Procedure when exam cheating is suspected

This procedure has been drawn up with the aim of creating unique and clear frameworks for when and how the administration intervenes, whilst ensuring that the students’ legal rights are paramount at all times.

The Faculty of Social Sciences provides research-based study programmes. These programmes are supported by continuous and systematic quality assurance. The quality assurance encompasses policies and procedures that together cover a wide range of areas, including student assessment. It is crucial that students are assessed according to published criteria, regulations and consistently applied procedures. To safeguard the reputations of the faculty and the University, as well as ensure ongoing and systematic quality assurance, it is necessary to react promptly and correctly where there is any suspicion of scientific misconduct.

The procedure for dealing with suspicion of scientific misconduct is based on the Regulations for the University of Copenhagen, 15.01. Disciplinary measures applied to students at the University of Copenhagen.

What is scientific misconduct?

Scientific misconduct (exam cheating) is defined as a student trying to mislead the examiner about his or her own efforts or results in an exam. For example:

  • using exam aids that are not permitted
  • receiving assistance with exam assignments
  • helping others to receive assistance with exam assignments
  • falsifying or concealing results
  • reproducing other people’s ideas without source reference
  • reproducing own ideas/texts from previous assignments without source reference.

The general standards for academic integrity are published in the curricula, in student handbooks, on KUnet, etc.

Please note that the most widespread form of exam cheating consists of plagiarism in the form of copying (transcribing) a text without indicating that it is a transcript (without using quotation marks and source references), or plagiarism in the form of rephrasing, or by cutting and pasting together bits and pieces from one or more texts to form a seemingly separate text.

Exam invigilators

If the invigilators of a written exam find a student using exam aids that are not permitted, they (discreetly) request that the student accompany them outside. The student is informed that the incident will be reported to the head of studies, who will contact them directly. The student is offered the chance to continue the exam and submit the answer(s).

If the invigilators are unsure whether an aid is permitted, they consult the department. The invigilators report the incident to the head of studies as soon as possible.

If the invigilators are in any doubt as to how they should react during an exam, they contact the programme administration of the faculty concerned.

The internal/external examiners’ role in assessing written assignments

If the examiners suspect cheating when they are assessing a written assignment, they inform the head of studies. Documentation must be provided. In plagiarism cases, the documentation consists of a copy of the assignment with the pages marked up and a copy of the source from which it was plagiarised.

It is important that the assessors are aware that the documentation they send to the head of studies will be kept on file. As such, only relevant information about the case may be included in e-mails, etc.

Checking a major assignment takes time. If the assessors of a larger project, e.g. a thesis, find extensive plagiarism, they do not need to check the whole assignment. Once it has been determined that enough of the assignment has been plagiarised to constitute exam cheating, reviewing the rest of the assignment may be unnecessary. However, if the assessors do not review the whole assignment, they must clearly state that they have only reviewed part of it.

The procedure at the department

The head of studies is responsible for investigating the matter when he/she receives notification from an assessor or exam organiser about a suspected case of exam cheating in a written assignment. This should be done as soon as possible.

If the head of studies thinks there are grounds for the suspicion, the assessment of the assignment is suspended and the head of studies summons the student to an interview (consultation) as soon as possible.

The head of studies should note the following: The student must be informed that he/she is welcome to be accompanied by an observer at the interview. This can be a friend, a fellow student, a parent, etc. The student is also entitled to bring a lawyer, but the University will not defray the costs.

In the email to the student, the head of studies should link to the website of the student ambassador.

The student is entitled to a copy of all documents concerning the case, including the examiner/invigilators’ report. In plagiarism cases: students are sent a copy of the assignment with the transcribed passages marked and a copy of the source, as well as any other relevant material.

When the head of studies has held the interview with the student, the head of studies writes up minutes of the meeting. The next step is that the head of studies submits an overall report to the faculty (dean).

The report outlines what the department has done to inform students of the rules concerning academic integrity, e.g. whether the rules have been published on the department website, in the student handbook, in curricula, etc., as well as whether specific courses have been held on academic writing, e.g. as part of the study-start programme.

If the student has signed a solemn declaration, a copy of it is attached.

Please note that the report must include a recommendation regarding any sanction.

Appendix 1 contains a list of the information to include in the report and what documents to submit.

The department sets up a case in Captia under which all documents concerning the case must be filed.

The procedure at the faculty

Once the faculty has received the report from the head of studies, a meeting is arranged with the student to discuss the matter. At this meeting, the student is afforded an opportunity to comment on the minutes taken by the head of studies at the interview with the student, and on the report by the head of studies.

If the faculty does not think that there are sufficient grounds for the suspicion of cheating, it notifies the student and the department. The case is then closed. Where relevant, the suspended assignment is assessed.

If the faculty believes that the student did cheat, it sends a report to the Rector’s office along with a recommendation.

When is a student reported for exam cheating?

A student is reported for exam cheating irrespective of whether it was done deliberately or as a matter of gross or simple negligence. If the student was not aware of the rules concerning academic writing, the offence is not intentional. However, a sanction may still be imposed, as students are required to familiarise themselves with the rules concerning academic writing. Failure to do so therefore counts as gross negligence. However, the student’s lack of intent may affect the choice of sanction.

Aiding and abetting

If a student receives help from a fellow student, the other student is punished under the general rules concerning aiding and abetting.

Can the head of studies make a ruling on the case?

If the head of studies does not think that there is (sufficient) evidence of cheating, in the form of plagiarism or similar, he or she may dismiss the case.

As mentioned previously, students who do not know the rules concerning academic writing are not exempt from liability. As a result, the head of studies cannot dismiss a case on the grounds that the student was not familiar with the rules. Nor may the head of studies dismiss a case because they think that (for example) the student was under great personal pressure. This has no effect on the question of guilt, although it may affect the Rector’s choice of sanction.

While investigating the case, if the head of studies finds that the student has committed a serious breach of the rules, he or she submits a report and a recommendation to the dean.

In summary, the head of studies is empowered to dismiss a case due to lack of evidence. However, if there is evidence of cheating, the head of studies is duty-bound to report the case to the dean. The dean is empowered to dismiss a case for lack of evidence, but if there is evidence of cheating, the dean is required to send the case to the Rector for a ruling. The dean is not empowered to make a ruling on it.


The Rector is empowered to annul a completed exam (expulsion from the examination) and to suspend or expel the student from the University.

The “normal” level of sanctions for premeditated exam cheating consists of expulsion from the exam concerned, suspension from the University for a semester and a written warning.

However, it must be stressed that each case is decided on its merits.

One example of an aggravating circumstance is repetition, i.e. that the student has been caught cheating before. Conversely, it may under certain circumstances be considered to be a mitigating factor that it is the first time that the student takes an exam at the University. However, as mentioned above, this will always be subject to a specific assessment.

Pending a ruling in the case, the student is allowed to sit exams on other courses. However, if the sanction handed down is expulsion from the semester concerned, students must be informed that the Rector may decide to annul all exams taken during the semester. In most cases, as previously mentioned, the Rector decides to suspend the student for the subsequent semester.

In cases of forgery, e.g. where students have made changes to the grades on transcripts, the faculty passes the case to the Rector’s Office, which reports the matter to the police.

Appendix 1: The head of studies’ report to the faculty includes:

  • Information about the facts of the case and a recommendation for the sanction;
  • A copy of the report from the examiner, with a copy of the exam answer, in which the alleged cheating is clearly marked, with clear reference to the sources that are believed to have been plagiarised, and a copy of the source text in which the plagiarised text is clearly marked;
  • A copy of the notice inviting the student to the interview, a copy of the minutes of the meeting and the student’s approval of/comments on the minutes;
  • Course name and description (hard copy), and the date of the exam concerned
  • The student’s civil registration number, postal address and University e-mail address;
  • Enrolment status, including date of enrolment at the University of Copenhagen and information about study progress;
  • Number of ECTS credits obtained prior to the exam;
  • Information concerning pending disciplinary proceedings and/or previous disciplinary sanctions in cases where the University rules have been breached.