Frequently asked questions
We have the answers you are looking for.
Why should I care about academic integrity?
At UBC, you have an incredible opportunity to learn and grow with a global community of students. Over the course of your program, you will cement knowledge, competencies, skills, as well as personal values and principles that will guide your decisions for the rest of your life. Learning with integrity will set the stage for being an ethical professional after you graduate. Breaching integrity at UBC or in your professional life can have irreversible consequences such as a course mark of zero, suspension, or expulsion from the university.
What should I do if I notice other people cheating?
Let your instructor know right away. Be sure to share the facts: what you saw and heard. If your peers share with you that they think others are cheating, encourage them to talk to the instructor directly. You may also want to tell your teaching assistant. In that case, it is a good idea to also tell your instructor.
I feel pressured to cheat. Do I have other options?
Cheating is never the right thing to do. However, it is common to think about cheating when things get stressful and feel unmanageable. Before cheating, reach out for help and explore your options. This can include talking to your instructor to ask for a deadline to be extended, reaching out to UBC resources for academic help on your assignments, or accessing any other resource that can contribute to your health and wellbeing.
What counts as academic misconduct?
If you take an action that was specifically not allowed by your instructor (on an exam, or any kind of assignment for a course), that is academic misconduct. Individual instructors decide what is allowable in their courses and what is not, so be sure to read the syllabus for each of your courses.
There is variation in what might count as academic misconduct because the criteria for assignments and appropriate evaluation of a particular assignment can vary by assessment type, course, and discipline. While collaboration might be allowed in one course because the discipline values that as a skill, another course might forbid collaboration because your ability to do completely independent work might be required to fulfill the goals of the assignment. Ask your instructor when in doubt.
Keep in mind that some forms of academic misconduct, such as plagiarism, are considered universal at UBC.
Check out the Academic Misconduct page for more details about the different forms of misconduct.
My instructor has accused me of misconduct, what do I do now?
Make sure you understand the accusation. If you are given the opportunity to respond, be clear about the facts and explain any extenuating circumstances you believe are relevant. Your instructor will have to follow the academic misconduct process. If you are not sure about what that process entails for you or your options, ask your instructor directly. You may also reach out to your campus resources for support.
I’ve been contacted by my instructor or the Dean’s Office to discuss an allegation of misconduct. How can I prepare for that meeting/conversation?
First, read the email carefully at least twice. The email may contain key information such as the academic assessment under review (a midterm, a lab report, a paper) and evidence or irregularities found so far.
Be sure to reply to your instructor’s email within the suggested timeline to confirm receipt of the email and the meeting date, time, and place.
As soon as you can, reflect upon that assessment under review. Do you understand the allegation? Do you agree and take responsibility? Do you have other evidence, information or circumstances you think will help clarify the allegation? Write them down so you do not forget about them.
Are you feeling nervous about this meeting? Feeling nervous is a normal reaction. If you feel this will impact your ability to communicate well with your instructor, ask yourself: will having somebody with me in this meeting help? If so, reach out to that person and invite them to come with you to the meeting. While you are expected to speak for yourself, you can bring somebody to help you feel supported and not alone. You may choose a friend, an academic advisor, a family member, etc. If students need help during this process, there is a wide range of resources and support available.
During the meeting, be sure to listen carefully to your instructor so the discussion is clear and fruitful for both of you. Be sure to ask any questions you may have.
Why do I have to meet with my instructor after an allegation of academic misconduct?
The purpose of meeting with your instructor is to give you the opportunity to learn about and to respond to the allegation. This can mean sharing any context and circumstances that may have impacted your behaviour or decisions.
What is an “academic hold” and can I request that it be removed?
An academic hold is a mechanism in the registration system that prevents students from registering for courses via the Student Service Centre (SSC). You can request that this be removed by contacting the Registrar via email. Be sure to connect with Enrolment Services (Vancouver and Okanagan) for the details and information that you need to include in that email, and the email address to reach the Registrar.
I want to get my academic misconduct notation taken off my transcript. How do I do that?
An academic misconduct notation is one possible outcome of an academic misconduct investigation. If this occurs, the student is notified and told whether it would be possible to remove the notation in the future (i.e., whether it is permanent or not). If the letter does allow for the notation to be removed, students should connect with Enrolment Services (Vancouver and Okanagan) to gather the details and process for removal.
Who can see or know whether I have been accused of academic misconduct?
The PACSD receives copies of warning letters, Integrity Plans, and the PACSD’s findings of misconduct and consequent President’s decision letter. The Dean’s Office in your Faculty may also have a record.
Don’t assume everyone knows everything about academic integrity.
What is the basic information I need to tell my students about academic integrity?
It is recommended that instructors clearly define what academic integrity looks like in their discipline/course. A syllabus statement that you discuss in class is a useful way to do this. Tell your students why academic integrity matters, what working with integrity looks like, provide examples of what breaches of academic integrity look like, communicate how cases of suspected misconduct will be addressed, and include information and resources.
How do I design my course to reward integrity?
Ideally, academic integrity is integrated into course and assignment design. Be clear about how each aspect of the course should be done to meet the standards for academic integrity. Consider making academic integrity a course learning outcome and teaching academic integrity concepts through a course activity such as a quiz.
I am a new instructor, where can I learn more about academic integrity and academic misconduct?
New instructors should reach out to their department to learn about the academic misconduct process. They may wish to consult resources on incorporating academic integrity statements into their syllabus or their curriculum. Resources are available through this website and further trainings for academic misconduct are being developed. New instructors may wish to explore the Teaching Development Program through the CTLT and other programming at the CTLT (Vancouver) or the CTL (Okanagan).
How can I get a sense of what kind of disciplinary action a case might receive?
The Office of the University Counsel prepares an annual report containing summaries of student discipline cases. Reviewing these cases can offer a sense of what type of disciplinary action the President has determined for different forms of academic misconduct in the past.
As an instructor, do I have the power to fail a student in their course or to suspend or expel a student?
No. All discipline lies with the President pursuant to section 61 of the University Act. Instructors are those who will be the first to detect academic misconduct, usually have the first meeting with the student, and make the first decision around whether an incident constitutes academic misconduct or not.
What range of consequences of I have as an instructor?
An instructor may reevaluate the academic merit of the work at issue, taking into consideration the results of any review around the academic misconduct allegation. This might include asking the student to redo the work, to do supplementary work, or assigning a reduced grade (up to zero on the assignment in question). This reevaluation must be focused on the academic merit of the work and should not be disciplinary, and it must take into account the results of any reviews at the department, program or Dean’s Office level.
Do I have to report minor cases of misconduct?
Reporting keeps things fair for everyone. According to the Academic Calendar, anything deemed to be academic misconduct must be reported. The decision is not whether to report academic misconduct or not, the instructor’s role is to determine whether a certain incident constitutes academic misconduct or not. Should an instructor need help or advice around the thresholds between learning moments and academic misconduct, they should contact their department.
The only cases that are not reported are those deemed to be “learning moments”. This may include a moment of poor academic practice in a particular set of circumstances in a particular discipline. This may vary between Faculties: for example, some disciplines may have no tolerance for any infraction however minor (due to accreditation requirements or the health profession context, etc.), while others may see a minor and unintentional misstep as part of developing skills necessary for an assignment. That said, repeated learning moments should be considered differently.
How can I report?
Instructors report by contacting their department and or Deans’ Office. Reporting procedure may vary between Faculties. If an instructor does not know where to report, they should contact their department (Head or Associate Head) or their Dean’s Office.
At what stage can a student see the evidence against them?
In most cases, the initial conversation between instructor and student should include a review of the evidence that an instructor may have. Upon further review at the department or Dean’s Office level, further evidence may be accumulated and the student should also be given the opportunity to respond to the allegation at that stage. At the level of the PACSD, the student will have the opportunity to respond to evidence during their review the Statement of Case and respond to it in their Statement of Response.
Can I suggest that a student admit to academic misconduct to make the process easier on both of us?
No. A student has the right to understand the process and the various pathways that are available to them. This includes understanding the implications of both admitting to the academic misconduct and denying the academic misconduct. An instructor, a department, or a Dean’s Office should not coerce a student to proceed in either direction. If a student needs support in navigating the policy, they may reach out the Office of the Ombudsperson for Students.
Are academic misconducted cases tracked to see if students are repeatedly breaching academic misconduct?
Yes. Reported cases of academic misconduct are tracked. This provides a record to check for past offenses which may have an impact on whether a student can access the diversionary pathway and whether a case should escalate. Reporting and tracking also supports creating a fair environment for everyone.
I am an instructor, may I create an integrity plan with a student?
No. Integrity plans may only be developed at the Dean’s office level. As an instructor your role is to determine whether or not you believe that academic misconduct occurred in your course and, if so, to report the allegation in line with your Faculty procedures.
What are some of the myths about academic integrity?
Rethinking Our Assumptions about Academic Misconduct and Academic Integrity: Unlearning, Learning, and Relearning for Instructors1
The discussion of the following myths is based on research and is not specific to the UBC context.
Whatever our experience as educators, all of us carry with us ideas and attitudes about academic integrity – or, more usually, about academic misconduct. Often, those ideas and attitudes are not something we have had to think very much about, until we are dealing with an issue in a course.
Most of us have not been taught or trained about how to teach academic integrity. As a result, we may be carrying these unexamined ideas as well as assumptions that circulate in higher education and the media into our pedagogies, in ways that might create barriers – even, in some cases, do harm
– for students in meeting these expectations. Issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion intersect with those of academic integrity, and we have urgent responsibilities to address these areas of overlap.
In the spirit of Alvin Toffler’s practice of “learning, unlearning, and relearning,” we outline three ways to start rethinking some common assumptions about academic misconduct and academic integrity, and instead create accessible and inclusive pedagogies.
1 Adapted from McNeill, Laurie. “Inspecting the Foundations: An Academic Integrity Intervention.”
Who Commits Academic Misconduct, and Why
A dominant and pervasive idea about academic misconduct is that international students are more likely to commit it than domestic students. Research has consistently shown that international students are not more likely to cheat, although they may be disproportionately represented in disciplinary actions.1
Similarly, gender, class, and first-generation student status were not factors in misconduct – but, again, members of these groups might be more likely to be caught and disciplined.
Some disciplines, however, do have higher rates of misconduct. Interventions at the level of the department and the classroom to create and support a culture of integrity will be particularly important in those contexts.2
Students engage in cheating behaviors for a variety of reasons. Students may end up committing misconduct because they lack the skills and knowledge that would enable them to meet the expectation of doing their work with integrity. For students who do know but choose dishonest practices, major factors in their decision to do so are a) peer attitudes to cheating (“everyone is doing it”) and b) faculty attitudes: if students think their instructors do not care, they are not motivated to take the care to avoid misconduct.3
These findings suggest the opportunities we have as educators to establish and maintain a culture of integrity, in part by making sure all students know what our expectations are and how to meet them.
1 Sarah Elaine Eaton, “Who Cheats? Reality versus myth”, “Academic Integrity for Teaching and Learning: Insights for Ethical Practice”, UBC Academic Integrity Week, Keynote Lecture (2021).
2 Parnther, C. “Academic misconduct in higher education: A comprehensive review.” Journal of Higher Education Policy And Leadership Studies (2020), 1(1), 25-45. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.29252/johepal.1.1.25
3 Childers, D., Bruton S. “’Should It Be Considered Plagiarism?’ Student Perceptions of Complex Citation Issues.” J Acad Ethics (2016), 14:1–17. DOI 10.1007/s10805-015-9250-6; McNeill, L. “Changing “Hearts” and Minds: Pedagogical and Institutional Practices to Foster Academic Integrity.” Academic Integrity in Canada, ed. Sarah Elaine Eaton and Julia Christensen-Hughes (Springer: 2022).
Students “all know” what academic integrity means and how to do it
When we each assume that our students, whatever the course level, all already have the knowledge, skills, and rationale to do their work with integrity in our course, we may set up students up to fail to meet this expectation. Regardless of the course level, our students come to our courses with varied experiences of and expertise in this topic. Moreover, each discipline’s research practices and our individual courses may have expectations or applications that will be new or present challenges.
We might not be aware of our own assumptions about what our students do already know, or about whether or not our expectations have been clear, or if we have introduced complexities. Checking in with students (e.g., by survey, no-stakes quiz, or class discussion) provides an opportunity to learn from our students about where they need more clarification, information, or resources. By inviting such input, we can normalize asking questions and take away the potential for students who do not already know to feel shame about not knowing.
Making clear expectations and instruction in how to meet those expectations an explicit part of the core content of the course helps students succeed in your class. It also reinforces for students that learning and working with academic integrity is something we all do in the academic community – and that it is an ongoing practice. This consistent and supportive approach to academic integrity helps motivate students to see it as something that is important to them and worth taking the time to do.
Faculty “all know” what academic misconduct is and how to deal with it
Just as students may not have a very good understanding of what constitutes misconduct, faculty may be equally as confused about these definitions. They may also lack sufficient grounding in the practices and policies of their institution to know what to do when they find a potential problem – or to run one off through proactive, educative approaches.
Make sure – before your course starts – that you know what your departmental guidelines are, how to follow your Faculty’s practice for investigating and reporting misconduct, or what the University’s definition of misconduct includes. Find out who looks after misconduct in your department and can support you if you think you have a case in a class.
I have noticed that some students in my class are struggling with citations and referencing. Where can I find student-facing resources to help them?
Properly crediting the work of others is an integral aspect of academic integrity. If students require extra help with issues related to appropriate referencing and citations, there are many resources available. The Academic Integrity Website has a “Student Start” section where students can learn more about academic integrity, find learning modules, resources and support specifically about how to avoid plagiarism. They can also access information about the academic misconduct process. Some specific educational resources on each campus are highlighted below.
The academic integrity website includes information on citing and acknowledging which points to Library resources guides like How to cite. The Academic Integrity Matters module on Plagiarism is a self-guided module focuses on the importance of citing the work of others and providing clear attribution of ideas.
The Centre for Writing and Scholarly Communication offers writing consultations to undergraduate and graduate students (returning May 23, 2023) including at the Research Commons. The CWSC also develops Guides to Writing and Research, including “Writing the Literature Review” and “Citation Practices in Academic and Professional Writing.” Several upcoming workshops are available through Summer 2023: Literature Reviews: Mapping the Scholarly Conversation and Citation Practices in Academic and Professional Writing.
The Academic Integrity Matters (AIM) program at UBC Okanagan provides students with educational support to learn and apply best practices for academic integrity. Through AIM, students receive personalized support, including one-on-one appointments, to develop their knowledge of academic integrity. The program provides students with opportunities to clarify expectations for academic integrity, develop skills for avoiding academic misconduct/dishonesty, practice correct citations and source integration and understand the steps and skills that are needed for responsible academic conduct. Self-guided Canvas modules on Writing and Plagiarism and Unauthorized Collaboration and Cheating are available for students to self-enroll through the Student Learning Hub’s Academic Integrity Resources for Students. The Student Learning Hub offers writing consultations designed to help students improve academic writing skills at any stage of the