Sharing isn't always caring: collusion and how to avoid it

Collaborate, don't collude

Studying within a group can be a great way to stay connected and motivated. But, it's important you know the difference between legitimate collaboration and collusion, so you can avoid being accused of academic dishonesty. 

With exam season right around the corner, library and study spaces across campus have come alive with students studying together. 

Study groups are a great way to keep connected, stay motivated and encourage collaboration between peers. But, studying in groups can also sometimes lead to collusion - a serious issue all students need to be aware of. 

If you're not aware of the risks, you may unknowingly become involved in collusion, and could be accused of academic dishonesty

What is collusion?

Collusion is any kind of cooperation that unfairly advantages a student, or group of students, over others. 

There are different types of collusion. For example, if a student gets someone else to complete their assignment, such as another classmate or a private company, this is considered contract cheating

But, not all forms of collusion are as clear-cut. Often, there is a fine line between legitimate cooperation and collusion. 

The differences between legitimate cooperation and collusion

To ensure you avoid academic dishonesty, here are some examples of legitimate cooperation and collusion. 

Legitimate cooperation

  • A group of students from a Finance Unit of Study decide to form a study group. In the group, students ask questions around concepts of the course, as well as to discuss lecture content and weekly readings. 
  • Jack and Tristan are paired together for a group project. They split the group workload 50/50 across both research and writing. 
  • Colette is enrolled in the same unit of study her friend Lucy was enrolled in last semester. Colette asks her what resources she used for an upcoming assignment. Lucy provides links to different journals and books on the Library’s website for Colette to investigate.


  • In a Facebook group the Finance students have created, they share their answers to assessment and quiz questions. 
  • Jack and Tristan are requred to analyse six sources each for an individual literature review. Having worked so well together previously, and being tight for time, Jack and Tristan decide to research three sources each and send their notes to each other to write their individual assignments. 
  • Colette notices that the assignment question was the exact same as last semester’s and asks if she might look at Lucy’s paper to get an idea on how to approach the question. She says she does not intend to copy it and Lucy sends through the paper. Although there is no malicious intent from either person, this is collusion.

What are the consequences of collusion?

The academic consequences for collusion are numerous. You may be asked to resubmit an assignment or re-sit an exam with a mark penalty. Or, you may receive an automatic fail mark, either for the assignment or for the Unit of Study.

If the collusion is considered serious misconduct, you could face suspension from your studies for one or more semesters. International students can also be at risk of losing their student visa.

How to avoid collusion

There are several ways you can mitigate the risk of engaging in collusion.

  • Plan out your semester or study for examinations well in advance so you don’t put yourself in a position where you become dependent on your peers, which puts yourself and others at risk.
  • Form study groups with your peers, but keep to discussions around general themes of the Unit of Study.
  • Do not share assignments in-person, through social media or on ‘swap sites’.
  • Consult your tutors and unit coordinator if you encounter difficulties in your Unit of Study. Encourage your peers to do so as well if they come to you for help.
  • Visit the Learning Centre to develop your academic skills (be it in research, writing or other) rather than rely on your classmates.
  • Special consideration is also available to help you meet deadlines if you experience illness or something goes wrong.
  • Don’t trust any private services, tutoring, or assignment help services that aren’t affiliated with the university.

If you become aware that collusion has occurred, you can report it to your lecturer, tutor or to the University’s Office of Educational Integrity. We treat all reports of academic dishonesty made by students as confidential.

Updated: 15 May 2023.

14 October 2020

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