Staff Handbook: 3.3.1 Assessment Procedures

Contents

0. Terminology

Examiner refers to a person who is responsible for setting any part of an assessment, e.g. a formal examination, a class test or a piece of continuous assessment. An examiner must be a member of academic staff. A module may have more than one examiner.

Module Examiner The University's Code of Practice on Taught Programme and Module Assessment requires there to be a single academic member of staff to be responsible for each examination paper. Within the School, there will be a single Module Examiner for a module. This will be:

  • the person described as the Coordinator in the Syllabus web page OR
  • the first person listed as a Module Lecturer if there is no defined Module Coordinator.

In the case of a linked pair of modules where no Coordinator is given, the Module Examiner for the second semester module is responsible for collating marks for both modules. (The term 'Module Leader' is widely used in other parts of the university.)

Marker refers to a person who is charged with marking any part of an assessment. A marker may or may not be an examiner (and thus may or may not be a member of academic staff). A piece of assessment may have more than one marker.

Class and Classification as used in this document refers not only to the traditional First, Upper Second, Lower Second and Third of undergraduate Honours degrees, but also to lower awards, such as Pass, Diploma of Higher Education and Certificate of Higher Education, and also to the categories used in the award of MSc degrees (Distinction, Merit, Pass and Postgraduate Diploma).

1. Continuous Assessment

The separate document Continuous Assessment: Summary summarizes the processing of Continuous Assessment.

1.1 Setting

In setting continuous assessment/coursework, the possibility of plagiarism and cheating must be kept in mind.

  • Assessments should be designed to reduce the risk of this happening, e.g. regularly varying written assignments.
  • Be aware that weaker students are more likely to plagiarise; they should not be allowed to get so far behind that they are tempted to cheat simply to catch up.
  • Lecturers should make clear the extent to which group discussion is permissible in a module -- the balance between mutually beneficial group learning and collusion is difficult.
  • Procedures to detect and respond to evidence of plagiarism or cheating should be in place and students should be made aware of this.

All continuous assessment specifications should make clear:

  1. The contribution of the work to the module mark.
  2. The hand-in date and method.
  3. The principles that will be employed in marking, where these are not obvious. For example, for essay-type continuous assessment, indicative descriptions of work corresponding to degree classes could be given.
  4. The penalty for lateness (see below).
  5. The target length of time from the hand-in date to return of the marked work (or just the mark where work is not returned). Note that if no such date is given, the default for the School is two weeks (see 1.5 Returning Marked Work below).

The procedure in detail for setting assessed work is as follows:

  1. The Syllabus for each module specifies the overall contribution of continuous assessment to assessment. Students must be informed in writing of the contribution, hand-in date, hand-in method and lateness penalty for each separate piece of work, ideally in advance, but at the latest when the work is given out. Hand-in dates should be chosen so that no activity requiring co-operation between students (e.g. a team work exercise) takes place during the vacation.
  2. The examiner must specify for each assignment the penalties which apply for late submissions. There are two possible schemes:
    • A mark of 0 is given for late assignments.
    • A penalty of 5% will be imposed for each day that the assignment is late until 0 is reached. For example, a mark of 67% would become 62% on day one, 57% on day two, and so on. The days counted do not include weekends, public and University closed days.
  3. In all cases students must be clearly informed in advance of hand-in dates and procedures. See also below under Submission.
  4. Where continuous assessment forms 50% or more of the overall assessment for a module, a copy of the continuous assessment specifications will be sent to the External Examiners for comment (retrospective in the case of work already set) along with examination papers.
  5. Where continuous assessment forms 50% or more of the overall assessment for a module, it is reviewed by the School's QAC in a similar way to examination scripts. When individual items of continuous assessment contribute more than 10% of the module mark, or combined continuous assessments contribute more than 40% of the module mark, they must be moderated by the Module Reviewer in the same way as examinations.
  6. After the exams are over, QAC meets to check common standards of continuous assessment and suggests changes to examiners.

Where a module has examinations and continuous assessment, the Syllabus must describe what happens for September resits. There are three possibilities:

  1. The resit is based only on the supplementary examination.
  2. The resit is based on the supplementary examination plus the original continuous assessment mark.
  3. New continuous assessment is set.

See also 3.6 Processing Marks for Continuous Assessment and 8 Procedures for dealing with Plagiarism.

1.2 Anonymous Marking

The University's Code of Practice on Taught Programme and Module Assessment require anonymous marking where practicable. The University also requires students' marks to be kept confidential. School policy is as follows.

  • Anonymously marked work should be the norm unless impracticable.
  • Work which is not marked anonymously is permitted provided that the following criteria are met. The work must contribute to no more than 20% of the assessment for the module as a whole, or must involve a demonstration, presentation or other staff-student interaction so that anonymity is impracticable, or must involve only objective marking (e.g. multiple-choice questions).

It is essential that students EITHER put their names (or equivalents) on continuous assessment OR their University ID numbers, but not both. The requirement should also be reinforced by the examiner.

1.3 Submission

Principles:

  • Receipts, electronic or paper, should be issued where a piece of work is worth 20% or more of the module mark.
  • Anonymous marking should be employed as far as possible, particularly for pieces of work worth more than 20% of the module mark.
  • Personal identification details (e.g. name, log-in name) and University registration number should never appear together, in order to preserve the confidentiality of registration number.

Students must be clearly informed in advance of the submission date and submission procedures for all continuous assessment. 12 noon is the standard submission time. It must be used whenever the Teaching Support Office is involved and is recommended in all other cases.

Continuous assessment should be submitted electronically wherever possible. Submission to the Teaching Support Office is strongly discouraged. However, if this is the only option, in order for the Teaching Support Office to be able to process continuous assessment, a 'slot' must be booked in advance, to avoid excessive workload in any given week. Please contact Julie Heathcote as soon as possible. Hand-in dates may have to be moved if clashes occur.

Special procedures for submission and return are provided for projects and miniprojects. Other work that is not to be marked anonymously must not be submitted or returned via the Teaching Support Office, since procedures cannot keep marks anonymous from other students when the work contains names.

Continuous assessment which is marked anonymously and handed in via the Teaching Support Office must have on it the standard School cover sheet. The declaration on the cover sheet regarding plagiarism must be signed by the student. The student's name is only visible on the part of the cover sheet which is retained by the Teaching Support Office. The cover sheet given to the examiner will only have University ID number on it.

Written/printed components of continuous assessment which are marked anonymously should be submitted via the Reception of the Teaching Support Office. The standard cover sheet enables receipts to be issued and a copy kept for School records.

1.4 Extensions

A student may request extenuating circumstances for continuous assessment (e.g. for an extension to the hand-in date or for the piece of work to be disregarded).

  • Requests for extensions must be made before the work is due to be handed in. Requests received later will only be accepted when there are sound reasons as to why the request could not have been made in time (e.g. the student has been hospitalized).
  • Extensions affecting individual students can only be granted with authorization by a member of the Welfare Team. In general, to be granted a deadline extension, the student needs to present contemporaneous supporting evidence from an independent third party, such as a note by a GP, a letter from a counsellor, or a death certificate. However, the School allows for one self-certified illness per term, provided the illness only lasts up to 5 consecutive days and no major assessment is affected.
  • The member of the Welfare Team will advise the member of staff concerned whether or not the claim for extenuating circumstances can be accepted. The final decision on what action to take - whether to grant an extension up to a specified length of time or whether to take some other action - will be taken by the module lecturer, since it depends on further factors such as whether solutions have already been published.
  • Final year or summer projects can only be extended or deferred in very exceptional circumstances. Should a student nevertheless have a welfare matter that seriously interferes with their project, it is their responsibility to inform the Welfare Team as soon as possible and provide appropriate evidence. The Welfare Team will generally not extend or defer a project if informed retrospectively only.

1.5 Returning Marked Work

Assignments are marked and returned as soon as possible. (Note the need in some cases to keep copies of samples as explained above.)

  • The School publishes information on the types of assessment and feedback on summative assessment to the students at the start of the academic year. The module examiner should send this information to the Academic Administration Officer ahead of the start of the academic year.
  • The module examiner should normally aim to return marks within two weeks (10 working days) of the final hand-in date. The intended date of return should be given on all continuous assessment specifications.
  • The University requires module examiners to return all feedback within three weeks (15 working days), which is more generous than the two week School deadline. Requests for exemptions to the three week deadline should be submitted, in a timely manner, to the Head of Academic Programmes, who will forward these to the College Director of Education for endorsement and then to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) for approval.
  • If the announced date of return cannot be met, students should be informed of the intended date for marking and return (normally by e-mail to the module mailing list). The announcement should be copied to the QA Secretary (Julie Heathcote) for the attention of the Chair of Teaching Committee.
  • In addition, if the announced date of return is more than three weeks (15 working days) after the assignment submission date, and no exemption had previously been granted, the Head of School should be notified.
  • A log should be kept of all the continuous assessment hand-in and return dates(For modules with multiple sections/tutorial groups, a separate log should be kept for each section.)
  • Appropriate feedback should be provided, e.g. by comments on individual pieces of work or via solutions to exercises.

There are a number of ways of returning marked work. In all cases it is a University requirement that a student is not able to see another student's mark.

  • Canvas
  • Mark which is not marked anonymously must be returned individually, either by a member of staff or by a demonstrator.

2. Examinations

2.1 Setting exam papers

  1. The examiner writes the paper and a mark scheme/model answers, for both the sessional (main) and the supplementary (resit) exam (where required). Deadline: Please refer to the Examination Diary Dates for the current year. Both a Microsoft Word template and a LaTeX template are available.
    • All 10 credit modules have a maximum examination length of 1.5 hours. Where a 20 credit module consists of two 10 credit components taught separately, the default is a 3 hour examination otherwise the default is a 2 hour examination.
    • Papers should show percentage marks for each question or part of a question and these must be adhered to in marking.
    • The mark scheme should further break down assigned marks, where necessary, to within 5-10%, although examiners are free to make documented adjustments to this breakdown based on experience during marking.
    • The mark scheme should demonstrate the relationship between questions and the Learning Outcomes for the module and also indicate which questions or parts of questions are 'creative' (i.e. not simply routine book work or standard exercises).
    • Exam papers are confidential. They need to be kept under lock and key and stored only in encrypted form on a computer or external disks. To transfer the exam papers to School Office, either encrypted e-mail or truecrypt should be used. The pgp-keys of Caroline Wilson and Julie Heathcote are available for encrypted e-mail. These keys are also available on public key server. Instructions how to use truecrypt may be found here. If truecrypt is used, exam papers must be submitted in encrypted form to Schoo Office, which will decrypt them using the passphrase entered by the setter.
  2. The Module Reviewer checks the paper; deadline: Please refer to the Examination Diary Dates for the current year. Where changes are required, this process may involve one or more cycles between the examiner and the Module Reviewer. QAC meets to look at papers to check for adherence to School standards; requests for changes are forwarded to the examiner and checked. Papers are then sent to External Examiner(s); requests for changes are forwarded to the examiner and checked by a QAC member. Throughout, the process of checking is defined in detail by the cover sheet attached to the examination paper, which provides an 'audit trail'.
  3. All deadlines are set in order to meet the University deadline for the submission of exam papers.

2.2 Marking

This process is driven by the very tight deadlines for entering marks in the central system.

  1. The examiner can obtain details of students taking the module from the Teaching Support Office.
  2. The examiner marks the scripts. Detailed instructions are given in Section 3, Marking Guidelines.
  3. The examiner returns marks to the Teaching Support Office on the provided spreadsheet plus a printed signed copy. Deadline: one week after the examination has been sat.
  4. Afterwards the exam goes to Teaching Support for checking. The printed copy will be checked against the exam scripts and and will be signed. In particular the checker ensures that the whole script has been marked and that the transcription and additions are correct. Errors are reported back to the examiner and entered on paper and on disk by the examiner.
  5. The next step is the moderation by the Module Reviewer, who is required to look at the marking of a selection of scripts representative of the full range of marks. Any queries will be raised with the examiner for the paper first. If they cannot be resolved, a full double-marking process will be initiated. A cover sheet will be attached to this process specifying the number of scripts to be moderated, and requiring signatures of the examiner and moderator. Deadline: during Week 6 of Term 3 (one week before the deadline for entry of marks into the central University system -- 'BIRMS', the 'Banner Interface Records Management System'). NB: some examinations may not take place until the end of Week 6, but for processing to be completed in time, the majority of checked and moderated marks must be in by the deadline.
  6. The marked and checked scripts will be made available to students for inspection during the exam period. There will be one session only per year group. Before the session the list of provisional marks for the relevant modules will be made available to students. Script queries have to be made in writing on a special form, and will be passed on directly to the examiner for the paper.
  7. The Teaching Support Office then takes the marks, transfers the data to BIRMS and checks the data in the system against the examiner's marks.

3. Marking Guidelines

3.1 Obtaining the scripts

You will be able to pick up your scripts from the Teaching Support Office.

If a paper has several examiners, the sections will be separated by the Teaching Support Office staff. Each section will be given to the examiner responsible for that part of the module.

Note: In contrast to previous years, you will no longer be able to collect scripts directly from examination venues.

3.2 How to mark

  • Use a red pen for marking
  • Put a red line through each page (or part page) as you mark it.
  • Component marks should be written in the left-hand margin of the page, either as a single number or as a fraction of the possible marks for that component (e.g. either 3 or 3/4 is acceptable). Do not circle these component marks.
  • Candidates who have been instructed to choose and answer only one or more parts of an assessment (which might be a paper or a question), sometimes answer more than is required. If no information has been given as to what will happen in this case, then the examiner is free EITHER to mark the parts in the order that they were answered until the required number of parts has been marked OR to mark all the parts answered and choose the best to form the total. However, the same approach must be applied to all candidates in this position.
  • The total mark for the question should be written in the margin at the end of the question, but circled to indicate that it is a total mark. Needless to say, the component mark should add up to the total mark. The total mark can be written either as a single number or as a fraction of the possible marks for that question (e.g. either 21 or 21/34).
  • The total mark for the question is copied to the front cover of the answer book.

3.3 Marking by people other than Teaching Staff

Research Staff and students who act as Demonstrators or Teaching Assistants may mark exam papers or continuous assessment contributing to module marks, but cannot act as examiners (see also 3.3.3 Tutoring and Demonstrating). This means that the examiner must provide detailed marking schemes, moderate marks and accept full responsibility for the final mark. If a problem is discovered, the examiner may need to moderate all scripts from a particular marker. PhD students are only allowed to mark first-year exams.

3.4 Processing Marks for Modules with Examinations

Marks should be returned on the provided spreadsheet, plus a printed signed copy.

If marks are computed from the components in any way other than by simple addition, the formula for computing the final mark must be clearly written on the first mark sheet for the benefit of the checker, External Examiner, etc.

The Teaching Support Office staff will then check the scripts and mark sheets for the complete examinations (they cannot be checked until all parts are complete and a final mark has been computed). Do not pass scripts directly to the checker or moderator.

When the Teaching Support Office staff are satisfied that all are correct, they will sign and date each page of the mark sheets. If any errors are found, the corrections should clearly marked in green ink on both the exam paper as well as mark sheet or on the printed version of the spreadsheet and the relevant Examiner notified to confirm the corrections.

After the checking the moderator (normally the module reviewer) does moderation of the marking as specified in Section 2.2.5.

If marks are adjusted to give a final mark which is not simply the aggregate of the components, the formula used must be clearly written on the mark sheets. (See Adjusting Marks for some further guidance on the process of adjusting marks.) A brief explanation of the reason for the adjustment must be made available for the Examination Board and the External Examiners. Note that marks should not be adjusted before discussion at the Module Board.

The School does not normally use any form of double-marking (apart from for projects), for two reasons: firstly, most examinations are marked according to relatively objective criteria, rather than being, e.g., subjective essay-based assessments; secondly, resources do not permit this to be done in the time scale available for examination marking.

3.5 How to check

  • Use a green pen for checking.
  • The checker checks that all pages have been marked and indicates this by ticking each page or part page.
  • The checker checks also that the additions are correct, and indicates this by ticking all numbers on the front page.
  • The checker makes sure that all marks are correctly transcribed to the spreadsheet, and that the calculations on the spreadsheet are correct. This is indicated by ticking each final mark.

3.6 Processing Marks for Continuous Assessment

There is no checker for continuous assessment. The procedure as for written examinations is followed, but all the steps involving the checker are removed.

Checked marks for all modules with 100% continuous assessment should be given to the Teaching Support Office by the end of Week 2 of Term 3. All other continuous assessment marking should be complete by this date.

3.7 Attendance at exams

Please note that all examiners must be available (either to invigilate or at the end of a telephone line) during their examinations in case queries arise. You must make special arrangements for someone to stand in for you if you cannot be present. If you will not be contactable by phone on your normal phone number, then the name and the telephone number of a stand-in should be notified to the Examinations Office (with a copy to the Teaching Support Office please). For each exam for the first 15 minutes at least one member of teaching staff from the School needs to be present.

4. Assessment Standards Monitoring by the QAC

Assessment standards monitoring will be carried out by the Quality Assurance Committee (QAC), with the Head of Quality Assurance (HQA) as Chair. This committee reports to the College QAC. Students are not involved because this committee deals with examination papers before they are taken. The committee monitors assessment in the School on a global basis. In particular, it ensures that different assessments are of a comparable standard, and propagates good practice in examination papers and continuous assessment.

A meeting of QAC will take place directly before the examination papers are considered by the External Examiners. In addition to the examination papers, examiners must provide marking schemes, brief specifications of which elements are meant to be creative or challenging, and linkages to module learning outcomes. Several modules are assigned to each member of the committee. Each examination paper is checked for having a standard comparable to the other papers, and for spelling and layout. Key points to be checked include:

  • coverage of module content
  • adequacy of the material for the length of the examination
  • variations in the techniques required for different questions
  • a good mixture of routine questions and more challenging and creative questions
  • linkage to learning outcomes
  • a clear specification of the marking criteria.

Changes can be requested on the associated form for each examination. QAC will report any matters of general concern to other bodies as appropriate.

Another meeting of QAC takes place at the beginning of Term 3. Its purpose is to monitor continuous assessment, in particular where this forms 50% or more of the assessment for the module. The mechanism is roughly the same as for the written examinations, with several modules assigned to each committee member. The main criteria for the assessments are that:

  • the quantity of work involved should be reasonable
  • the assessment should be suitable for independent but guided work
  • the assessment should be linked to the learning outcomes of the module
  • there should be a clear specification of the marking criteria.

Changes can be requested. Normally the check whether the changes have been done will take place at the next review meeting, after the module has been given again, but in more serious cases the QAC monitor may request that the Assessment Specification is shown to the monitor before it is handed out to the students. Again, QAC will report any matters of general concern to other bodies as appropriate.

5. Extenuating Circumstances and the Extenuating Circumstances Panel

This section is a summary of the relevant procedures. The School's guidance on the Extenuating Circumstances Procedure should be considered as the definite guide on how the University's Code of Practice on Extenuating Circumstances Procedure is implemented in the School.

In serious cases, students may ask before each examination takes place to postpone the examination to the next possible resit opportunity. These requests have to be received by the Extenuating Circumstances Secretary (ECS) in writing with contemporaneous supporting evidence from an independent third party. Students can make a request to defer any examination any time prior to the examination commencing.

By being present at an examination, any subsequent request for deferral or other action by reason of Extenuating Circumstances will not normally be accepted.

Following an examination, a student can only submit a case for consideration by the Extenuating Circumstances Panel in exceptional and extreme circumstances. In addition, the student will be required to provide justification for not applying for an extension during the term or a deferral of the examination at the appropriate time. The justification must be substantial.

The Extenuating Circumstances Panel will meet shortly after each examination period and before the Exam Board meetings.

The functions of the Extenuating Circumstances Panel are:

  • To review all requests for deferral of examinations and supporting evidence that have been collated and put forward by the Extenuating Circumstances Officer and to advise the respective Exam Board whether or not a request has been approved.
  • To consider any request for Consideration of Extenuating Circumstances. If accepted, the panel will make a suggestion to the Exam Board how to handle the application.

External Examiners have the right to attend meetings of the Extenuating Circumstances Panel, but are not required to do so. All documentation produced by or for the Extenuating Circumstances Panel, as well as the decisions taken by the Panel will be made available for the scrutiny of the External Examiners.

The Panel must provide feedback on their considerations, but not the results of mitigation, should a student request it. This feedback should be a statement confirming that the extenuating circumstances have been considered by the full Extenuating Circumstances Panel and that the recommendation was passed to the Examination Board in accordance with the University's procedure.

Membership:

  • Senior Tutor (chair).
  • Extenuating Circumstances Officer.
  • One member of the corresponding exam board to be present at any discussion of undergraduate or MSc students respectively.

For current membership, see 2.3 Officers and Committees.

Where extenuating circumstances are to be taken into account, normally one of the following actions will be recommended to the Examination Board:

  • If the extenuating circumstances concern continuous assessment comprising up to 50% of the module mark, the student's module mark may be based on the rest of the assessment for the module.
  • If the extenuating circumstances affect a module which the student has failed, and for which repeating or resitting is allowed, the student may repeat or resit the module as if for the occasion on which the failure took place.
  • In the case of years which count towards the final degree classification, the year average (and hence degree classification) may be computed based only on modules not affected by the extenuating circumstances, assuming that these make up a significant proportion of the required credits. Affected modules may be regarded as counting to the credit total, even if failed.
  • In the case of extenuating circumstances which have a widespread effect, the recommended degree classification of a student may be different from that indicated by average mark and/or credit totals. Only very exceptionally would it be raised by more than one class.

6. Examination Boards

6.1 Timetable of events

  1. Prior to meetings of Examination Boards, the Extenuating Circumstances Panel meets to address extenuating circumstances.
  2. Similarly, the Module Board meets to review the distributions of individual module marks (normally on the Friday before the main Examination Boards). In exceptional cases, the Board may refer marks for whole modules back to the examiners for possible adjustment.
  3. In the case of the final year undergraduate Examination Board, a preliminary meeting of the Board without External Examiners takes place before the main Board meeting (normally on Monday of Week 8 of Term 3). This meeting discusses potential problem cases and formulates recommendations for the main Board.
  4. The formal Examination Board, with External Examiners present where final awards are being made, ratifies marks, progress decisions and degree classifications. Matters arising will be noted and referred to Teaching Committee, School Committee or curriculum review meetings as appropriate. (The undergraduate Board is normally scheduled for Tuesday of Week 8.) For further details see §6.2 below.
  5. After receipt of the External Examiners' reports, the Quality Assurance Committee approves a written response.

6.2 Examiners' meetings

Internal membership of Examination Boards for programmes operated by the School is determined by School Committee. The Examinations Officer is responsible for obtaining suggestions for the appointment of External Examiners and contacting them. Appointment is made via University-mandated procedures.

Two separate boards will be appointed for undergraduate and MSc programmes respectively. For details of their composition and functions, see Undergraduate Examinations Board: Terms of Reference and MSc Examinations Board: Terms of Reference. The composition of current Boards will be found in 2.3 Officers and Committees.

Additional information/procedures:

  • Absence from an Examination Board must be authorized by the Head of School.
  • If an examiner is absent, it is their responsibility to arrange for cover.
  • Recommendations will be prepared and presented by the Examinations Officer or Deputy. Signed attendance sheets of the meeting are kept, as are brief formal records of discussions and decisions. Normally two members of support staff will take notes at meetings. The Chair is responsible for ensuring that business is conducted in such a way that accurate records can be kept.

See above for extenuating circumstances.

See also the separate section on Project Assessment.

7. Feedback to Students on examinations

The School's main procedures for giving feedback to students on examinations are:

  1. In order to provide "generic" feedback on the students' performance on each examination question, lecturers should send an email to the module group giving a brief guide to how well the questions were answered (in general terms), and what were the typical problems. This email is to be sent AFTER the final examination and BEFORE the examination script viewing. The emails will be reviewed by the Head of Quality Assurance and later archived by the Academic Administration Officer.
  2. The School provides an opportunity for all students to view marked examination scripts after the final examination and before the Examination Boards.
  3. In order to provide constructive individual feedback to students who have failed and will have to do a resit or repeat, lecturers must provide office hours during the last week of term after the appropriate Examination Boards. These office hours should be advertised to the students in the module group as an opportunity to discuss preparation for the resit if they wish to do so.

8. Appeals Panel

Following an examination board, students may submit an appeal to the University, using the University process. When an appeal comes back to the School, in order to ensure fairness and consistency, it will be dealt with by an Appeals Panel consisting of:

  • the Chair of the Extenuating Circumstances Panel
  • the Chair of the relevant Examination Board (undergraduate or MSc)
  • the Examinations Officer.

The panel will decide whether to accept or reject the appeal on behalf of the School. The School's response will be completed by the Examination Board Chair with the assistance of the Teaching Support Office.

9. Procedures for dealing with Plagiarism

9.1 General procedures

It is the responsibility of each instructor, including module lecturers, demonstrators, teaching assistants and visiting lecturers, to ensure that they are familiar with what constitutes plagiarism. They should familiarise themselves with the description of plagiarism in the University's Code of Practice on Plagiarism and with the information given to students in the School's Student Handbook.

The procedure for dealing with cases of plagiarism is as follows.

If a lecturer in charge of a module, a project supervisor or a PhD supervisor considers - after careful consideration and evaluation of evidence - that a student's work contains plagiarism, they should immediately notify the Senior Tutor, who is also the Plagiarism Officer for the School. In case of student project work, they should also notify the relevant Project Coordinator. In case of PhD work, they should also inform the Research Students Tutor.

If another member of staff or instructor, such as an additional lecturer, thesis group member, teaching assistant or demonstrator, suspects plagiarism, they should immediately confer with the lecturer in charge of the module, the project supervisor or the PhD supervisor, who should then immediately inspect the evidence and inform the Plagiarism Officer and others as above.

The Senior Tutor will invite the student to attend a plagiarism meeting (but see the special notes in the case of plagiarism on PhD work).

The plagiarism meeting should normally be conducted jointly by the Plagiarism Officer and another member of staff, although meetings may proceed with only one member of staff (normally the Plagiarism Officer) present. The second member of staff will normally be the module lecturer on the taught module (but not a demonstrator) or project supervisor.

During the plagiarism meeting, the reasons for suspecting that plagiarism has taken place should be given and the student should be invited to explain their position and, if they wish, to refute the allegation. The member(s) of staff conducting the plagiarism meeting will consider the allegation and the student's response and will seek to reach a decision as to whether plagiarism has been found to have taken place. If the Plagiarism Officer conducts the meeting, then their view is final in cases of disagreement. Otherwise, the staff member(s) conducting the meeting should refer their provisional decision or views to the Plagiarism Officer, who will come to the final decision in consultation with the staff member(s).

One of the members of staff present should keep careful notes of the meeting.

If plagiarism is found to have taken place, the Plagiarism Officer will assign a category of plagiarism and, if appropriate, apply a penalty. The student will be sent an outcome letter by the Plagiarism Officer. The notes of the meeting will be retained on the student's file.

Where the Plagiarism Officer considers that a student's work contains plagiarised material, they will determine the level of seriousness. A number of factors will be taken into account in this assessment, including:

  • the proportion of the assignment affected;
  • the academic level;
  • any previous recorded instance of plagiarism
  • whether there is a reasonable expectation that the student should have learnt appropriate referencing skills and received sufficient guidance with regard to the attribution of source material

There are three categories of plagiarism which are defined in the University's Code of Practice on Plagiarism:

  1. Serious plagiarism
  2. Moderate plagiarism
  3. Poor academic practice

Where poor academic practice has been found to have occurred, the Plagiarism Officer must ensure the student is aware of what they have done wrong and has been given appropriate instruction on how to avoid the problem in future. A record will be kept by the School and the piece of work may be required to be resubmitted, but no further punitive action will be taken.

Where moderate plagiarism has been found to have occurred, one of the penalties set out in the University's Code of Practice on Plagiarism will be applied by the School.

Where serious plagiarism has been found to have occurred, the case will become a student conduct case and will be referred to the College Misconduct Committee.

9.2 Special notes in the case of plagiarism on PhD work (other than the Research Skills module)

In this case the Plagiarism Officer will normally refer the matter to the Research Students Tutor, who is delegated to determine whether or not there is prima facie evidence that moderate or serious plagiarism may have taken place, without holding a plagiarism meeting with the student. If the Research Students Tutor does not believe there is enough such evidence, they will on behalf of the Plagiarism Officer notify the student of the outcome (informing also the Plagiarism Officer) and ensure that the student is tutored if necessary poor academic practice (see above). If, on the other hand, the Research Students Tutor believes there is prima facie evidence for moderate or serious plagiarism, they will hand the matter back to the Plagiarism officer, who will proceed as above (inviting the student to a plagiarism meeting, etc.)

10. Maintaining Assessment Standards

Checking and maintaining the standard of assessments is of great importance to the School. Some of the detailed procedures are described elsewhere in this handbook; this section gives a summary overview.

  1. Every module has a reviewer (listed at http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/resources/modules/). As explained above, the reviewer is responsible for checking assessment materials and moderating module marks.
  2. Students have the opportunity to view marked examination scripts and raise any apparent errors in marking (but not issues of academic judgement -- see 6 below).
  3. Any concerns expressed by students over the marking of particular modules will be brought to the attention of the relevant Examination Board.
  4. Statistical information is prepared for each module. In recent years, this has usually taken the form of a scatterplot for each module, plotting the marks obtained by each student who took that module against the student's average mark overall. The purpose of any analysis is to identify modules in which marks are noticeably out of line with overall average marks. The initial marks in the scatter plots should all be presented as non-adjusted marks. The analysis is considered at the Module Board meeting before the main Examination Board meetings. Module examiners are not automatically asked to reconsider their marks (perhaps by re-scaling) just because their distribution looks wrong, since there are other factors to consider (the nature of the module, what the failure rate is, etc.). Module examiners may agree to adjust marks both upwards and downwards, and have occasionally done so. (For some guidance on adjusting marks, see Adjusting Marks.)
  5. The External Examiners have particular responsibility for ensuring comparability of standards across universities. They will have seen and commented on all examination papers (and also continuous assessment where this forms more than 50% of the module mark). Marked work is made available to them so they can comment on the assessment of individual modules, and hence influence decisions made.
  6. Assessment is not an exact science; achievement in an academic subject, particularly in higher education, cannot be measured with the precision to which height or weight can be measured. In the end the Examination Board has to make a decision based on academic judgement. Students have no right of appeal against academic judgement, only against failures of procedure.