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Plagiarism cases 2010-13

Disclosure date: 6 December 2013

Reference: FOI2013/126

Request

I’m writing to request a breakdown of the number of plagiarism cases at your university in the period 2010/11, 2011/12 and 2012/13.

I would also like a breakdown of the students affected by these cases; i.e.: international non-EU students, undergraduates, postgraduates, men and women.

Response

Please see the attached spreadsheet which provides a breakdown of plagiarism cases at SOAS in the period 2009/10 to 2012/13 broken down by undergraduate and postgraduate taught students.

We do not automatically record plagiarism cases by gender or home/overseas fee status. Since exam marking is anonymous, a student's fee status and gender are unknown at the time that a case of plagiarism is first discovered or put forward for investigation by the marker. Their identity is revealed only when Registry is asked to investigate and we have to write to the student.

In order to retrieve the requested information a member of staff would have to identify each of the 185 students by cross-referencing the exam reference with student records, and check each record for fee status and gender. We estimate that this would take approximately 7 minutes per case, which works out at 21.5 hours’ work. Under section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act, SOAS is allowed to refuse requests exceeding the appropriate limit. The appropriate limit is set out in regulations as £450, with staff time calculated at the rate of £25 per hour. In this case, we estimate that it would cost approximately £540 to provide the information in the detail that you require. Therefore we are refusing to provide this information under section 12 of the Act.

In addition, it is likely that breaking down the numbers to this level would make re-identification of students more likely as the numbers in each group would be very small. Therefore SOAS considers further information to be exempt from disclosure under sections 40(2) and 40(3) of the Freedom of Information Act. Under section 40(2), information is exempt from disclosure if it is personal data belonging to someone other than the applicant and if one of the conditions at section 40(3) is satisfied. The relevant condition at section 40(3) is that disclosure would contravene any of the data protection principles. The relevant principle is the first data protection principle set out at Schedule 1 of the Data Protection Act 1998. This requires personal data to be processed fairly and lawfully. In order to be processed lawfully, processing (in this case the disclosure of information) must satisfy one of the conditions at schedule 2 of the Act. In this case, the disclosure would allow the identification of the complainant and the respondent. This is personal data under the Data Protection Act. This means that the disclosure would need to satisfy a condition in schedule 2 of the Data Protection Act. There is no relevant condition. It is not therefore necessary to consider whether disclosure would be fair, however this is unlikely as the individuals concerned would not expect this information to be disclosed as misconduct proceedings are confidential. Therefore, the information concerned is exempt from disclosure. Section 40 is an absolute exemption so there is no requirement to carry out a public interest test.