Research and analysis: Malpractice in vocational and technical qualifications: academic year 2017 to 2018


July 29
09:00 2020


This data was collected by Ofqual for the first time in 2019. As such the analyses presented here can be considered exploratory in nature. Going forward we plan to collect this data on a regular basis and publish our findings.

The analyses focus on the types of offences committed by, and the types of penalties issued to, students, centre, centre staff and examiners.

Main Findings

  1. A total of 1,539 penalties were reported for the academic year 2017 to 2018.
  2. The greatest number of these penalties were issued to students (55%), followed by centre staff (39%), centres (6%). No penalties for examiners were reported.
  3. The majority of malpractice cases resulted in a single penalty.
  4. The number of penalties was greater for internal (non-examined) assessments (64%) compared to external (examined) assessments (36%).
  5. The number of penalties was highest in performance tasks (68%). This refers to any task that is not a written exam, such as, a presentation or musical performance. The number of penalties was next highest in paper-based exams (19%) followed by online exams (13%).
  6. The most common type of malpractice for students was plagiarism (46% of student penalties), followed by use of mobile phones or other communication devices (19% of student penalties). The large proportion of malpractice in the form of plagiarism likely reflects the preponderance of internal, coursework-based, assessments in vocational and technical qualifications.
  7. For centres and centre staff, improper assistance to candidates was the most common type of malpractice offence, responsible for 50% of centre malpractice and 75% of centre staff malpractice.
  8. The most common type of penalty issued to students was a loss of marks (44% of all penalties), followed by a warning (39%).
  9. For centre staff, the most common types of penalties issued were written warning and training (45% and 41% respectively).
  10. For centres, the most common types of penalties used were review and report and written warning (51% and 31% respectively).
Published 29 July 2020

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