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The issue of plagiarism was not always a matter of academic judgment, but it had been in this case. The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education had correctly identified this to be the case and had rightly concluded that as a matter of academic judgment, the decision was not capable of review.
23 May 2013
(1) The Claimant, a student at Queen Mary University of London, questioned whether a university's finding that a student has committed plagiarism was final, or if it could form the basis of a complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (‘the OIA').
(2) An essay submitted by the Claimant had been awarded no marks on the basis that parts of it were plagiarised. The Claimant made two unsuccessful appeals to the university's examination offence panel. He then complained to the OIA, which rejected the complaint on the basis that the issue of plagiarism was a matter of academic judgment that could not form the subject of an OIA complaint.
(3) The ground for which permission was granted was whether the determination of plagiarism is necessarily a matter of academic judgment, and is therefore always outside the OIA's jurisdiction. A general question also arose of whether, if there could be cases where determination of plagiarism did not necessarily involve an academic judgment, this was or could be such a case. What was unclear was whether the use of extensive quotations alone would equate to plagiarism.
(4) HELD: The Regulations Covering Examination Offences indicated that extensive quotations without proper acknowledgment constituted plagiarism. The Regulations did not require there to have been a deliberate intention by the student to present someone else's work as their own.
(5) It was clear to the Court that the question of whether plagiarism had been committed would usually, but not always, require the exercise of academic judgment. The Court considered that the OIA had not decided that all determinations of plagiarism were a matter of academic judgment, but the facts of this case found it to be so in relation to the Claimant's essay. The OIA had therefore correctly identified this to be the basis on which the university had determined the issue. This was not a case of simply applying the rules to the facts, and academic judgment had been required.
(6) The decision made was clearly an academic judgment not capable of review by the OIA.
(7) The claim for judicial review was therefore dismissed. The challenge to the finding of plagiarism against the Claimant thus failed.
 - Usually require academic judgment.
 - Facts of this case.
 - OIA correct.
 - Not simply applying rules to facts.
 - Conclusion.
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