This information is directed toward students at Umeå University and contains information about how cheating and plagiarism are defined, what happens if you cheat and how you can avoid it.
Imageillustration: Ida Åberg
Cheating is breaking the rules, which Umeå University views seriously. Every year students are warned by the Vice-Chancellor or suspended from their studies because they have tried to deceive on examinations. In such cases, the right to financial support may also be suspended. If these students had been familiar with the rules and acted in accordance with them, this would maybe not have happened.
What is defined as cheating and plagiarism ?
Cheating is when one uses unauthorized help aids or in some other way tries to mislead on a test or when another type of task is being evaluated.
Plagiarism is when one uses others’ work or material, both printed and from the Internet, and makes it appear as though they are one’s own. When you use the work of others the source shall be stated. Otherwise, in the worst case you can be required to reimburse the person who owns the work.
It is, of course, not allowed to purchase essays or other material on the Internet or from someone else and turn it in using one’s own name.
Cheat sheet and other unauthorized help aids
To use unauthorized help aids, for example, cheat sheets, other notes, cell phone, personal digital assistant (PDA) or books, can be perceived as cheating. Sometimes it is permitted to use certain help aids during an examination. In such cases you will receive information about it in advance.
During an in-class exam it is not permitted to talk to other students. If you collaborate more than permitted in connection with an examination and, for example, turn in a text or material that is more or less identical to someone else’s, this can be perceived as cheating.
You have been reported for suspicion of cheating – what comes next?
You have been reported for suspicion of cheating. What happens first is an initial investigation into what has happened.
The initial investigation
You will receive an email informing you of the suspicion of cheating. You are also given an opportunity to express yourself in writing in a statement (by email or, if you prefer, by regular mail). This is a chance for you to explain in your own words your response to what is described in the report. It is vital that you provide your own view of the reported events.
Your statement will be submitted to the department who has filed the report of suspicion of cheating, who in turn is given the chance to comment on your response. If you have been suspected of unauthorised collaboration, the other student/students who have been reported in the same case are also allowed to read your statement. All parties in the case are allowed to read each others’ statements. Sometimes, several statements are needed from each party.
Your studies during ongoing investigation
During the investigation, you may undertake your studies and other activities at the University as normal. This also means that you are allowed to sit a retake if one should be offered during this period. In most cases, however, the result of the assignment in question will not be rectified until the disciplinary case has been settled.
Decision after completed investigation
Once the investigation has been completed, the Vice-Chancellor will judge whether the case must be referred to the Disciplinary Board or not.
If the Vice-Chancellor decides to refer the case to the Disciplinary Board, you will receive an email in which you are called to appear at the Disciplinary Board meeting hearing your case. The email also contains information about time and place of this hearing. You have no obligation to attend the hearing, but we need to know that you have received the call to appear. Therefore, you must confirm that you have received the call to appear by answering according to the instructions in the email. If you fail to confirm receipt of the email, it will take longer before you can receive a decision and continue your studies as normal.
If the Vice-Chancellor decides not to refer the case to the Disciplinary Board, the Vice-Chancellor can either issue a warning about occurred events or, if the Vice-Chancellor finds there is not sufficient evidence to prove you have acted unlawfully, decide to dismiss the case without further action. Your case is hence closed.
Disciplinary Board hearing
Disciplinary Board hearings consist of the Vice-Chancellor (as Chair), one legally trained member (court judge), one representative of the teachers and two representatives of the students. You and the party filing the report, a teacher for instance, can participate at the hearing. Each party, in the presence of the other, is given the chance to provide their account on what has happened and why. Board members can also ask questions to ensure they have understood matters correctly.
The Disciplinary Board decides on the matter
When the Disciplinary Board members find they have all necessary information, you and the representative of the party filing the report are asked to wait outside while the Board deliberates on how to decide on the matter. When this is done, you may enter the hearing again to receive notification of the Board’s decision. The Disciplinary Board may decide to either suspend you, issue you with a warning or dismiss the case without further action.
Each case is tried individually, and it is not possible to say in advance how long the suspension period could be in your case if the Disciplinary Board should decide to suspend you from academic studies. The longest suspension period possible is six months. Such a long suspension period is only applied in the utmost serious cases, however. The most common suspension period is six weeks.
If you are suspended from academic studies, you may not participate in university activities during this period, neither in instruction nor examination. You are also suspended from learning platforms. Read more in the Procedures – disciplinary cases.
You are allowed to conduct self-studies from home during your suspension. We advice you to contact the study counsellor at your department as soon as possible to get advice on how to best use your time to optimise your chances of resuming your regular studies once the suspension period is over. After the suspension period, you are free to return to your studies as normal.
Being issued with a warning means there is sufficient evidence to prove that you have performed an unlawful action according to Chapter 10 of the Higher Education Ordinance, and consequently is issued a warning for it, although the action is not deemed serious enough to result in suspension.
Dismissed without further action
If your case is dismissed without further action, it means that there is not enough proof to decide that you have performed an unlawful action, according to Chapter 10 of the Higher Education Ordinance.
How do you avoid cheating and plagiarism?
Cheating can be the result of stress and a strained study situation. Cheating can also be the result of ignorance about how one should write academic texts and what requirements are stipulated for scholarly work. By learning the rules and how you could use text of others, you can avoid being reported for cheating.
Follow the teacher’s instructions
Be careful to follow the teacher’s instructions when you receive an assignment. The instructions can be different for different assignments. If you are absent when instructions are given, you have to contact the teacher in question and make sure that you receive instructions as to how the assignment should be completed.
Learn which rules apply when you use other people’s material. It must be clear as to what are your own ideas and wording and what you have taken from other texts or people. This applies both for material that you take from books and that which you find on the Internet.