Student conduct | University of Oxford
Student conduct
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Student conduct

Students at Oxford are subject to two separate (but complementary) sets of disciplinary regulations: the rules and by-laws of your college provided in your college handbook, or equivalent document, and the University's conduct regulations.

University conduct regulations

Students studying for awards that are also professional qualifications may also be expected to observe codes of conduct drawn up by the University in consultation with the external bodies concerned; your department will provide details where appropriate. The University and college disciplinary codes do not replace the law of the land which you must observe like everybody else.

The University regulations covering student conduct come from three main sources:

  • University statutes, in particular Statute XI on University discipline;
  • regulations, issued by: Council; the Proctors, as the University’s disciplinary officers, including emergency regulations for student conduct, published in the University Gazette, notified to you by your college and remaining in force for a set period; the Rules Committee (six Congregation members and six student members who meet annually to review and issue conduct regulations); the Curators of the University Libraries; the IT Committee;
  • rules on access and use, made and published by people or bodies responsible for managing University land and buildings, or operating University services and facilities.

Whether you are a taught-course or a research student, it is your responsibility to consult and be familiar with the Statutes and Regulations, including the Examination Regulations, and subsequent formal amendments published in the Gazette, general regulations and the specific regulations for your course. The Examination Regulations cover a wide variety of important topics, you should read them carefully, in addition to authoritative information that departments and faculties publish in accordance with the regulations (e.g. in course handbooks or on departmental websites). Students who intentionally or recklessly breach regulations, or incite or conspire with others to do so, are liable to disciplinary action.

General Conduct

Statute XI on University discipline contains a Code of Discipline applying to all University members and to examination candidates who are not formally University members. It sets out the actions and behaviours that are unacceptable in the University context.

You must also comply with the University’s Policy Statements and Codes of Practice, as listed. Your attention is drawn in particular to the following:

Library and IT facilities

No member of the University shall intentionally or recklessly commit a breach of any of the regulations relating to the use of the libraries or the information and communications technology facilities of the University. Note that any infringement of copyright through the University IT network, including using peer-to-peer software and file-sharing to download and distribute copyrighted material, can result in offenders being fined or excluded from the network. You must familiarise yourself with the regulations and take advice (e.g. from college IT officers) if you are unsure about them.  IT security is also taken very seriously. Advice about keeping your devices and your University IT account secure is available.

Data Protection Act 1998

Anyone holding or intending to keep personal data of any kind (whether on a computer or in paper records) on behalf of a club, society, or publication, or for any other purpose, is individually responsible for complying with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998. Registration with the Proctors does not provide any sort of blanket cover under the University. The Act imposes strict conditions on the collection, storage and use of personal data (e.g. about club members, sponsors) and confers rights of access on the people who are the subjects of such data. Data controllers are required to notify their activities: there is a self-assessment guide to notification on the Information Commissioner’s website. 

Marches and processions

The Public Order Act 1986, Section 11, requires the organiser of a procession to give at least six days’ notice in advance of the date of the event to the Police. In practice, it is advisable to give the Police as much notice as possible: at least 4 weeks’ minimum, in the interests of avoiding clashes between your event and another event in Oxford on the same day. Events intended to take place on University land or property must be referred to the Proctors.

Newspapers, magazines and websites

You are reminded that, whether or not a publication is formally registered with the Proctors, the individuals involved in its production and distribution are legally responsible for all the material. Anyone intending to set up or take over a publication is strongly advised to consult the Proctors’ Office at an early stage. The Proctors do not censor student members’ publications. However, because such publications are sometimes the subject of complaints, the Proctors need to be aware of their content. Those responsible for the distribution of any journal, newspaper, or magazine are asked to send a copy to the Proctors’ Office on the day of publication.  If you help to edit publications intended mainly for other students, write for such publications or post material on social media, you need to be aware that your activities are covered by the University’s Disciplinary Regulations and by further regulations as referenced Regulations of the Rules Committee below.

Essay-writing services

In accordance with the Code of Discipline, no University member is allowed to contribute to essay-writing services (whether directly with the recipient or through commercial companies) in circumstances where the work provided could be submitted by someone else in any examination worldwide. Oxford students buying or otherwise obtaining material to pass off as their own in University examinations would be in breach of the Proctors’ Disciplinary Regulations for University Examinations and can expect to be the subject of disciplinary procedures.

Criminal investigations and offences

Under Statute XI, if a student is the subject of criminal proceedings concerning an alleged offence of such seriousness that an immediate term of imprisonment may be imposed if he or she is convicted, or if he or she has been convicted of a serious offence (whether or not a prison sentence was in fact imposed), the student is required to inform the Proctors in writing. The Proctors will then consider whether any consequential action needs to be taken within the University.

Regulations of the Rules Committee

Rules Committee regulations, reviewed annually, concern student members’ conduct specifically.

The current regulations set out rules covering:

Local Rules

Those responsible for managing University land and buildings, or operating University services and facilities, are empowered to draw up and publish local rules governing access and use.

Students using buildings, property or services are advised to familiarise themselves with any published rules, for example as displayed on noticeboards in or at the entrance to buildings or property or on the service’s website. Action threatening or causing damage to property or inconvenience to other users may lead to exclusion. An allegation of misuse of University property contrary to local rules may be referred to the Proctors for investigation as a possible disciplinary offence under Statute XI.

University discipline

The Proctors’ role under statutes IX and XI includes acting as the officers who ensure that disciplinary regulations are enforced. Doing so includes taking steps to:

  • enforce, and prevent any breach of, Statute XI
  • investigate any complaint that a University member has committed a breach
  • identify the person responsible for any such breach.

Less serious matters may be decided on at a Proctors’ Disciplinary Hearing, with the student’s agreement; all other matters dealt with under the University’s disciplinary procedures will be heard by the University’s Student Disciplinary Panel. The Proctors’ investigations are carried out under codified procedures, defined in the regulations for University discipline. 

Investigation

Where an offence of misconduct is alleged, one of the Proctors will investigate and decide whether there is a case for the student or students concerned to answer.

For alleged offences involving clubs or publications, the Proctor may hold all or some of the relevant officers responsible. The Proctors have the power to summon any University member to appear before them to assist with their enquiries. The process of investigation and evidence-gathering may involve interviewing suspects and witnesses. A student under investigation has the right to be informed what breach of regulations he or she is suspected of having committed and to be accompanied by a member of Congregation during any interview. He or she has the right not to answer any question (however, such silence will be reported in any subsequent disciplinary hearing). If, after investigating, the Proctor decides that there is no case to answer, the student will be informed in writing and the matter is closed. If, however, the Proctor considers that a breach of regulations has occurred and that the student(s) responsible have been identified, the Proctor will then send each student notice of a disciplinary hearing.

The body responsible for adjudicating disciplinary cases differs according to the nature and seriousness of the alleged breach. The student always has the following statutory rights:

  • to know what Statute or regulation he or she is accused of breaching, when and where
  • to know the full evidence against him or her
  • to be accompanied or represented at hearings or in interviews
  • to call witnesses in defence
  • to ask for an adjournment
  • to appeal (or seek leave to appeal) against the outcome of proceedings.

The procedures for the disciplinary bodies are defined in regulations for University discipline. All cases are decided on the ‘civil standard’ of proof (i.e. the balance of probabilities).

Proctors' disciplinary hearing

Unless an alleged breach of regulations involves harassment, serious injury to a person, serious damage to property, or a significant element of dishonesty, the Proctors can offer the student concerned the option of having the matter dealt with by at a Proctors’ Disciplinary Hearing.

Pro-Proctors may preside so as to ensure that individuals hearing the case would be different from those responsible for investigating and prosecuting it. The student will be formally notified what regulations he or she is thought to have breached, and will be sent a notice to attend a Proctors’ Disciplinary Hearing (at which he or she may be accompanied or represented by a member of Congregation). At the hearing, the evidence will be presented and the student has the right to make a defence against the allegations or else to admit the breach(es) of regulations and to present evidence to explain his or her behaviour. Witnesses may be called to attend, either by the Proctors or the student.

If the student admits the alleged breach of regulations, or is found guilty, the Proctors may impose a fine (or fine plus compensation) of up to £300 or a written warning about future conduct. If the fine or compensation order is not paid, the amount will automatically be increased according to a scale set out in the Regulations for Fines and Compensation Imposed Under Statute XI.  Continued non-payment will result in the case being referred to the Student Disciplinary Panel. There is a right to ask for leave to appeal against the Proctors’ decision and/or penalty to the Student Disciplinary Panel.

Student Disciplinary Panel

The chair and vice-chairs of the Student Disciplinary Panel (“SDP”) are appointed by the University’s High Steward from among members of Congregation who are legally qualified. The other SDP members, also members of Congregation, are appointed by Council.

The SDP holds hearings in term time or vacation as necessary. At each hearing, the chair or one of the vice chairs will sit together with two other SDP members (selected to ensure their independence of the colleges and academic departments of the students appearing before them). The SDP handles:

  • • cases of a more serious nature, referred to it by the Proctors
  • • appeals against Proctors’ Disciplinary Hearing decisions
  • • certain other business (e.g. applications and appeals in connection with students’ suspension from access to University premises and facilities).

The Proctors must normally bring a case within six months of first interviewing the student concerned. A student referred to the SDP is sent a formal notice detailing the breaches of regulations alleged, and notifying him or her about a hearing to deal with the case. Before the hearing, the student is given a copy of all the evidence collected by the Proctors and has the opportunity to submit his or her own evidence. The student may be accompanied or represented during the hearing by any person of his or her choice (including a professional lawyer). Witnesses may be called. If the SDP finds that the student has committed the breaches of regulations alleged, it may issue a written warning about future conduct or take one or more of the following actions:

  • • impose a fine of any size
  • • order the student to pay compensation to any person or body suffering injury, damage or loss as a result of his or her conduct
  • • ban the student from specified University premises or facilities for whatever period of time, or on whatever terms, it thinks fit
  • • rusticate the student for whatever period of time it thinks fit
  • • expel the student from membership of the University.

In relation to breaches of examination regulations, the SDP may also instruct the examiners to take one or more of the following actions:

  • • reduce a mark awarded to any piece of work
  • • award no mark to, or disregard, any piece of work
  • • substitute an alternative mark for any piece of work
  • • reduce by one or more classes any degree classification
  • • permit the student to re-sit an examination or re-submit a piece of work on such conditions as it thinks fit
  • • award a pass degree instead of an honours degree
  • • fail the student in the examination or part of the examination concerned
  • • recommend to Council that the student should be de-graded (i.e. have the degree to which the proceedings relate taken away).

Student Appeal Panel

A student who wishes to contest the finding or penalty imposed by the SDP has the right to ask for permission to appeal to the Student Appeal Panel (“SAP”).

This body consists of three people with suitable legal experience appointed from outside the University by the High Steward. SAP members take it in turns to conduct appeal hearings. There is also provision for the SAP to be assisted in individual cases by two ‘assessors’ (members of Congregation appointed by the High Steward, who have ‘knowledge and experience of the practice of this University relevant to the issues raised in the appeal’). 

First, the SAP’s presiding member to decide whether to grant the student’s request for permission to appeal. In reaching a decision, the SAP will consider the documents and information submitted and may also hold a hearing. A reasoned decision will be given. If permission to appeal is not granted, that is the end of the internal University process (see below for information about the Office of the Independent Adjudicator).

If permission to appeal is granted, a SAP hearing will be arranged. The hearing will review the evidence on which the SDP based its decisions, together with any new evidence that the SAP agrees to consider. At the end of this process, the SAP will decide whether to set aside or confirm the decisions of the SDP (or it may decide to substitute a different penalty of the kind that the SDP itself could have imposed).

Criminal Proceedings

If a student member is alleged to have committed a breach of section 2 or 3 of the Code of Discipline, for which he or she will be or is likely to be prosecuted in a court of law, the Proctors shall not proceed, if at all, unless they are satisfied either that any criminal proceedings in respect of that breach have been completed, whether by conviction or acquittal or discontinuance of the proceedings, or that the member is unlikely to be prosecuted in a court of law in respect of that alleged breach.

If a student member acquires a criminal conviction in respect of an alleged offence of such seriousness that an immediate term of imprisonment may be or has been imposed on conviction, the Proctors may refer him or her to the Student Disciplinary Panel (which has powers to expel the student from membership of the University or impose a lesser penalty or other conditions on the student). As an interim step the Proctors may suspend the student while criminal proceedings are taking place or may ban him or her from access to specified University land, buildings, facilities, or services. There is a right of appeal against such interim action.

Definitions

Statute XI includes the following definitions:

  • • ‘ban’ means withdraw the right of access to specified land, buildings, facilities or services of the University for a fixed period or pending the fulfilment of specified conditions. Under Statute XI, the Proctors can ban a student from the use of or access to University land, buildings, facilities or services for up to 42 days as an urgent measure. This would be an interim step while a case against the student was being referred to the Student Disciplinary Panel.

  • • ‘expel’ means deprive a member permanently of his or her membership of the University. A member of the University who has been expelled loses his or her entitlement to use University land, buildings, facilities or services (including entry for University examinations). A student expelled from membership of the University may retain membership of his or her college (depending on the college’s bylaws); but a student expelled from membership of a college automatically loses his or her University membership.

  • • ‘rusticate’ means withdraw the right of access to all of the land, buildings and facilities of the University including teaching, examinations and all related academic services for a fixed period or until the fulfilment of specified conditions;

  • • ‘suspend’ means withdraw the right of access referred to above for a fixed or in-determinate period or until the fulfilment of specified conditions where action is taken as an interim measure pending further investigation, or where action is taken under the statutes or regulations for non-disciplinary reasons.

  • • a penalty of suspension or rustication imposed by a college on one of its members shall also apply to University land, buildings facilities or services (subject to a right of appeal to the Student Disciplinary Panel;
  • ‘harassment’ means unwanted and unwarranted conduct towards another person which has the purpose or effect of:

i) violating that other’s dignity, or
ii) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that other.

College discipline

Students who wish to appeal against a disciplinary decision of their college should refer to the College Handbook or equivalent document, or to the college website for details of relevant contacts and procedures in their college, and if available, to their college's contractual documents, for the procedures for disciplinary measures. After which, and if appropriate, appeals may be made to the Conference of Colleges Appeal Tribunal (CCAT). This is a body of the Conference of Colleges, which considers appeals on disciplinary procedures and is not a University appeal body.