Universities rebuked for ‘unfair’ handling of misconduct

Universities have been reprimanded over unfair treatment of students accused of academic misconduct in a report by the higher education ombudsman for England and Wales, writes Sally Weale for The Guardian. The Office of the Independent Adjudicator said changes to assessments, accelerated by the COVID pandemic when university examinations moved online, had led to uncertainty among students about what is and is not allowed.

In one anonymised case, a university was ordered to make an apology and pay £6,000 (US$7,200) compensation to a student for “severe distress” caused by the inappropriate handling of an allegation of academic misconduct in an online examination. Suspicions were aroused after checks revealed the student had completed the assessment in less than four minutes. The student explained they had prepared draft answers and had been able to quickly adapt these during the assessment.

They were asked to do a mock exam on the spot by investigating officers, who decided the student had seen the questions in advance and applied a penalty. The student, who denied the allegation, was so distressed they sought emergency medical help because of suicidal thoughts. They also accused investigators of racism after noting that other accused students, who were white, received a lesser penalty.
Full report on The Guardian site