Here at the Advice Service we can offer you independent advice on your academic problems, guiding and supporting you through the University's regulations and processes. If you have a question about academic misconduct, appeals, complaints, or the implications of taking time out of study, please have a look at our FAQ's below and for further information please contact us. In all cases, the earlier you contact us the more help we will be able to give you.
I've been accused of Academic Misconduct: what should I do?
Academic Misconduct covers many things including plagiarism / self-plagiarism, cheating in exams, falsifying research data and collusion.
If you have been accused of academic misconduct, you should receive an invitation to a meeting at which the allegation will be explained to you fully and you will be asked for a full and honest explanation of what happened.
You should write a statement about the piece of work concerned; our service can help you with this. Contact us and we can help check what you have written and advise you further.
You should always try to attend the meeting - if you really can't attend, you should let the University know and should submit a statement in advance. Otherwise a decision will be made in your absence and your voice won't be heard.
There are two types of meeting relating to issues of academic conduct:
Academic Cause for Concern meeting
This meeting is normally for students in their first year of study at the university. It involves allegations of poor academic practice such as a lack of understanding of academic protocols and referencing. Your Course Leader (or a nominee) and a Secretary from Registry Services will attend. The Module Leader or marker may also be there. There will be a written record of the meeting. You will be asked to answer to the concern which has been raised about your work. It is advisable to take with you any notes which you used in the preparation and production of your piece of work.
The possible outcomes of an Academic Concern meeting are:
- No further action will be taken
- An informal warning, this will remain on your file for the rest of your course. It will not be referred to in any reference requests. It will be taken into consideration in any future allegations. Your work will be given a mark
- The allegation is referred to an Academic Conduct Panel (see below).
Academic Conduct Panel meeting
This meeting is for more serious allegations and for students who are not new to study. The Panel should consist of at least two members of staff; a Chair and at least one member of academic staff. None of the staff on your panel should have had any involvement in the assessment or be your tutor. There will also be the Presenter, the staff member who made the allegation. There will be a written record of the meeting.
The Presenter will outline the facts and evidence which has led them to the allegation. You will then be able to present your response to these. You can also read out your statement and/or hand it in.
An adviser from the Students' Union Advice Service can accompany you to an Academic Conduct Panel meeting (depending on availability).
The possible outcomes of an Academic Conduct Panel meeting are:
- No further action will be taken
- An informal warning: this will remain on your file for the rest of your course. It will not be referred to in any reference requests. It will be taken into consideration in any future allegations. Your work will be given a mark
- A sanction will be applied to the assessment. The University can impose a range of sanctions against you, some of which may mean that you cannot continue with the course. The full list of sanctions can be found in the University’s Academic Conduct Regulation. This is located on SHUspace, in the 'University's Terms and Conditions and Student Regulations' section at the bottom of the page, under 'Rules and Regulations', then under 'Conduct and Discipline'.
The University will not excuse misconduct because you were experiencing difficult circumstances at the time - however, explaining what was going on for you can help the University understand your perspective and the mitigating circumstances can be taken into account in relation to the sanction awarded.
For more detailed information, read the University's regulations.
I've received a decision or a mark I don't agree with, is there anything I can do?
You can appeal some University decisions, but only on specific grounds (reasons). If you wish to appeal, you must do this within 10 working days of the decision being made available to you.
Appealing against a grade or mark:
You can only appeal if:
-There has been an error or irregularity in the marking process or if the assessment regulations haven't been applied properly
-There is relevant new evidence or information that you did not provide and you have a valid reason why you did not submit it at the time.
So, for example, you can appeal against a mark if you can demonstrate that some of your work wasn't considered. Or, as another example, if your work was marked according to the module criteria for a previous academic year.
You cannot appeal against a grade or mark just because you disagree with it or feel it is unfair, and you cannot appeal against academic judgement.
Appealing against a decision not to award a RRAA:
The Extenuating Circumstances (EC) Panel considers your Request for a Repeat Assessment Attempt (RRAA) for exams and assessed work that have been impacted by poor health or difficult circumstances. You can appeal against their decision if:
-You believe the Panel has not taken into account the full impact of your circumstances, particularly if you have additional evidence;
-There has been an error in the decision-making process;
-The Panel hasn't followed the regulations properly.
Appealing against a decision of an Academic Conduct Panel:
You can appeal against the decision of an Academic Conduct Panel if you can demonstrate a procedural or administrative error, or if the penalty is too severe in relation to the misconduct that has occurred.
How to appeal
You should read the University Appeals procedure first.
You will then need to use the AA1 form.
Details of all the regulations / processes and forms required can be found on SHUspace.
Appeals must be submitted within 10 working days of the decision being made available to you. If your appeal is late, you will have to provide evidence as to why you could not submit it earlier.
Stage 2 Appeals
If you are not happy with the outcome of your appeal and you can demonstrate an irregularity in the process or unreasonableness, you can submit a Stage 2 appeal.
The Students' Union Advice Service can check your appeal, help you identify evidence & arguments, and guide you through the process. An adviser can attend Stage 2 Appeal meetings with you (subject to availability).
I'm not happy with my course or a service I am receiving from the University. What can I do?
You can complain about any aspect of University life; teaching or supervision, a service provided by the University or behaviour of staff or other students. You will need to be specific and provide evidence of the issues you have faced.
The University states that nobody should be disadvantaged as a result of making a complaint.
Contact our service if you would like support with drafting your complaint.
The University has a three stage Complaints process:
Early resolution stage
You should raise your concern or difficulty with the people most directly involved with it, for example your Course Leader if it is a course-related matter or Student Support Officer. It's important to be as specific as possible and to think about what might help to put the problem right. You can send them an email or ask to meet in person. You should let them know that what you are discussing is an informal complaint. Once you receive the outcome of this, if you are unhappy with it you can take your complaint to the next stage.
Tips on what to write:
You need to be as clear as possible, as the person who reads your complaint will know nothing about your circumstances. Once you have written your statement you need to read it back and consider whether someone with no prior knowledge of your complaint would understand what you have written.
If you are complaining about a specific person, you must include their name otherwise your complaint cannot be followed up. If you know what their job title is, or which course they are studying, you should include this as well.
Writing a chronology of events may be helpful. Be as specific as you can with the dates that the events occurred.
Give examples to support the points you raise, and include evidence where possible.
Only mention witnesses and people who support your complaint by name if they have given you permission to do so.
You do not need to write your statement like an essay. It is fine to write it as a list of bullet points. You do not need to write directly on to the form. You can write your summary in a word-processed document, print it out and attach it to your form.
Stage 1 Complaint: Faculty Level
If you are not satisfied with the response to the early resolution stage (informal complaint) or the matter is too serious to be dealt with informally, you can submit a Stage 1 complaint using form SC1.
You need to send the form, with as much evidence as you can, to your Faculty’s complaint email address. These are:
Health and Wellbeing HWBstage1complaints@shu.ac.uk
Sheffield Business School SBSstage1complaints@shu.ac.uk
Social Sciences and Humanities SSHstage1complaints@shu.ac.uk
Science, Technology and Arts STAstage1complaints@shu.ac.uk
If your complaint is about another service in the University, we can help you find the right email address to send it to, just get in touch.
You should receive confirmation of the receipt of your complaint within 3 days. A complaint investigator will be appointed who will then keep you informed about the progress of their investigation. You may be called to a meeting with them. Contact the Advice Service if you would like someone to help you to get ready for the meeting.
Stage 2 Complaint: University Level
If you believe that the outcome of your Stage 1 complaint is unreasonable or unfair, you can put in a further Stage 2 complaint by completing form SC2.
You must do this within 10 working days of receiving the written outcome of the Stage 1 complaint.
You cannot raise new concerns at this stage.
Your Stage 2 complaint will be investigated by a senior staff member from a different Faculty to the one you study in. You will be asked to attend a meeting; an adviser from the Students' Union Advice Service can help you prepare for the meeting and may be able to accompany you to the meeting (subject to availability). If you are about to enter this stage of the process, it is a good idea to contact our service as soon as possible for support.
Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA)
Once all University processes are completed, if you are unsatisfied with the outcome you can contact the OIA - an independent body that oversees universities. The OIA looks at the handling of the complaint process rather than at the substance of the complaint itself (i.e. it does not look at the issue you actually complained about) and is interested in whether the University has acted fairly, reasonably and within its own procedures. You can contact them to speak about your case before you submit a complaint.
The Students' Union Advice Service can discuss your concerns with you, help you clarify your issues and pull together your complaint. We can guide you through the process, check your statements and attend meetings with you (subject to availability).
What can I do if I’m too unwell or if my circumstances mean I can’t hand in my work or do my exam?
The two key things to do are:
- Stay in touch with your Student Support Officer
- Collect as much evidence as you can about your circumstances, if you are unsure about this you can contact our service for further advice.
Detailed information and the forms you need are found on SHUSpace. At the bottom of the home page there is a University Rules & Regulations section; you need the 'Illness and Difficult Circumstances' page.
Short term problems - extension request
If you have an unexpected situation that you think will be resolved quickly (such as a short term illness), but which means you can't hand in a piece of work, you can apply for an extension to your submission deadline. You must put in your request at least 24 hours before the deadline. Applications for an extension must be done online at My Student Record. You might need to use a self-certification form as part of this. There is video guidance on SHUspace, on the Illness and Difficult Circumstances page.
If you miss an exam because of a sudden illness, you will need to use the RRAA process. You may need to use a self-certification form to evidence your illness.
Medium term problems - RRAA (Request a Repeat Attempt at an Assessment)
If you have a slightly longer term difficulty and a 5 or 10 day extension is not going to be enough for you, you need to submit a RRAA.
If the RRAA is agreed, you will get the chance to do the work again, on the same basis as the attempt the RRAA applies to, e.g. if it was your intitial attempt at that assessment, the repeat assessment will be marked as a first attempt.
You need to complete the form online and put in as much detailed information as you can about how the situation has affected your ability to study. More information can be found here.
You should provide as much independent evidence as you can. If you can't provide evidence, explain why not, or explain that you will gather evidence and provide it as soon as possible. If you need any help with this you can contact our service.
The RRAA process is there to provide for unexpected and uncontrollable situations. The process is not there for recurring difficulties or routine life events; it is meant to cover exceptional circumstances.
You need to submit your RRAA within 5 working days of the submission deadline or exam. A late RRAA may be accepted, but you will need to explain why it was late and provide evidence for the delay.
There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to apply for a RRAA. Please read the Extenuating Circumstances Policy on SHUspace for more information, and contact us for advice as soon as possible.
Long term problems - Learning Contracts & taking a break in study
If you have a long-term health problem or disability that is impacting on your study, it is advisable to get a Learning Contract to make sure you get appropriate support for your studies. You can contact the University’s Disabled Student Support Team for help with this.
If you need time out from your course because of a health problem, maternity or personal situation, a break in study can be agreed.
We would advise you to contact our service to discuss the possible implications of a break in study, e.g. the effect on your funding and benefits entitlement, housing, and visa if applicable. See the relevant section for more details.
I need some time out of University. How do I take a break in study?
If you need to take more than four weeks out of university, you will need to speak with your Faculty about a Break in Study.
You might need to take a break in study because of a health problem, because of caring responsibilities or other difficult life circumstances. The first step is always to discuss the matter with your Student Support Officer, to make sure that a break in study is the right option for you, and to see if other support can be put in place to enable you to continue with your studies.
The University's 'Break in Study' policy is part of its general policy on Extenuating Circumstances and information can be found in the 'Illness and Difficult Circumstances' section on SHUSpace.
A Break in Study has to be agreed in advance with the University. It can't be used if you've already missed a lot of your course; you cannot apply retrospectively.
When you're applying for a break in study, you need to be aware of the maximum duration of your course - will you be able to complete it within the deadline?
You also need to be aware of the possible impact on your student funding - for an undergraduate degree, if you are entitled you should receive funding for the duration of your course plus one year. If you need to take a break, you will need to contact your funding body, think about possible overpayments and whether you have enough funding available to you to finish the course.
If you are an International Student on a Tier 4 visa, a break in study may not be possible, or you may need to apply for a new visa - seek advice from the International Experience Team.
Here at the Students' Union Advice Service we can help you explore your options and the implications of your choices for your studies and your finances, including how you will support yourself financially during the break.
There’s been a problem on my placement and I’m being referred to Fitness to Practise. What should I do?
If you are in this situation contact our team straight away - we can guide you through the process and help you to draft your statements and prepare for meetings. Fitness to Practise can be a very stressful process and has serious implications - it is worth getting as much help as you can as early as you can.
The Fitness to Practise regulations are found on SHUSpace in the Rules and Regulations section - they provide a clear and detailed outline of the process.
The first stage is an investigation. You will receive a letter that invites you to a meeting and includes the reasons for the referral.
At this stage, the Students' Union Advice Service can help you prepare your response, provide support and make sure that you are clear about the process and its implications.
Subject to availability, we can attend the Investigation Meeting with you.
The Investigation Meeting can decide that there is no case to answer, it can refer you to other regulatory processes (e.g. disciplinary), it can put an action plan in place for you to meet as you continue as a student or it can refer you to a Fitness to Practice Panel meeting.
Fitness to Practice Panel meeting
A Panel will formally consider whether you can remain on the course and whether you are 'fit to practise' within your chosen profession.
You are strongly advised to attend the Panel meeting; an adviser from our service can attend this meeting with you (subject to availability).
You will receive a submission from the University giving the conclusions of their investigation and the evidence they have used. You are invited to respond to this, but your submission must be submitted at least 5 working days in advance of the panel meeting.
Appealing against a Fitness to Practise decision
You can appeal against the decision of the Panel if:
- there was an error or irregularity in the process;
- the decision was disproportionate;
- new evidence has come to light that was not available at the time.
The appeal must be submitted within 10 working days of the decision being made available to you.
The Students' Union Advice Service can discuss your grounds for appeal with you and assist you through the process.
In some instances, students can be suspended from placement or from the University. If this has happened, please contact our service as soon as possible.
I’ve failed some work. What should I do next / what are my options?
This is covered by the University's Standard Assessment Regulations.
The general principle is that you are entitled to receive the teaching for a module once and that you can have two attempts at passing it. If you fail the first attempt, you will be offered a further attempt at the assessment, but your mark will be capped at the minmum pass mark.
If that second valid attempt is failed, you will be offered a re-take opportunity, which will give you the teaching again and two further attempts at the work, but this will all be capped at the minimum pass mark. You may have to pay extra to re-take the module.
Some courses are covered by their own regulations regarding re-takes, particularly professional courses such as nursing. You should contact your Faculty directly regarding this.
You are only allowed to progress to the next level of the course if you have passed enough modules. If you have failed several modules, you may need to re-take the year. This may have financial and funding implications and could affect your visa (if applicable). You also need to bear in mind the regulations around 'maximum duration of study' - see the Standard Assessment Regulations for more information about this and how progression options are worked out.
Things to consider
If you have failed some work, were you experiencing health problems or other difficult circumstances at the time of the assessment? You could consider putting in a late RRAA. Our service can support you with information about this process. We can also advise you on whether you may be able to apply for repeat tuition fee funding on the grounds of Compelling Personal Reasons, if you have to repeat the year.
Has there been an error in the marking, assessment or administration process? You might consider putting in an appeal, remembering that you cannot appeal academic judgement. Our service can advise you on this process and help you understand if you have grounds to appeal.
It is important to discuss your progression with your Student Support Officer or Course Leader.
The Students' Union Advice Service can discuss your options with you, and will outline the implications for your current and future funding entitlement and other financial considerations.
I’m thinking of leaving my course. What are the implications?
If you have already received funding, you may be asked to pay some or all of this back if you leave the course. It is important for you to inform your funding body as soon as you have withdrawn, to keep overpayments to a minimum.
You are normally only entitled to receive funding for the duration of your course plus one year, and previous higher education study you've undertaken will generally reduce your entitlement. Therefore, if you leave your course having completed two years, for example, you might not be entitled to enough tuition fee funding if you wish to study again in the future. However, if you have experienced personal difficulties whilst studying, which lead to you leaving the course, you may be entitled to some repeat funding when you return to study - see our Money section for information on applying for additional funding on the grounds of Compelling Personal Reasons, or contact our service for support.
The Students' Union Advice Service can help you explore the impact of leaving university on your current finances and future funding entitlement.
If you have signed a housing contract for student accommodation, even if you leave university you will still be liable for the rent on the accommodation for the duration of the contract. See our section on Housing Contracts.
Why are you thinking of leaving? Would another option help you to complete your course?
It could be that you need more support or that a break in study would help you. Or perhaps you could transfer to another course that would suit you better?
The best people to discuss this with are your Student Support Officer and your Course Leader. They will be able to discuss your options.
If you need a break in study rather than a permanent withdrawal, there are financial implications - please see our section on taking a break in study