywhere else on your body as a “study tool” 
  • Double check all your assignments for proper referencing 
  • Don’t use Uniwide to download movies! 
  • Think about what you post on social networking sites
  • Don’t self-help by cheating. If you’re struggling with stress, seek appropriate help (the Learning Centre and CAPS are great supports and access is free for UNSW students)
  • Open (AND READ) UNSW emails!


UNSW Policy

Complaints Management and Investigations Policy & Procedure 

Conduct & Integrity Office 


Need more information?

If you'd like to get in touch with Arc Legal & Advocacy, you can send us an email or book an appointment here

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