Barbara, a mature student

You are the Judge: Barbara's Scenario

Barbara and Claire have worked well together on their course. Barbara is going through a lot of pressures from outside university at the moment. She is finding it difficult to meet the deadlines for her final assignment,  dissertation work and final exams. Claire has already written her assignment and lets Barbara read it to give her some ideas. After they both submit their work, their lecturer discovers many similarities between their assignments. In particular there is a bibliography with exactly the same references.


Feedback for Barbara's Scenario

You are strongly encouraged to form learning groups with other students early on in your studies. These enable you to discuss, evaluate and defend your views about what you are reading or studying, and act as a sounding board for ideas. They also make learning more fun.

However, when you are given an individual assessment to do, the work submitted must be that of only the author - YOU. Lending your work to someone else 'to help them', will mean that both the person lending the work and the person 'borrowing' it are colluding to mislead the tutor. The University Regulations state that "where there is a requirement for the submitted work to be solely that of an individual, collaboration is not permitted. Students, who improperly work together in these circumstances, are guilty of collusion. "

The purpose of essays is to demonstrate that you have studied and understood different viewpoints and that you are able to evaluate contrasting views, or advantages and disadvantages of a given option. Using passages from any text, means that you are 'borrowing' someone else's evaluations or thoughts. If these are clearly acknowledged (citing the name of the author and the year of publication), then you make this 'borrowing' clear. Otherwise you may be accused of trying to deceive the reader into believing that these are your views, opinions or thoughts.

A better approach would be:

  1. Discuss your difficulties with your tutor. If you have genuine reasons why your work at university is suffering, then s/he may be able to advise you about help available to you, or may agree a new deadline that will enable you to complete the assessment
  2. If the problems are severe and are likely to continue, discuss the options to switch to part-time study or to intercalate (deferring a semester or year of study)
  3. Even if your lateness is caused by poor time management, your tutor may be able to give you valuable advice on how to structure your study and private life more effectively.

Students do not realise how easy it is for tutors to spot this kind of collusion. The penalty may vary from the tutor giving both students zero marks for the assignment, to a disciplinary hearing with potentially more serious consequences. Do not lend your work to another student to copy - you might be punished just as severely for colluding, in an attempt by the other student to deceive the tutor and gain credit without doing the work required.