FAQs for Students

Below are some frequently asked questions for the Student Misconduct Rule. This Rule applies to all University and The College students, and is effective from 1 January 2016.

What is student misconduct?

Student misconduct can be academic misconduct (which also includes research misconduct) or general misconduct.

Academic misconduct is essentially an attempt to gain an unfair advantage as part of any assessment (including when undertaking honours or higher degree research).  It involves a breach of academic honesty and integrity principles. Common examples include:

  • Where a student submits work that is not their own (including if the student purchases an assignment using an online service)
  • Were a student does not appropriately acknowledge other academic sources or collaborations
  • Where a student cheats in an exam, or brings unauthorised items into an exam.

General misconduct involves behavior that has an adverse impact on others or on the operations or business of the University.  It can occur on or off campus while the student is undertaking course related activities, such as placements or field work.  Common examples include:

  • Assaulting, bullying or harassing others (including through use of online social media, such as Facebook)
  • Participating in hazing, motting or other unauthorised initiation-style activities (or putting pressure on or forcing others to participate)
  • Being unreasonably disruptive in a lecture or other class setting, or not following the instructor's directions
  • Stealing or damaging property belonging to the University or anyone else
  • Hacking into another person's email or any systems of the University

How is misconduct handled at Western Sydney University?

The University has two sets of procedures.  All reports of alleged misconduct are referred to an Authorised Officer under the Rule for preliminary investigation. For very minor, first time offences, the Authorised Officer may deal with the matter under the Inappropriate Behaviour Guidelines (PDF, 65.72 KB) (opens in a new window), if certain conditions are met. 

More serious matters are dealt with formally under the Student Misconduct Rule.  The most serious matters (where the penalty could involve suspension or exclusion if the allegation is sustained) are referred to a Student Misconduct Committee for a hearing.

In all cases, students will have an opportunity to present their version of events, and to review any evidence.

Which University documents include student misconduct?

The University has a number of policies and rules in place that are designed to promote ethical and safe behaviour among students.  These set out important information about standards of behaviour expected from all students at Western Sydney University.  This includes when students go on placements or undertake fieldwork or research.

These are the most important policies:

How do I know if I have committed misconduct?

Descriptions and examples of misconduct are included in the Student Misconduct Rule, as well as other related polices that cover misconduct, as listed above.

It is your responsibility to know and understand what misconduct is and it is in your interests to make yourself familiar, particularly with plagiarism and class collaboration.  University staff have various strategies to try to detect and discourage students from committing misconduct, particularly cheating in exams, plagiarism and submitting work purchased online.

If you find that you are struggling academically, it is very important that you seek help and guidance from your Unit Coordinator as early as possible.  Your Unit Coordinator is there to help you find strategies or resources to help you do your best academically.

What does it mean for my future studies or professional career if I am found guilty of misconduct?

Depending on its seriousness, and whether it is a single incident, it may not affect your future studies or career. However, it will be recorded on your student file, which is a permanent record. Also, if you're studying a professional degree (XLSX, 51.42 KB) (opens in a new window) you may be required to disclose the misconduct, or the University may be required by law to report it. It is your responsibility to ensure that you understand the requirements of your professional body.  The University takes no responsibility for the consequences arising out of a failure to disclose any finding of misconduct.

How do I report misconduct?

If you think another student has committed misconduct, please report it to your Unit Coordinator as soon as you can.  If the misconduct involves a criminal-type offence (eg, stealing or assault), please contact Campus Safety and Security on 1300 737 003 as soon as you can.

Please note that you will probably be asked to provide an account of what you saw or heard to assist the University in dealing with the matter.

What do I do if I am accused of misconduct?

If this happens, stay calm, and try not to become angry or rude.  If you are called into a meeting, ask for details of what is alleged and why.  You will have an opportunity to give your version of events.  Please remember that pleading ignorance of the rules is not a defence, but if you have a reasonable explanation that provides some context about what occurred and why, then you should explain this.  If you have any witnesses you think that support your version of events, you should ask for them to be interviewed also.

What are my rights and responsibilities as a student during a misconduct process?

The University believes it is very important that any student misconduct process is fair to students, and seen to be fair to students.  Importantly, all students have the rights to:

  • Be informed about the allegation, with a reasonable level of detail to enable them to respond
  • Have a reasonable opportunity to respond to the allegation, including reviewing any evidence and an opportunity to present their own evidence
  • Appeal on specified grounds any finding of misconduct made or sanction imposed
  • Expect that those who hear the allegation of misconduct will act fairly and impartially
  • Access Student Support Services to assist them

Students also have certain responsibilities throughout the process, including:

  • Not to intimidate, harass or threaten any witnesses, tamper with evidence or interfere with any investigation
  • To conduct themselves in a civil and courteous fashion at any interview or hearing, and not be disruptive

Can I be suspended?

Yes, depending on the seriousness of the allegation, and whether your continued attendance while the misconduct investigation and proceedings under way presents a risk.  The University will try its best to take into account all your circumstances to ensure you are not unreasonably disadvantaged, however, be aware that health and safety always comes first.

The length of suspension will vary depending on the circumstances.  In some cases, it may last until the conclusion of the misconduct process (including any appeal).

Will I be notified if there is a misconduct hearing?

Yes.  The University will send you an official notice via your student email account.  The notice will include details of the alleged misconduct including what you are alleged to have done, and when and where it happened. It will also advise when and where the hearing will take place, and support options available to you.  You will be given copies of the Student Misconduct Rule and any evidence that is available.

Can I bring along a support person or advocate to the hearing?

Yes.  All students can have a support person or an advocate (who can be anyone, including a family member or a friend) with them at any interview or hearing for misconduct.  The University recognises that this can be a very stressful experience for students and strongly encourages students to seek support or help.

Can I bring along a family member of friend to the hearing?

Generally no, unless they are acting as your support person or advocate.  The reason for this is that the University takes confidentiality very seriously.

How do I prepare for a hearing?

It's very important that you attend any hearing so you have an opportunity to give your version of what happened.  If you don't, you run the risk of an unfavourable finding and sanction being made in your absence.  If you receive a notice, you should:

  • Call the contact person listed to confirm your attendance.  If for some valid reason you cannot attend that day (eg, if you are overseas), tell the contact person who will try to make other arrangements to ensure you can attend
  • Confirm whether you will bring a support person or advocate with you.  Please note that it is very important that your support person or advocate is available on that day, as the hearing won't be delayed for their convenience
  • Consider preparing a written submission and attach any evidence you have so you can hand it in either before or at the hearing.  This can help you to provide some context to what happened.  Also, you may not have time or forget to cover off all points at the hearing, so a written submission might be useful.

What can I expect at the hearing?

The procedures used at student misconduct hearings are not as formal as those used in courts, but they are designed to ensure fairness.  Student Misconduct Committees consist of three people (one of whom will act as Chair).  How the Committees are formed is set out in the Student Misconduct Rule.  All of them are required to be impartial.

Student Misconduct Committees are not bound by the normal rules of evidence that apply in court proceedings and the standard of proof applied is not the criminal standard of "beyond reasonable doubt".  The applicable standard is the civil "balance of probabilities" standard.

At the hearing, all evidence (including any evidence you put forward) will be considered.  There may also be witnesses called to give evidence in person.

Who will be at the hearing?

In addition to the student, the following people will be present:

  • The Student Misconduct Committee
  • University staff involved in assisting the Committee (including someone to take notes of the hearing)
  • Any support person or advocate you bring along with you
  • Any witnesses (including University staff who claim they saw the misconduct occur)

Do I have the right to cross-examine witnesses?

No, this is not a criminal hearing and different rules apply.  However, if you wish to ask questions of any witnesses then you may do so through the person who is chairing the interview or hearing.

Will I be told about the outcome of any hearing of misconduct?

Yes.  The person or Committee will prepare a report that sets out full details, including findings made and any sanctions imposed.

Do I have a right of appeal if a finding is made against me?

Yes.  All students who are dealt with under the Student Misconduct Rule have a right to appeal the finding and/or any sanction imposed on specified grounds set out in the Student Misconduct Rule.  An appeal may be conducted either on the papers or by a hearing.  The same information as above applies to any appeals process.

Will the process be confidential?

Yes.  All interviews and hearings will be conducted and treated as confidential.  Only those who are involved in managing the process will have access to this information.  However, if a finding of misconduct is made, and a sanction imposed, then other staff may need to know of the outcome in order to implement it (for example, staff in your School).

In some circumstances, the University also has a legal duty to notify law enforcement agencies or government agencies (such as the Healthcare Complaints Commission) about misconduct.

Will there be a record on my student file?

If an allegation of misconduct against you is sustained, then this and any sanction imposed will appear on your student record, including your student transcript. All other records relating to the misconduct process will be stored on a separate University file.

If the misconduct involves a criminal offense and the police charge me, will the University still process with a misconduct hearing?

Yes, although it is the same allegation, student misconduct hearings are administrative proceedings and designed to protect the University community.  However, the University will generally wait until those criminal proceedings are concluded before it proceeds with any misconduct hearing.  Depending on the seriousness of the allegation and risks to the University and its community, you may be suspended from the University for a period of time.

What if I am cleared of misconduct?

If the allegation against you is not sustained, then there will be no record on your student file.  If you have been suspended for any part of the misconduct process, the University will make arrangements so that you are not unreasonably disadvantaged academically. 

How do I submit an appeal?

You may lodge a Notice of Appeal by completing a Notice of Appeal form (opens in a new window) and submitting it to the Director, Governance Services, along with all relevant documents and material, to studentmisconduct@westernsydney.edu.au. Your notice of appeal must be submitted no later than 15 business days of receiving the notice of misconduct decision.