Academic Integrity Policy

Last Updated 5 July, 2021

 1. Introduction

As a tertiary education institution in Australia, the Sydney College of Divinity is committed to providing quality theological education to its students, and in doing so, fulfilling its obligations as a higher education provider, under the terms of the Higher Education Standards (20I5). In particular, the Standards require the College

  1. to have policies that promote and uphold academic and research integrity and policies and procedures which address allegations of misconduct
  2. to take action to mitigate foreseeable risks to academic and research integrity
  3. to provide students and staff with guidance and training on what constitutes academic or research misconduct and the development of good practices in maintaining academic and research integrity, and
  4. to ensure that academic and research integrity are maintained in arrangements with any other party involved in the provision of higher education.

The Sydney College of Divinity therefore seeks to promote the highest possible standards of academic integrity, while also discouraging all forms of academic misconduct. This includes identifying academic misconduct when it occurs, and taking appropriate disciplinary action in response. It also includes offering support to student learning that educates and promotes their adoption of best practice in regard to Academic Integrity.

2. Purpose and Scope

The purpose of this document is to guide the SCD’s approach to maintaining its standards of academic integrity. It seeks to ensure a clear understanding of academic integrity and its value in the pursuit of academic excellence. It also identifies the meaning and scope of academic misconduct, and sets out the procedures for dealing with cases of academic misconduct. This policy applies to all staff, students and associates of the Sydney College of Divinity, encompassing its Teaching Bodies, the Graduate Research School and the Office of the Dean.

The SCD Academic Integrity Policy, and the Procedures set out below, establish the principles and standards which the SCD’s Teaching Bodies and Graduate Research School are expected to adhere to. The Teaching Bodies and Graduate Research School do however, have the flexibility to implement the policy and procedures appropriately in the context of their own internal operations.

3. Definitions

Sydney College of Divinity: Reference to the Sydney College of Divinity, SCD, or College in this document implies reference to its Schools and Member Institutions, unless otherwise indicated.

Teaching Bodies: The phrase “Teaching Bodies” encompasses the 8 Member Institutions of the SCD, plus the Korean School of Theology.

Associates:  An associate of the SCD in the context of this policy, is any person who is neither an enrolled student, nor a paid member of staff, but who undertakes academic work under the auspices of the SCD. Examples include, without being limited to, consultants, guest lecturers, external auditors and reviewers, web designers, media producers and participants in research.

Academic work: Academic work is any activity undertaken with a view to producing or helping to produce, an academic text of any kind (written or otherwise). Examples include, without being limited to, writing essays, reports, theses and published articles, proofreading and editing, reviewing, participating in exams, producing audio-visual materials, data gathering and management, preparation of learning materials, and field work.

Academic discipline: Academic discipline refers to the standard expectations that govern the production of academic work in the higher education environment. These expectations cover such things as text formats, research and documentation procedures, formats for acknowledgement of sources, language conventions and requirements for submission.

Academic integrity: Academic integrity refers to the application of a range of important values in the production, dissemination, review and assessment of academic work. These values include honesty, transparency, fairness, accuracy, respect, responsibility, discipline, independence, cooperation, confidentiality, trust and support, equity, and due care for others. Academic integrity is an essential factor in supporting the advancement of knowledge, in establishing the credibility and acceptability of work, and in providing opportunities for the production of work that demonstrates learning.

Academic misconduct: Academic misconduct refers to any action or activity that violates the values on which academic integrity is based. It is typically seen in the misuse of intellectual property, but may apply to a range of contexts (see section 5.1).

4. Academic Integrity

4.1 Principles

  1. Academic integrity is a fundamental component of excellence in learning and intellectual endeavour, with proper academic discipline being an established feature of all tertiary education in Australia.
  2. The tertiary learning environment encourages freedom of thought, intellectual inquiry and expression. This is inhibited by taking ideas from others without proper acknowledgement, and without genuine critical reflection on those ideas.
  3. Academic work as it is understood in British and European intellectual tradition is more than a reproduction of established knowledge, or a recitation of the ideas of those acknowledged as authorities in their field. Academic work constitutes an individual’s engagement with established knowledge and research in a field, with a view to producing original and independent work. This by its nature, involves acknowledging sources of information that underpin an individual’s own engagement. It also means that individuals accept responsibility for the work they produce.
  4. Academic integrity is an extension of personal integrity. As a theological education institution, SCD expects its staff, students and associates to exhibit the highest levels of personal integrity in line with their profession of Christian faith.
  5. Academic integrity is a shared responsibility.

4.2 Commitments

The SCD is committed to

  1. Undertaking educational activities to promote independent learning, research and discovery that advances knowledge in the field of theological studies
  2. continual quality improvement, including the promotion of the ethos of academic integrity, and the monitoring of academic integrity in its teaching and learning
  3. providing relevant ways for students to demonstrate their learning, seen especially in well-designed, authentic and fair assessment
  4. providing secure systems at every point of the assessment process
  5. Effective detection of academic misconduct, with a fair and reasonable application of disciplinary procedures in response
  6. Systematic, efficient and accurate reporting and recording of instances of academic misconduct and the outcomes of ensuing disciplinary proceedings
  7. Making available to staff, students and associates, information that is easily accessible, and provides clear and helpful guidance on how to maintain academic integrity, as well as the consequences of academic misconduct.

4.3 Expectations

4.3.1 General

All staff, students and associates of the SCD are expected to

  1. Produce work that expresses their own thoughts in their own words, except for properly cited quotes and paraphrases from source material
  2. Treat the work of others with due respect, and acknowledge the contribution of others in the production of academic work
  3. Take responsibility for ensuring that their work meets the required standards of academic integrity
  4. Follow standard practice in academic discipline, including the use of acceptable methods of reference and citation to acknowledge the work of others that has been used in the production of their academic work
  5. Follow all requirements of the College related to compliance with copyright law
  6. Use a standard form to verify that the work they have produced is their own original work, with all sources of information properly identified and acknowledged (see Appendix 1)
  7. Sign a written agreement that states they will uphold the standards of academic integrity required by the College. (see Appendix 2)
  8. Follow the proper procedures for reporting incidents of academic misconduct
  9. Submit to disciplinary proceedings when required

4.3.2 Staff

All staff are expected to

  1. Participate in relevant professional development to enhance awareness of and best practice in, academic integrity.
  2. Maintain and foster the principles of academic integrity, even when producing work that is not specifically academic in its purpose (for example, promotional material).
  3. Abide by practices designed to provide secure assessment processes.
  4. Ensure that assessment of student work is fair, and that feedback given to students is clear, helpful for future learning, and objective
  5. Submit academic work for review if required, to ensure its academic integrity

4.3.3 Associates

All associates of the SCD are expected to

  1. Adhere to the principles and standards of academic integrity required by the College
  2. Submit work, or proposals for work, for review when required

4.3.4 Students

All students are expected to

  1. Treat academic integrity as a framework that is integral to their learning, a means for pursuing excellence in their academic development, and as essential to maintaining the high value of the SCD award in which they are enrolled
  2. Embrace the opportunity to produce original work that demonstrates their learning
  3. Follow all rules, regulations, directions, requirements or guidelines governing the production of academic work
  4. Seek help if necessary, to ensure that standards of academic integrity are maintained in their own behaviour and that of their fellow students
  5. Participate in any training or educational activities that support the maintenance of academic integrity

4.4 Promotion and Education

  1. All staff, students and associates will undertake relevant education and training to ensure compliance with academic integrity expectations
  2. Academic integrity information will be accessible on the SCD website, and those of the Schools and Member Institutions

5 Academic Misconduct

5.1 Types of Academic Misconduct

5.1.1 Categories and Examples

Academic misconduct may be seen in a range of activities, including, but not limited to:

a)  Plagiarism: Plagiarism, often referred to as “intellectual property theft”, means presenting another’s work as one’s own. Examples include:

  1. Copying word for word from an information source without proper acknowledgement
  2. Copying from an information source and changing some of the wording
  3. Extensive paraphrasing of an information source without proper acknowledgement
  4. Using another person’s ideas without proper acknowledgement
  5. Excessive quotation, that is, where more than 20% of a work is direct quotation
  6. Use of statistics, tables, graphs, diagrams without identifying the source
  7. Using one’s own previous work without acknowledgement (“self-plagiarism”)
  8. Using audio or visual material, or objects, without acknowledging their origin

b) Cheating: Cheating occurs when one tries to gain an unfair advantage over others, by using unauthorised means. Examples include:

  1. Gaining, or attempting to gain, access to information about examinations prior to the examination date, or information about assessment tasks, prior to their release date
  2. Using notes, books or electronic devices in examinations, except where this is specifically allowed in the examination guidelines
  3. Copying another’s work during an examination, or to be presented for assessment
  4. Engaging another person to sit an examination, or do other assessable work on one’s behalf, either as a favour, or for a reward (as in “contract cheating”)
  5. Having another person redo one’s work, on the pretext of “proofreading”.
  6. Secretly sharing information (“collusion”)
  7. Offering incentives (e.g. favours, bribes) for favourable treatment
  8. File sharing, that is trading or transferring answers, essays, presentations and so on via the internet, often for a fee, favour or mutual exchange

c) Fraud: This occurs when a false claim is made about the source or originality of a piece of work. Examples include:

  1. Taking another’s place in an exam or assessment task
  2. Engaging another to take one’s place in an exam or assessment task

d) Misrepresentation: This occurs when an attempt is made to deceive with regard to the content, authorship or production of a piece of work. Examples include:

  1. Fabricating research data or results
  2. Deliberately omitting data
  3. Dishonestly reporting research methods or results
  4. Making false declarations
  5. Making false claims to gain approval or funding
  6. False claims of authorship
  7. Deliberate lack of acknowledgement of co-authors or contributors
  8. Submitting work, whether one’s own work or that of another, that has been submitted for previous units or courses, or in other colleges
  9. Denying or failing to disclose conflicts of interest
  10. Publishing as original, work that has previously been published

e) Improper Behaviour: Improper behaviour is behaviour that interferes with others in the pursuit of their academic endeavours. Examples include:

  1. disruptive behaviour in class or institutional facilities such as libraries, or by electronic means.
  2. Attempting to prevent others from doing research or completing work
  3. Sabotage of another’s work
  4. Failure to comply with rules or directions, such as in examinations
  5. Leaking information about another’s work
  6. Any use of social media that compromises academic integrity

f) Unethical Behaviour: Unethical behaviour is behaviour that breaches accepted ethical standards. Examples include:

  1. Failing to gain ethical approval for research
  2. Failing to follow research protocols
  3. Using research for personal gain
  4. Conducting research not compliant with laws, regulations or codes of conduct
  5. Unfair treatment of research assistants or subjects
  6. Preferential treatment of some students over others
  7. Using College resources to produce work not approved by the College
  8. Misuse of confidential information in reports, presentations or other submissions
  9. Inappropriate use of electronic media for information gathering or dissemination

 5.1.2 Avoiding Academic Misconduct

In overall terms, academic integrity is maintained when one’s desire to pursue personal integrity is strong, and when one values and embraces the opportunity to produce original work that demonstrates the development of learning and knowledge. This may be as a student undertaking education, or as an academic contributing to the field in which he or she operates, through teaching or research.

A number of key principles also enable academic integrity to be maintained.

  1. Ensuring that information about academic integrity and how to avoid academic misconduct is provided as part of student orientation and staff induction, with current information also provided on websites and in handbooks.
  2. Providing short training modules where possible, to cover the fundamentals of academic discipline, as well as specific training to address requirements of areas such as research, publication, thesis writing and so on.
  3. Promoting a culture of engagement and participation between staff and students, aimed at developing a sense of responsibility for academic work, and allowing academic integrity to be modelled

There is also a range of practices that can help staff and students avoid academic misconduct. Some examples are set out below.

a) Plagiarism

  1. Provision of training in the basics of academic discipline, including clear, useful and up-to-date style guides, aimed at distinguishing between forms of plagiarism and legitimate incorporation of source information
  2. Inclusion of clear guidelines in unit or assessment guides, and provision of specific and helpful feedback after assessment
  3. Provision of helpful resources (e.g. lists of “tips”) to refer to while undertaking academic work
  4. Provision of face-to-face or online tuition resources (e.g. a learning centre)
  5. Use of current technology to identify possible breaches (e.g. Turnitin)
  6. Require on submission a signed statement that assignments are the student’s own work

b) Cheating

  1. Ensure security at every step of the assessment process from production to storage (or disposal) of assignments
  2. Ensure that cooperative learning is used as the basis for producing original work, and not for producing joint work under the guise of original work (collusion)
  3. Use sound and effective identification procedures
  4. Use effective invigilation practices

c) Fraud and misrepresentation

  1. Use effective identification and validation procedures to verify authorship
  2. Use of current technology to identify possible breaches (e.g. Turnitin)
  3. Provide clear and accessible information on what constitutes conflicts of interest
  4. Establish a rigorous and transparent process for reviewing work

d) Improper behaviour

  1. Commitment to cooperation and support among staff and students to uphold academic standards
  2. Incorporate academic integrity into a code of conduct, with signed commitments to uphold it
  3. Establish clear and effective reporting procedures where academic misconduct occurs

e) Unethical behaviour

  1. Have clear statements of ethics, based on current practice, with signed commitments to uphold them
  2. Rigorous and effective monitoring and review practices during academic work
  3. Setting up and adhering to transparent processes for proposing and reporting research, including declaring conflicts of interest, and identifying co-contributors

5.1.3 Compliance Monitoring

The Office of the Dean will engage in regular monitoring activities at an institutional level, to ensure compliance with academic integrity commitments. These include

  1. Institutional Academic Moderation to check Member Institution policies and practices against SCD policy
  2. Scrutiny of regular reports from Member Institutions, with appropriate responses
  3. Checking of websites and other information sources to ensure up-to-date and relevant academic integrity information is available to staff and students

5.2 Penalties for Academic Misconduct

5.2.1 Minor Breaches

An incident of academic misconduct may be considered “minor”, if it can be regarded as an aberration that does not have a significant impact on the overall quality and integrity of the work being produced. Minor breaches will tend to be found in instances of plagiarism, or possibly misrepresentation, where this is due to an inadequate understanding of academic requirements, rather than intentional deception. Examples of minor breaches include

  1. Inadvertent omission of bibliography, citation, or reference to the information source
  2. Faulty or inadequate referencing through lack of knowledge or understanding of correct academic discipline
  3. Failure to properly identify quotations
  4. Omission of an acknowledgement of co-authors or contributors where this is an oversight, rather than a deliberate act on the part of the author

Penalties for minor breaches might include

  1. Warning and guidance
  2. Requirement to correct omissions before final acceptance
  3. Requirement to rewrite affected sections of the work
  4. Reduction of marks if the work is being assessed

5.2.2 Substantial Breaches

An incident of academic misconduct may be considered “substantial” when it affects the overall quality and integrity of the work being produced. Substantial breaches will tend to be found in more serious instances of plagiarism, where there is a level of intent involved, and possibly in some kinds of cheating and misrepresentation. Examples of substantial breaches include

  1. Excessive quotation, even if referenced
  2. Extensive use of quotation without references
  3. Copying and pasting chunks of information
  4. Presenting research data that is unverified
  5. Basing work on another’s ideas, without due acknowledgement
  6. Having an unauthorised electronic device available in an exam (whether used or not)
  7. Talking during an exam

A person will also be considered to have committed a substantial breach, for continuing to commit a breach considered minor in the first instance, despite previous warnings or penalties.

Penalties for substantial breaches might include

  1. Failure in an assessment component if the work is being assessed
  2. Requirement to rewrite and resubmit the work before acceptance
  3. Rejection of a work for publication
  4. Requirement to undertake training in academic discipline
  5. Warning and expectation to correct problems before proceeding with further work

5.2.3 Serious Breaches

An incident of academic misconduct may be considered “serious” when it calls into question both the integrity and credibility of a person’s academic work, and the integrity of the individual producing that work. Serious breaches will tend to occur when there is an intention on the part of the individual to commit misconduct. Serious breaches will typically be found in major plagiarism, forms of cheating, fraud, misrepresentation, improper and unethical behaviour. Examples of serious breaches include

  1. Presentation of another’s work as one’s own
  2. Falsification of research information
  3. Cheating in exams
  4. Repeated offences despite previous warnings or penalties
  5. Making false declarations about a piece of work
  6. Refusing to acknowledge those who have co-authored or assisted in the production of a piece of work

Penalties for serious breaches might include

  1. Failure of a unit
  2. Exclusion from a unit or course
  3. Disqualification from an award
  4. Withdrawal of research funding or support
  5. Suspension or termination of enrolment
  6. Suspension or termination of employment or contract
  7. Legal action if the misconduct constitutes a breach of law

5.2.4 Imposition of Penalties

Disciplinary measures are set out in more detail in the Academic Integrity Procedures document. In general terms, however, a decision to impose a penalty for academic misconduct will take into account:

  1. the type of misconduct
  2. the extent of the misconduct
  3. the impact of the misconduct
  4. the intent of the student
  5. the experience of the student
  6. whether the misconduct is a first or repeat offence

5.2.5 Reporting and Response

An incident of academic misconduct should be reported to the appropriate staff member at the School or Member Institution immediately it has been identified, or if circumstances prevent an immediate report, no later than the following day.

Any action taken in response to the report should normally be completed by the end of semester SCD monitoring of results.

The person being reported should be informed of the report within seven days of it being made, and be advised of any action to be taken within seven days of the decision being made.

5.2.6 Reporting Form

The Schools and Member Institutions of the SCD will report to the Academic Director each semester on matters relating to academic integrity. Reports will be made using a standard form (see Appendix 3), which specifies the level of the breach and the action taken in response.  The Academic Director will include any academic integrity matters as part of the Monitoring Results Reports made each semester to the Coursework Committee and the Academic Board.

5.2.7 Recording

The results of academic misconduct proceedings will be recorded on a register created by the School or Member Institution for this purpose, with a copy kept in the relevant student or employee file, and/or other locations as appropriate. Records of academic misconduct proceedings will be kept in line with the SCD’s Record-keeping Policy and Procedures.

The reports tendered to the Academic Director will be kept on file.

5.2.8 Appeals

Any decision to impose a penalty for academic misconduct may be appealed by following the SCD Complaints and Grievances policy and procedure.

6. Related Documents

6.1 SCD Policies

Code of Ethics

Code of Conduct

Complaints and Grievances Policy

Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom Policy

Institutional Academic Moderation Policy

Privacy Policy

Record-keeping Policy

6.2 Other Documents

Copyright Act 1968

International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE) Toolkit to support quality assurance agencies to address academic integrity and contract cheating – June 2020.

Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency Amendment (Prohibition of Contract Cheating Services) Bill (2019).

Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency Guidance Note: Academic Integrity 2019

Universities Australia Academic Integrity Best Practice Principles 2017

See also

7. Monitoring and Review

  1. This policy will be reviewed every five years
  2. This policy may be amended by the academic board as needed
  3. Reviews of this policy will take place with reference to current practice in the higher education sector, adjustments in the Higher Education Standards or requirements by TEQSA, and in consultation with experts in the field or reference to other credible sources of information as appropriate.

Sample Assessment Cover Sheet, Academic Integrity Declaration, and Academic Misconduct Report Form can be found in the Appendix sections of the PDF copy of the Academic Integrity Policy.



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