Academic Misconduct


1. Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to:

  • define what constitutes Academic Misconduct, and when investigations will occur as a result of that misconduct;
  • explain the process the RACGP follows and the decisions it may make when responding to allegations of Academic Misconduct; and
  • maintain the highest standards of conduct for any academic activities which the RACGP engages in.

The RACGP does not tolerate Academic Misconduct and all unacceptable conduct will be investigated and substantiated incidents sanctioned.


2. Scope

This policy applies to employees and contractors of the RACGP (Staff), members, the Board of the RACGP, any person enrolled in, applying for or undertaking any form of educational course or assessment run by or overseen by the RACGP, and contributors to any educational publication issued or endorsed by the RACGP or research undertaken by the RACGP.

This Policy is to be read in conjunction with the Member Code of Conduct, Staff Code of Conduct, RACGP Reconsideration and Appeals Policy and education policies relevant to any educational course or assessment run by or overseen by the RACGP.

In the event of an inconsistency between this policy and the policies read in conjunction with this policy, this policy overrides to the extent of any inconsistency.

This policy does not apply to the publication of articles in the Australian Journal of General Practice.


3. Academic Misconduct

Academic Misconduct includes any form of unacceptable or improper behaviour by any person within the scope of this policy which:

  1. hinders the pursuit of academic excellence;
  2. could affect the validity of any RACGP examination or assessment process or that of the examination or assessment itself;
  3. may constitute a lack of transparency, honesty or integrity connected to an RACGP course, examination or assessment process;
  4. seeks to gain for themself, or for any other person, any academic advantage or advancement through the improper use of RACGP facilities, information or the intellectual property of others;
  5. may constitute a failure to comply with the principles or specific provisions of RACGP policies relating to the conduct of research and includes but is not limited to conduct in, or in connection with, research that is dishonest, reckless or persistently negligent and/or seriously deviates from accepted standards within the research and scholarly community for proposing, conducting or reporting research;
  6. may bring the RACGP into disrepute in an academic context; or
  7. any attempt to engage in any of the conduct described in this clause.

Examples of Academic Misconduct include, but are not limited to:

  • providing misleading or deceptive information to the RACGP including the omission of information;
  • cheating on exams or assessments or facilitating others to including impersonation of students, tampering with any aspect of the exam or assessment process and acquiring, or attempting to acquire, possess, or distribute examination materials, assessment materials or information without approval;
  • breach of confidentiality;
  • breach of intellectual property rights vested in, or licensed by the RACGP;
  • plagiarism;
  • submitting false, misleading or unsupported material for publication in an RACGP publication or in the provision of services to the RACGP;
  • fabrication or falsification of data, results, or written outputs or providing false or misleading information in a grants application, proposed publication or other research;
  • failure to obtain, or dishonestly or deceptively obtaining necessary ethics approval as required in any research;
  • unprofessional conduct including but not limited to bullying or threatening behaviour towards RACGP staff or any other provider of education services on behalf of the RACGP and failure to disclose conflicts of interest;
  • failure to comply with a direction, instruction, procedure, rule or policy issued by the RACGP in relation to a course, examination or assessment, regardless of how the non-compliant conduct occurs; and
  • any attempt to commit or procure academic misconduct.


4. Misconduct Process

4.1 Submission of Academic Misconduct Report (AMR)

Anyone who believes Academic Misconduct has occurred or is occurring, must notify the relevant education officer by submitting an AMR. The template for a report is found here. Reports should be submitted to the Misconduct Officer at education.appeals@racgp.org.au.

4.2 Assessment of AMR

The Misconduct Officer will initially assess each AMR. The Misconduct Officer must consider all the information in the AMR. The Misconduct Officer may ask the person making the AMR for more information if they think necessary.

The Misconduct Officer must notify the person the subject of the AMR (the Party) that the AMR has been received and request a written response to the allegations within 21 business days.

The AMR must consider any response before deciding whether to dismiss the AMR.

4.3 Dismissal of Report

The Misconduct Officer may dismiss an AMR with no further action if they consider that the subject matter of the report is:

  1. false, frivolous, vexatious or lacking in substance;
  2. outside the jurisdiction of this Policy;
  3. malicious or not made in good faith;
  4. trivial or minor such as not to warrant further investigation;
  5. a significant period of time has elapsed since the conduct in question has taken place such that any action would be futile; or
  6. the matter is the subject of existing proceedings or other forms of review or appeal, including under another policy.

4.4 Redirection of a Matter in an AMR

The Misconduct Officer may at any time decide that a matter raised in an AMR is better dealt with under an alternative policy and refer the AMR to the relevant officer under an alternative policy.

For example, a report may disclose conduct which is better dealt with under a relevant Code of Conduct such as the Staff Code of Conduct. The Misconduct Officer then refers the report to the relevant officer under that policy.

Where the Misconduct Officer redirects an AMR complaint, the Misconduct Officer must forward all relevant information to the staff member to whom the AMR has been redirected.

If the Misconduct Officer redirects an AMR under this clause, they must inform the author of the AMR as soon as practicable that the AMR has been redirected and provide the name of the officer to whom the AMR has been redirected.

The Misconduct Officer may, after taking legal advice from the legal branch, refer the matter to an external authority such as the local police, Medical Board of Australia or any other investigative authority.

If the Misconduct Officer refers the matter to an external authority, the Misconduct Officer must notify the Party and offer counselling and support if necessary.

4.5 Time for Decision

The initial assessment must be concluded within 21 national office business days of an AMR being lodged.

The Party must be given notice of the outcome within ten national office business days of the conclusion of the initial investigation.


5. Academic Misconduct Committee (AMC) Deliberations

If the Misconduct Officer does not dismiss an AMR under clause 4, then the Censor-in-Chief (CIC) may:

  • dismiss the AMR on any of the grounds listed in clause 4.3;
  • convene an AMC to investigate the AMR; or
  • after taking legal advice from the legal branch, refer the matter to an external authority such as the local police, Medical Board of Australia or any other investigative authority.

If the CIC refers the matter to an external authority, the CIC must notify the Party and offer counselling and support if necessary.

5.1 Decisions in Abeyance

Where the CIC decides to convene an AMC, the CIC may direct that any result, notification of completion, determination of outcome or other decision relating to the enrolling in, participation in or any form of assessment of any course be withheld or suspended pending the outcome of the AMC’s deliberations.

5.2 Investigations

Where the CIC convenes an AMC, the Misconduct Officer:

  • must investigate the matter raised in the AMR within 10 business days; or
  • appoint a third party to investigate the matter.

The investigator must collate relevant information in an impartial manner to provide to the AMC to allow it to make a decision.

The relevant information must include, as a minimum, the AMR, this policy, the Party’s original response to the allegations and any first hand evidence such as audio or video recordings, IT evidence, witness accounts, or assessment or other course materials.

The Misconduct Officer must within 10 business days:

  • notify the Party that an AMC is to be convened to hear the matter in the AMR;
  • provide the Party with a description of the allegations to be considered; and
  • nominate the date, time and location of the hearing and invite the Party to attend and or provide a written submission within 14 business days responding to the allegations.

Once the investigation is completed, the Misconduct Officer must provide the investigation materials to the AMC.

The Misconduct Officer must not recommend any particular finding to the AMC.

Any member of the AMC may request further information from the Misconduct Officer. The Misconduct Officer must provide that information insofar as possible.

5.3 AMC Deliberation Principles

All parties to an AMC must adhere to the following principles:

  1. Decision makers must:
    1. ensure that a Party has adequate opportunity to put their case;
    2. ensure that the issue in question is not being decided by the person who made the original decision;
    3. have no conflict of interest in the subject of the hearing;
    4. hear the matter in an expedient manner;
    5. ensure that all relevant information is considered in making a decision; and
    6. make decisions in writing, which are appropriately recorded and communicated to the Party within a reasonable time of determination.
  2. Parties must:
    1. provide information requested for by an AMC; and
    2. not seek to obstruct or otherwise abuse the AMC process.

5.4 Basis for Decision

In considering a case of alleged misconduct, a decision-maker must make a decision based on findings of facts that are established on sound reasoning and relevant evidence.

The AMC must consider the investigation materials provided under clause 5.2, any submission by the Party and any other relevant evidence it has received, including, in its discretion, any material provided after any time limit has expired.

5.5 Redirection of Matter

At any time during a hearing, the AMC may, after taking legal advice from the legal branch, refer the matter to an external authority such as the local police, Medical Board of Australia or any other investigative authority.

If the AMC refers the matter to an external authority, the Chair of the AMC must notify the Party and offer counselling and support if necessary.


6. Academic Misconduct Committee (AMC) Governance

6.1 Committee Composition

The AMC comprises:

  1. two Censors nominated by the CIC (one of whom may be the CIC); and
  2. one RACGP representative familiar with the RACGP's operations related to the AMR, nominated by the CIC.

6.2 Chair

If sitting on the AMC, the CIC will be Chair. If not, the CIC must nominate one of the two Censors to be Chair.

6.3 Conflict of Interest

Prior to any hearing, all members of the AMC must disclose any conflicts of interest they may have in the matter to be considered. The CIC must determine how any disclosed conflicts are to be managed.

If the CIC determines that any member has a conflict which requires them to stand down from the AMC, then the CIC must nominate an alternative member.

If a member, and the CIC has a conflict, then the remaining members must decide how that conflict is to be managed. Where those members determine unanimously that the CIC must stand down, the CIC must nominate an alternative member.

All disclosures and how they are to be managed must be accurately recorded by the CIC.

6.4 Conduct of Hearings

All decisions are to be made by majority vote.

Additional RACGP staff members may attend the meeting to support the AMC in an administrative or secretariat capacity. The additional staff member(s) must accurately record and document the AMC’s decision.

The AMC may obtain evidence as and how it deems necessary.

If the Party decides to attend the hearing, they may be accompanied by a support person.

6.5 Burden of Proof

A finding of Academic Misconduct against a Party must not be made unless established on the provided evidence to the comfortable satisfaction of the AMC. In applying this burden of proof, the more serious the allegation and the consequences, the higher the standard of the evidence required for the allegation to be substantiated.


7. Academic Misconduct Committee (AMC) Determinations

The AMC may determine that the allegations in an AMR are:

  • substantiated in whole or in part; or
  • not substantiated.

7.1 Unsubstantiated Allegations

Where the AMC finds that allegations against a Party are unsubstantiated, the AMC:

  • must dismiss the allegations; and
  • where satisfied that the RACGP has caused damage to the Party by way of administrative error or failure to apply RACGP policies, may provide a written apology to the Party or another form of redress.

7.2 Substantiated Allegations

Where the AMC finds that allegations against a Party are substantiated, the AMC may impose one or more sanctions.

7.3 Sanctions

The sanctions which the AMC may impose are:

  1. a written reprimand or warning to the Party;
  2. forfeiture of fees paid by the Party associated with any educational course or assessment run by or overseen by the RACGP;
  3. a direction that the Party provide a written apology to the RACGP or any other person affected by the misconduct;
  4. a direction that the Party attend counselling, workshops or educational events at their own cost within a specified time period;
  5. a direction that the Party reimburse any reasonable costs incurred by the RACGP in investigating and determining the allegations of Academic Misconduct;
  6. a direction that the Party reimburse any reasonable costs assessed by the RACGP as costs resulting from the misuse of RACGP information or equipment;
  7. voiding of any exam result, or assessment result of any form or alteration of the result of any exam or assessment of any form;
  8. ordering the Party to repeat or resubmit any exam or assessment;
  9. the imposition of conditions on the Party’s enrolment, assessment or examination in any RACGP course;
  10. imposing any condition on the Party’s examination results or assessment results whether now or in the future;
  11. cancellation of enrolment in, or expulsion from, any course, examination or assessment process;
  12. the Party be prohibited from any further applications for a course, examination or assessment not exceeding 12 months from the date of the decision on the allegations;
  13. a recommendation to the RACGP Board that:
    1. the Party be suspended or expelled from membership;
    2. the RACGP commence legal action against the Party; or
  14. notification of the outcome of the hearing and sanction imposed to any regulatory body.

7.4 Factors in Determining a Sanction

The AMC may consider the following factors in determining the appropriateness of any sanction for Academic Misconduct:

  1. the nature, extent and seriousness of the misconduct;
  2. the Party’s prior record (if any) of misconduct;
  3. whether the misconduct was intentional;
  4. the impact of the misconduct on others; and
  5. any mitigating circumstances.

7.5 Failure to Comply with a Sanction imposed by the AMC

Any person may report a failure to comply with a sanction to the CIC.

A person who reports a failure to comply to the CIC must provide evidence of the alleged failure.

If satisfied that the evidence discloses a failure to comply, the CIC must write to the Party:

  • notifying them that information has been received that they have failed to comply with an AMC sanction;
  • giving them seven business days within which to respond to the allegation.

Where the Party fails to respond to the CIC within the seven days, the CIC may immediately

  • expel the Party from any course run by or overseen by the RACGP;
  • if a member, recommend to the Board that the Party be expelled from membership;
  • recommend to the Board that legal action be commenced against the Party to enforce the sanction.

Where the Party responds to the CIC within the seven days, the CIC must consider the Party’s response before making any decision. The CIC may ask for any additional information as they deem necessary.

Having considered the Party’s response, the CIC may:

  • take no further action; or
  • affirm the failure to comply.

If the CIC confirms that there has been a failure to comply, the CIC may:

  • impose an additional sanction described in clause 7.3 on the Party;
  • expel the Party from any course run by or overseen by the RACGP;
  • if a member, recommend to the Board that the Party be expelled from membership;
  • recommend to the Board that legal action be commenced against the Party to enforce the sanction.

7.6 Notification

The Chair of the AMC must notify the Party of the outcome of the hearing within 10 national office business days after the determination is made. This notice must include:

  • the AMC’s findings;
  • the sanction imposed;
  • the summary reasons for the decision; and
  • a copy of, or link to, the RACGP Reconsiderations and Appeals Policy.

7.7 Publication

The AMC may publish the results of any determination on the RACGP website.


8. Appeals

Any appeal against a decision of the AMC must be brought under the RACGP Reconsiderations and Appeals Policy.


9. Amendment of this Policy

The CIC may, without the consent of the Board, make Minor Amendments to this policy at any time.

If the CIC makes Minor Amendments, he/she must advise the Board of those amendments as soon as practicable.

The Board may make amendments to this policy at any time.

 

10. Responsibilities

Board

Responsible for approval of policy and Major Amendments.

Academic Misconduct Committee (AMC)

Hears and determines matters concerning allegations of academic misconduct.

Censor-in-Chief

May determine that an AMC is necessary in response to an Academic Misconduct Report (AMR). Usually chair of the AMC. Must notify a Party of the outcome of a hearing. Responsible for Minor Amendments.

Misconduct Officer

Assesses AMRs and may dismiss or redirect them. Investigates or delegates the investigation of matters in an AMR.


11. Glossary

Academic Misconduct

Any conduct which is unacceptable or improper as defined in clause 3.

Academic Misconduct Report

A report containing allegations of misconduct against a Party.

Major Amendment

An amendment which materially changes the operation of the policy which is not otherwise a Minor Amendment.

Minor Amendment

An amendment to style, to correct grammatical mistakes, to change overall formatting, to make updates which do not materially change meaning, or any other amendment, which in the opinion of the Censor in Chief, does not materially alter the operation of the policy. 

Party

A person the subject of allegations in an Academic Misconduct Report


12. Related Documents, Legislation and Policies

Member Code of Conduct;

Staff Code of Conduct;

RACGP Reconsideration and Appeals Policy;

Education policies relevant to any educational course or assessment run by or overseen by the RACGP.

Compliance

This policy complies with all relevant legislation:

Guidance

N/A


13. Policy Review and Currency

This policy will be reviewed every three years from the last approval date, or when there is a significant change in the intent of the policy. This policy remains valid and applicable notwithstanding if it is overdue for review.

Version History

Release Notice

Version

Date of effect

Amendment details

Amended by

1.0

 

Initial release

 

Record no.:

 

Policy owner:

Board

Approved by:

Board

Approved on:

18 June 2020

Next Review Due:

June 2023