UCT loses first battle in plagiarism fight

“In the same group of students referred to our office, some had applied for external representation and this was declined. There are no mitigating reasons to deviate in this instance. Our office will remain fair and consistent and will not be intimidated by external representatives or students in any of our matter (sic).”

UCT said another student had worked with Van der Ross on the assignment, when “there was a clear instruction that this was to be an individual submission”. The charges seemed to have “changed from plagiarism to collusion”, and the possible sanctions, on a guilty finding, included expulsion, rustication and community service. 

Acting Judge Hanri Loots overturned UCT’s decision this month and ordered that Van der Ross be allowed to be legally represented. He also ordered the institution to pay the legal costs.

“It is in the interest of justice that the disciplinary hearing proceed as soon as possible,” said Loots.

“In this regard it must be borne in mind that [Van der Ross] is a final-year student who, should he be found not guilty, is overdue in respect of graduating from [UCT].”

UCT spokesman, Elijah Moholola, said the institution was yet to decide whether to appeal the judgment.

“UCT notes and respects the Western Cape High Court judgment. UCT is of the view that the judgment is not precedent-setting and believes that it is appealable on a number of grounds,” said Moholola. “At this stage, UCT has not yet decided on the next course of action regarding this matter.”

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