The new guidance complements existing sections of the OIA's Good Practice Framework which cover complaints and appeals, delivering learning opportunities with others and supporting disabled students.
The scope of the new guidance, which will inform the OIA's approach to disciplinary matters at HE providers in England and Wales from the start of the 2019/20 academic year, is broad covering both academic and non-academic misconduct.
On the academic side, specific reference is made to transgressions such as plagiarism, contract cheating, falsifying data, collusion and breaching research or ethics policies. On the non-academic side, anti-social behaviour, sexual misconduct, violence and harassment are among the offences mentioned. It is recognised that certain behaviours might breach criminal law as well as the provider's procedures, such that there could be internal or external consequences for students or a combination of both. The OIA characterises itself in relation to these procedures as a provider of independent external review.
In identifying what a good disciplinary procedure looks like, irrespective of the nature of the case, the OIA has set out eight guiding principles.
In addition to coverage of procedural considerations that would be expected, such as adherence to the principles of natural justice, the guidance contains useful sections on legal concepts including the burden and standard of proof, strict liability and intent and dealing with possible criminal offences. There are also 11 case studies designed to address practical matters including the impact of mental health difficulties, the interface between student misconduct and fitness to practise procedures and the treatment of mitigation.
Whilst the new guidance does not introduce anything fundamentally new it is a welcome synthesis of practical, context specific advice. It also addresses many of the latest challenges within the HE sector such as treatment of plagiarism and possible criminal offences in an accessible way.