From resits to failing your entire module: What happens if you get caught using ChatGPT

Good luck telling your parents

Universities are cracking down on using ChatGPT in assignments with numerous students being given automatic fails for their entire unit, an investigation by The Tab has revealed.

Nottingham Trent University, De Montfort in Leicester, Liverpool John Moores, University of Bedfordshire and the University of Winchester have all handed out the punishment for using the chatbot leaving students risking their overall degree mark and potentially having to resit another year of study.

At UAL (University of the Arts London), one student admitted to using AI to “rephrase” a paragraph in their essay. 

After facing a panel of three to four staff members, they ruled the student had committed “moderate academic misconduct”. UAL’s website outlines students may be asked to resubmit the work or repeat the unit or even the entire year. 

If a student is asked to repeat a unit or year at UAL, they must pay “full fees”.

The Tab’s investigation into the use of ChatGPT among students in the first six months since the Silicon Valley software launched has laid bare how widely it’s being used. 

Replies to freedom of information requests from 114 universities revealed more than 40 per cent have investigated students for using AI bots like ChatGPT to cheat in their assessments.

At De Montfort University, where 22 students have so far been found guilty, action taken by the university has ranged from a mark reduction or failing the assignment right up to failing the entire unit and being given a score of zero for a term’s worth of work.

At most universities, students complete three units a term and therefore six across the academic year. With second and third year unit results counting towards students’ overall degree mark, failing an entire unit could wipe at least eight per cent off your overall mark. 

However in most instances, students caught using ChatGPT have received a fail for that assessment alone. Depending on the severity, some are then offered the opportunity to resit with a capped mark while others are given an immediate zero. 

At the University of York, the Russell Group institution with the highest number of investigations, the university said it capped one student’s assessment at 29 per cent (11 marks below the pass mark) and gave another student zero. 

St Andrews, the UK’s second best university according to The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023, has so far found three students guilty of using an AI chatbot to cheat in their assessments.

It gave all three students marks of zero for the plagiarised assessment.

The University of Glasgow has investigated four of its students and upheld all four investigations. The university makes its decisions on the “balance of probabilities” as well as “further evidence submitted by staff” or – of course – if the student admits to it. 

One student was given a “Grade H” by the university – the lowest possible grade. The university describes a piece of work which has received this grade as having “no convincing evidence of attainment of ILOs (intended learning outcomes)”. The student was given no opportunity to resit the assessment.

It’s not all doom and gloom however. Liverpool Hope University lived up to its namesake. It’s investigated seven students, four of which were upheld and the remaining three are ongoing. 

The university said it was dealing with ChatGPT use “pastorally”. All three students have so far been given the opportunity to resubmit and the university made no mention of capping the grade of any resubmission. 

The University of Bolton equally chose to adopt a “fail and repeat” approach with no indication the second attempt would be capped.

At the University of Chichester, one student was spared with a “written warning” for using an AI chatbot, although the university added “with marking to take account of use”.

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