Appendix 3: Bylaw XI A on Academic Discipline

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Introduction

    1. Merton College promotes academic excellence and seeks to support all its undergraduates in fulfilling their academic potential. When joining the College, undergraduates contract to pursue satisfactorily the studies which are required of them. Academic obligations are set out in detail in Section 33 of the College Handbook.
    2. The primary sources of academic advice and support for undergraduates are the Directors of Studies assigned to them each year and their Tutors. Information on their role is set out in Section 5 of the College Handbook.
    1. The Academic Disciplinary process outlined below is intended to be followed in cases where an undergraduate is deemed to be in breach of academic obligations.
    2. Undergraduates should be aware that they are also subject to the University’s regulations concerning student conduct and that they are therefore expected to observe two sets of (complementary) disciplinary regulations. The University's Student Handbook (Proctors’ and Assessor’s Memorandum) provides more information on the University's remit.
  1. The process is presented in a flowchart at the end of the Bylaw.

Disciplinary Offences

  1. The use of dishonest means in any examination or in fulfilling any academic obligation is a serious disciplinary offence. If an undergraduate is alleged or is suspected to have committed such an offence, the procedures set out at Bylaw XI B shall apply.

Informal Warning

  1. Academic obligations include and are not confined to attending all tutorials and classes punctually; completing the work set to a standard that is commensurate with their ability and by the deadlines that their tutors prescribe; and sitting such collections as their tutors prescribe, and achieving in them a standard that is commensurate with their ability.
  2. If in the opinion of any of their tutors an undergraduate is in breach of any of the academic obligations, their director of studies will normally in the first instance remind them informally of these obligations.
    1. This reminder shall normally take place at an individual, face to face meeting at which the director of studies shall clarify that an informal warning is being given, specify the breaches of academic obligations which have prompted it, give the undergraduate an opportunity to comment, and agree with the undergraduate actions needed to improve performance.
    2. The director of studies will make a note of the date of the informal warning and it will usually be considered spent within one year after it has been issued, provided there has been no further breach of academic obligations, unless the director of studies specifies otherwise.

Formal Warning

    1. Should the breach be serious or persistent, the director of studies shall specify the shortcomings in writing and issue a formal written warning that failure to rectify them will result in the invoking of probation, the breach of whose terms could, after subsequent reference to the Academic Review Panel, lead to severe penalties including expulsion from the College.
    2. The undergraduate shall be given the opportunity to put their case and to draw attention to any mitigating circumstances that may apply.
    1. Mitigating circumstances are to be understood as significantly disruptive and/or unexpected events which are beyond the undergraduate’s control (e.g. illness or bereavement) but which might affect academic performance when submitting assessed work or sitting examinations.
    2. Circumstances or events that would not normally merit consideration include consequences of paid employment and sporting commitments.
    3. The College may require independent confirmation of mitigating circumstances, for example a medical certificate from the College Doctor in cases of illness or equivalent proof in other circumstances.
    1. The director of studies’ specification of shortcomings and written warning and any representations made by the undergraduate will be placed on file and reported in writing to the Senior Tutor, who shall ensure that the undergraduate understands what is required of them and the implications of failure to comply.
    2. The Formal Warning shall be considered spent one year after it has been issued, provided there has been no further breach of academic obligations.
  1. If the Senior Tutor is interested in the matters relating to the undergraduate or is otherwise unable to act, the Warden and the Tutors’ Committee shall nominate another member of the Governing Body to act in the Senior Tutor's place. Throughout this Bylaw, references to the Senior Tutor shall include any such nominee.

Probation

    1. If within reasonable time of the written warning the undergraduate fails to respond by meeting in full their academic obligations, the undergraduate's director of studies shall recommend a period of probation normally of not less than eight weeks, at least five of the weeks being in Full Term.
      1. The director of studies shall propose the duration and conditions of probation in writing to the Senior Tutor, who shall seek the undergraduate’s agreement to them.
      2. If agreement is reached, the Senior Tutor shall confirm the duration and conditions in writing to both the director of studies and the undergraduate and shall report the probation to the Warden & Tutors’ Committee.
      3. The Senior Tutor shall send a copy of this Bylaw to the undergraduate and shall draw attention to the possible consequences of failure to satisfy the terms of probation.
    1. In the event of failure to agree, the undergraduate shall have the right to ask for the imposition of probation or its conditions to be referred for decision by the Academic Review Panel under the provisions of (17) below.
    2. The Academic Review Panel’s decision will be reported to the Warden & Tutors’ Committee.
  1. If the probationary terms include a requirement to achieve a specified standard in a collection, the latter shall be externally marked. The marker shall be told that the collection is a penal one but not the standard required.

Review of probation

  1. At the end of the stated period of probation or sooner at the request of the director of studies, the director of studies shall report in writing to the Senior Tutor, with a copy to the undergraduate, stating whether the terms of probation have been satisfied.
  2. If all the terms of probation have been satisfied, the Senior Tutor shall inform the undergraduate in writing that probation has been purged and report accordingly to the Warden & Tutors’ Committee.
      1. If the director of studies reports that any probationary terms have been breached, one (but not normally more than one) extension of probation may be proposed, under the same terms as before or subject to different conditions.
      2. The director of studies is not obliged in any case to seek an extension of probation and a breach of the probationary terms may lead directly to a reference to the Academic Review Panel under (18) below.
    1. The Senior Tutor shall seek the undergraduate’s agreement to any extension of probation and its conditions, observing in every respect the provisions of (10)–(12) above.

Referral to the Academic Review Committee

    1. The Academic Review Panel reports to the Warden & Tutors’ Committee and consists of six members of the Governing Body including at least three persons holding the office of Tutor. The Senior Tutor shall not be a member.
    2. Any tutor of the undergraduate whose case has been referred and any other interested person shall be replaced by other members of the Governing Body co-opted by the other members of the Panel. For the purposes of this sub-paragraph only a “tutor” shall be defined as any person who has acted as that undergraduate’s director of studies or has filed or will file an academic report on that undergraduate’s work during the course of the current academic year.
    3. The members of the Academic Review Panel as constituted after any replacements have been co-opted shall elect one from among their number to take the chair
    4. The Academic Review Panel may regulate its proceedings as it sees fit including (without limitation) setting time limits on the evidence to be called and the representations to be made by either the undergraduate or the director of studies consistent with providing a fair opportunity for each of them to present relevant evidence whilst ensuring that the matter is heard and determined expeditiously.
    5. At any hearing concerning a breach of probation the burden of proving the charges shall be on the director of studies and the standard of proof shall be the balance of probabilities.

Hearings concerning the imposition or extension of probation

    1. If the undergraduate requests referral of the imposition or extension of probation or its conditions to the Academic Review Panel, the Senior Tutor shall send its Chair:
      1. copies of the director of studies’ specification of shortcomings and written warning (and, in the case of a proposed extension to probation, the director of studies’ report on probation and his recommendations as to its extension); and
      2. the director of studies' proposals for the duration and conditions of probation or its extension; and
      3. any representations previously made by the undergraduate.
    2. The undergraduate shall state in writing their objections to the proposals, and the director of studies shall be invited to respond, a copy of any such response being sent to the undergraduate.
      1. The Academic Review Panel shall meet to consider the case and may ask the undergraduate and the director of studies to attend the meeting and interview them.
      2. The undergraduate may attend at their own request.
      3. The Academic Review Panel may proceed in the undergraduate’s absence.
      1. The Academic Review Panel shall have the power to accept or reject or to amend as it sees fit the proposals relating to probation or its extension.
      2. The adjudication of the Academic Review Panel shall be communicated in writing to the Senior Tutor, the director of studies and to the undergraduate and shall be final.

Hearings concerning a breach of probation

  1. Except as provided for by extension of probation the Senior Tutor shall send to the Chair of the Academic Review Panel a written statement (“the Charge Sheet”) setting out (a) the conditions of probation, (b) the report of the director of studies, (c) any correspondence with the undergraduate in relation to the probation and any warning leading to the probation, and (d) any other information which the Senior Tutor deems relevant, including his recommendations as to penalty.
  2. The Charge Sheet and this by-law shall be copied to the undergraduate.
    1. The Chair of the Academic Review Panel shall call a meeting of the Academic Review Panel, giving the undergraduate at least five days’ notice (not including Saturday and Sunday) unless the undergraduate agrees to shorter notice being given.
    2. The undergraduate shall be told in writing the time of the meeting and that written material may be submitted up to 48 hours before the Academic Review Panel meets.
    1. Without prejudice to the Academic Review Panel’s right to regulate its own proceedings, the following procedure shall normally be adopted.
      1. The undergraduate and the director of studies shall attend the meeting and may be interviewed by the Academic Review Panel provided that if the undergraduate fails or refuses to attend the Academic Review Panel may proceed in their absence.
      2. The undergraduate may be accompanied by a current member of the University or an Oxford SU sabbatical officer as an advisor.
    1. The director of studies shall explain the undergraduate’s breach of the conditions of probation.
    2. The undergraduate shall be given an opportunity to respond, or to say anything that he or she considers relevant.
    1. The Academic Review Panel shall then decide whether the undergraduate has breached the terms of probation.
    2. If the Academic Review Panel finds that a breach has occurred, the Chair shall inform the undergraduate of this fact and of the Senior Tutor's recommendation as to penalty and invite the undergraduate to make a plea in mitigation.
      1. The Academic Review Panel shall then consider the appropriate penalty.
      2. The penalty may include: banning, rustication or expulsion from the College. The Academic Review Panel may attach such conditions as it sees fit to any penalty.
    3. The undergraduate shall be told in writing of the Academic Review Panel’s decision and its reasons and shall also be advised of the right of appeal to the Appeals Panel.
    1. The Chair of the Academic Review Panel shall at once report the Academic Review Panel’s decision to the Principal of the Postmasters, and to the Senior Tutor who shall report it to the Warden and Tutors’ Committee, and shall inform the Proctors if appropriate and any College staff affected by the decision.
      1. The full communication to the undergraduate shall not normally be circulated, but shall be held in the Warden’s office.
      2. In the event of any appeal, it shall be available to members of the Appeals Panel.
  3. The words "banning", "rustication" and "expulsion" shall bear the meanings given to them in Part A of Statute XI of the University’s Statutes and Regulations (substituting "the College" for "the University" in such definitions).
  4. Banning means that for a specific period of time the undergraduate ceases to be provided with tuition by the College or to have the use of College facilities. The undergraduate remains a member of the University of Oxford and may still enter their name for its examinations as an individual, and may appear in the Class List, provided that statutable residence has been kept.
  5. Rustication means that the undergraduate’s right of access to the facilities of the College and/or the University are withdrawn, usually for a specified period or until certain conditions have been fulfilled. The undergraduate remains a member of the University but ceases to be formally in residence and so cannot complete the required number of statutable terms. The Vice-Chancellor and Proctors have the power to excuse from part of statutable residence any member of the University who has been prevented by illness or other reasonable cause from keeping such residence, every application for such dispensation being made through the College. ‘Reasonable cause’ will be considered to include having been rusticated.
  6. Expulsion means that an undergraduate is deprived of membership both of the College and of the University and therefore loses the right to enter for University examination or take its degrees.
    1. If the undergraduate is alleged to have committed any disciplinary offences as well as breaches of probationary conditions, the Senior Tutor may propose, in the interests of dealing fairly and expeditiously with the matters concerning the undergraduate, that the matters should be referred solely to the Disciplinary Panel.
    2. The Disciplinary Panel in such a case shall include at least three Tutors and shall, with regard to the alleged breaches of probationary conditions, comply with the procedures set out in this Bylaw and be treated as the Academic Review Panel for the purposes of this Bylaw.

Appeal

    1. The Appeals Panel reports to the Warden & Tutors’ Committee.
      1. The members of the Appeals Panel shall in cases of academic discipline under Bylaw XI A be the Warden (or the Warden’s nominee) and four other members of the Governing Body of whom at least two hold the office of Tutor. Members of the Academic Review Panel shall not be members.
      2. Any tutor of the undergraduate whose case has been referred and any other interested person shall be replaced by other members of the Governing Body co-opted by the other members of the Panel. For the purposes of this sub-paragraph only a “tutor” shall be defined as any person who has acted as that undergraduate’s director of studies or has filed or will file an academic report on that undergraduate’s work during the course of the current academic year.
    2. The Warden or the Warden’s nominee shall ordinarily chair the Panel when it is convened for the purposes of Bylaw XI A. If the Warden or the Warden’s nominee is replaced the Panel as constituted after any replacements have been co-opted shall elect one from among their number to take the chair.
    3. The Appeals Panel may regulate its proceedings as it sees fit.
  1. Any appeal must be made in writing to the Chair of the Appeals Panel within five days (not including Saturday and Sunday) of the communication of the Academic Review Panel’s decision to the undergraduate, stating the basis of the appeal.
    1. The undergraduate may appeal on the following basis:
      1. errors in the Academic Review Panel’s findings (which must be specified by the undergraduate); and/or
      2. the disproportionality of the penalty to the gravity of the breach of academic obligations.
    2. The undergraduate shall not be entitled to bring an appeal which challenges the academic judgment of the Academic Review Panel.
  1. The Chair of the Appeals Panel shall copy the undergraduate’s appeal to the Chair of the Academic Review Panel who shall respond in writing to the Chair of the Appeals Panel within five days (not including Saturday or Sunday). The Chair of the Appeals Panel shall then copy that response to the undergraduate.
    1. The Chair of the Appeals Panel shall call a meeting of the Appeals Panel giving the undergraduate at least five days’ notice (not including Saturday or Sunday) of such meeting, unless the undergraduate agrees to shorter notice being given.
    2. The undergraduate shall be told in writing of the time of the meeting.
    1. Without prejudice to the Appeals Panel’s right to regulate its proceedings, the following procedure shall normally be adopted. The Appeals Panel shall consider the undergraduate’s basis of appeal and the response of the Chair of the Academic Review Panel.
    2. The undergraduate may attend the meeting with a current member of the University or an Oxford SU sabbatical officer as an advisor and make oral representations. If the undergraduate elects to attend, the Chair of the Academic Review Panel may also attend (and may bring a current member of the University as an advisor).
    3. The Appeals Panel may in any case request the presence of the undergraduate, the Chair of the Academic Review Panel, and the director of studies and may interview them; in the event that the undergraduate fails or refuses to attend the Appeals Panel may proceed in their absence.
  2. The Appeals Panel can confirm or amend the decision of the Academic Review Panel. The Appeals Panel may attach such conditions as it sees fit to any penalty. The undergraduate shall be told of the Panel’s decision and its reasons in writing.
    1. The decision of the Appeals Panel shall be final in the College although the undergraduate shall have the right to appeal the decision of the Appeals Panel to the Conference of Colleges’ Appeals Tribunal.
    2. If an undergraduate wishes to bring such an appeal, he or she shall file a written application with the secretariat of the Conference of Colleges within five days of the date of the decision appealed against. The application shall include:
      1. a copy of the decision being challenged;
      2. a brief statement of the facts and arguments of law on which the application is based;
      3. the undergraduate’s request for relief;
      4. where applicable, an application for a stay of the effects of the decision being challenged or for any other preliminary relief of an urgent nature; and
      5. the undergraduate’s address and, where applicable, the email address at which he or she can be reached for the purpose of the proceedings.
    3. If the Conference of Colleges Appeals Tribunal upholds the College’s decision, the undergraduate may appeal to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education. Application forms and guidance notes are available from the Academic Office.
  1. Where the provisions of paragraph 2 have had effect, if any appeal made by the undergraduate relates both to disciplinary matters and any alleged breach of probationary matters then the appeals shall be referred solely to an Appeals Panel constituted in accordance with paragraph 19 of Bylaw XI B. That Appeals Panel shall, with regard to any matter of academic discipline, be treated as the Appeals Panel for the purposes of this Bylaw.
    1. The Chair of the Appeals Panel shall at once report the Appeals Panel’s decision to the Principal of the Postmasters, and to the Senior Tutor who shall report it to the Warden and Tutors’ Committee, and shall inform the Proctors and any College staff affected by the decision.
    2. The full communication to the undergraduate shall not normally be circulated, but shall be held in the Warden’s office.

Notice

  1. In Full Term any document that this Bylaw requires to be sent to an undergraduate shall be deemed to be duly given 24 hours after it has been left for them at the College lodge. Out of Full Term an additional copy will be posted to the home address he or she has given the Tutorial Office , and the document will be deemed to be duly given three days after the date of posting. A copy of all documents served shall also (unless the volume of them is such as to make it unreasonable) be sent by email to the undergraduate’s University email address unless it has been suspended.

Bylaw XI A flowchart

Byelaw XIa flowchart