Upholding Standards of Academic Integrity and Professionalism

By CPABC; published in CPABC in Focus
Published: January/February 2017

From the CPA Western School of Business

As students and candidates complete the CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP), the CPA preparatory courses, and the CPA Advanced Certificate in Accounting and Finance (ACAF) through the CPA Western School of Business (CPAWSB or the School), it is vital that they continue to uphold standards of academic integrity and professionalism. In the education context, academic integrity and plagiarism policies protect both the individual learning experience and the profession. Students and candidates should not receive credit for work that they do not do. In addition to risking strict penalties when caught, they risk the possibility of not developing their own competencies fully, which can ultimately harm their reputation and the reputation of the profession.

The School monitors assignments for plagiarism and investigates complaints of professional misconduct. Violations of academic integrity include enabling plagiarism, stealing another person’s work, buying or trading assignments, lying, and cheating. Plagiarism includes submitting another person’s work as your own—for example, using part or all of another person’s assignment; copying text and improperly citing it; and using a solution provided by CPA Canada as part or all of a response.

Professional misconduct includes behaving unethically and failing to treat others (students, candidates, facilitators, and staff) with respect.

To help illustrate these behaviours, here are recent examples of cases investigated by CPAWSB, along with sample decisions. A quiz is provided at the end so you can test your knowledge.

Enabling plagiarism

Student A and Student B are enrolled in the same CPA preparatory course. They regularly meet to discuss course assignments and exchange ideas, even reviewing each other’s assignments to ensure that all points have been covered.

Student B is approached by Student C, who is enrolled in the same course. Student C is struggling with one of the concepts of an assignment and asks Student B to share his work. After obtaining consent from Student A, Student B shares Student A’s completed assignment and Student B’s partially completed assignment with Student C, expecting that Student C will use these assignments for reference purposes only. Instead, Student C copies from both assignments, and all three assignments get flagged. Although Student C admits fault, all three students receive similar penalties.

The decision: Student A and Student B enabled Student C’s plagiarism.

In addition to being unethical, enabling plagiarism—creating conditions that allow someone else to submit the work of a third person—is considered as serious a violation as plagiarism because it fosters dishonest behaviour and hinders an important step of the learning process: applying concepts to assignment cases and projects. Without this step, learning is incomplete. Therefore, the consequences for those who plagiarize and those who enable plagiarism are the same.

Copying solutions

Candidate D submits her weekly CPA PEP assignment and, in return, receives the related assignment solutions from CPA Canada. Candidate D uses excerpts from the CPA Canada solutions when submitting her revisions to the assignment.

The decision: Candidate D is guilty of plagiarism.

Solutions provided by CPA Canada cannot be used in assignments, whether for initial submissions or revisions. CPA Canada provides the solutions to candidates so that they can review them and use them as learning opportunities.

Citing sources improperly

Candidate E uses information from multiple websites in his CPA PEP assignment without citing these websites as sources.

The decision: Candidate E is guilty of plagiarism.

Candidates are expected to cite the sources of information they use in assignments, and this includes identifying which passages have been excerpted from source material. That said, with the exception of the CPA Canada Handbook and the Income Tax Act, candidates should use sources sparingly to ensure that they’re preparing original work.

Using inappropriate language

Student F submits an assignment that contains profanity, unprofessional language, and inappropriate remarks.

The decision: Student F is guilty of professional misconduct.

Students and candidates must adhere to the highest levels of professionalism while enrolled in courses and modules. Students and candidates are expected to use language that is acceptable in professional settings and reflects the situation in the given assignment. For example, a memo to a client is written differently than an email to a friend.

Exhibiting disrespectful or threatening behaviour

Candidate G attends a weekend workshop for a CPA PEP module and displays disrespectful behaviour toward others. The facilitator speaks to Candidate G during the workshop, and Candidate G becomes threatening.

The decision: Candidate G is found guilty of professional misconduct.

Candidates must adhere to the highest levels of professionalism while in the CPA program. Disrespectful and/or threatening behaviour is not tolerated and can lead to expulsion from the program.

Review time: Test your knowledge

For each scenario described below, there is one appropriate answer and two answers that lead to possible violations of academic integrity and plagiarism.

  1. You have an assignment due in six hours. Because of deadlines at work, you’ve had to stay late all week and didn’t have time to start the assignment. Your roommate, who was in the same module last semester, has left his laptop on the kitchen table. Do you:
    1. Look for the files on your roommate’s laptop to help you get started?
    2. Ask your roommate to send you the assignment he submitted?
    3. Finish as much as you can before the deadline?

    Best response: C. Students and candidates must complete their own work. With option A, you are committing theft and possibly plagiarism; with option B, your roommate is also at fault—enabling plagiarism.
     
  2. A friend who previously completed the course you are about to start offers you his assignments to use as learning tools. Do you:
    1. Take them just in case you need them?
    2. Decline?
    3. Forward them to another friend enrolled in the course without looking at them?
       
    Best response: B. With option A, your friend is enabling plagiarism; with option C, you and your friend are enabling plagiarism. Once you share files, you have no control over where they end up.
     
  3. You’ve submitted your weekly assignment and have received the CPA Canada solution. You then need to complete a revision of your assignment. Do you:
    1. Copy parts of the CPA Canada solution and cite CPA Canada?
    2. Submit the entire CPA Canada solution as your revision?
    3. Review the solution and your facilitator’s comments and then submit the revision in your own words?
       
    Best response: C. With options A and B, you are committing plagiarism, as this is not your own work. You cannot submit any part of the CPA Canada solutions in your original or revised assignments, even if cited.

More guidance online

You’ll find more information on academic integrity and misconduct online at cpawsb.ca/students-and-candidates/academic-integrity/.