What is academic integrity?

One exciting aspect of joining a degree course at a UK university is that you’ll become part of the academic community. This community brings together students, lecturers, researchers and other staff in a commitment to excellence in learning, teaching and research. Within this academic world, you’ll hear people refer to the importance of ‘academic integrity,’ and it’s essential that you understand what it means.

Academic integrity is primarily a core set of values that apply to everything you do. These values should guide and support all of your learning and academic work. They are:

A cycle with 5 values. From top going clockwise: Value 1- Honesty - You are honest about where your ideas come from and how results were obtained. Value 2- Fairness- you don't take advantage of other people's work. Value 3- Trust - others can trust your work and values. Value 4- Respect- you show respect for other students and staff. Value 5- Responsibility- you are responsible for your own learning and for understanding academic values.

Adapted from The Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity (2nd ed)


UK universities take academic integrity extremely seriously and will provide you with information and guidance during your course. Many offer workshops, online tutorials or individual support, and some give academic integrity tests to new students so they can get feedback on their current understanding and skills.

Academic integrity in your writing

Academic writing such as essays, reports, case studies or dissertations, can be challenging. You have to present ideas and information using the right language and style, and you also have to demonstrate good critical thinking. This means you have to do research and/or read existing work on a subject, and then you have to build on it to form your own argument and conclusions. When you write your assignment, you have to acknowledge when ideas or information come from someone else. You need to do this correctly in order to avoid plagiarism. For example, if you use the ideas of other people as if they were your own, ie, without referencing them, this would be considered plagiarism. At university, cases of plagiarism are taken very seriously and are viewed as an academic offence. Students are responsible for knowing and following the regulations. It’s essential that you always cite your sources appropriately.

Top tips for ensuring your academic integrity in writing.

  • Make certain you fully understand what you read, so you can use it accurately and appropriately.
  • Take clear, accurate notes during your reading and research (see Step 3.15).
  • Summarise and paraphrase ideas where possible (but always reference them)
  • Be sure to acknowledge other work every time you use ideas, information or words from it.
  • Develop your own voice and style in your writing
  • Develop your own ideas
  • Leave plenty of time to complete your assignment
  • Ask for help from a tutor or advisor if you need it.

Now we’d like to hear from you.

Go the website for your future university, and search for a statement of the university’s policy on academic integrity, academic misconduct or plagiarism. Is it clear to you what’s expected of you in relation to your academic writing? Share your thoughts below.

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British Council