From the very first assignment an undergraduate student has been submitting work which has been heavily and repeatedly revised by her father (who is an A level teacher of the subject of her degree). Is that collusion? If so, how can it be proven?

2 Answers 2


Interestingly our university undergraduate guidelines definition of collusion only specifies working with another student. So I guess this would count as plagerism rather than collusion.

I wonder however, if the rules for PhD students give a better definition of what is an isn't acceptable:

It is acceptable for a student to receive the following support in writing the thesis from the supervisory team (that is additional to the advice and/or information outlined above, if the supervisory team has considered that this support is necessary:

  1. Where the meaning of text is not clear the student should be asked to re-write the text in question in order to clarify the meaning;
  2. English language: If the meaning of text is unclear, the supervisory team can provide support in correcting grammar and sentence construction in order to ensure that the meaning of text is clear (if a student requires significant support with written English above what is considered to be correcting grammar and sentence construction, the supervisory team will, at the earliest opportunity, require the student to obtain remedial tuition support from the University’s English Language Teaching Centre);
  3. The supervisory team cannot re-write text that changes the meaning of the text (ghost writing/ghost authorship in a thesis is unacceptable);
  4. The supervisory team can provide guidance on the structure, content and expression of writing;
  5. The supervisory team can proof-read the text. 6 . Anyone else who may be employed or engaged to proof read the text is only permitted to change spelling and grammar and must not be able to change the content of the thesis.

In practice, the line between proofreading (which is generally considered allowable) and plagiarism (which is not), is fuzzy and hard to define.

If you don't know how to prove this is happening, how do you know that it is? Someone's written work being better than their oral work would suggest is not proof, and having a father in the same field is not a crime.


If you state it accurately, then yes, it is collusion and maybe plagiarism if she presents the work as her own when it is not.

I would think that the limits are also hard to discern. If the father reads and makes comments then it is hard to say how important those comments are.

But it is probably difficult to prove without an admission.

But the father is as much at fault as the student. He deserves some sanction in a sane world.

One thing you might want to do (generally) is have the students write under observation, rather than in their own time and space. You will get a fairer read of the student's abilities, though a less polished product (from everyone).

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