The modern workplace can be an ethical minefield, and student life is no different. Massive developments in the use of social media mean peer pressure is no longer something felt simply while you are in the company of people, but is an issue that can impact your entire life. This pressure can leave you as budding accountants open to risks that could impact your studies and career.
Written by the CIMA professional standards team and based on realistic situations, the following is a practical guide to using the CIMA Code of Ethics to guide good decision-making.
You are a CIMA-registered student, studying a university degree alongside your CIMA qualification. You have been studying with a group of friends, one of whom is your closest friend since childhood.
Your friend is finding university very difficult. You know that he is not from a well-off family and his parents have invested large amounts of their savings in supporting him through his education. They have told him they won’t be able to support him if he needs to re-sit any of his courses.
You have both begun to work separately on some coursework that will account for a large percentage of this year’s grade. As the due date draws closer, your friend adds you to a social media group where people are discussing general hints and tips.
The submission week approaches, and the group dynamic changes. People have started to share information about paying someone to do the coursework. Because you are a star pupil, a couple of people offer to pay you to either do their coursework for them or provide them a copy of yours. Your friend also asks you if you could help him with his coursework.
What do you do?
Ethical issues and guidance
In any scenario it can be difficult to fight peer pressure, and you can be tempted to do everything you can to fit in with a group. In this scenario you are facing pressure from others to both join in with the chat and to share your own work. You have an emotional tie with your close friend. In addition, you face pressure from a wider group of people on your course, many of whom you consider friends.
You are right to be worried about the situation, as there could be major consequences if you decide to share your coursework or complete another person’s work for them. This would not just be in terms of potential consequences from the university. Integrity and professional behaviour are at the core of CIMA’s Code of Ethics, and any behaviour which fails to adhere to those principles will lead to severe sanctions. It does not matter whether the behaviour relates to a CIMA exam or another part of the student’s studies — the Code of Ethics will still apply.
Sharing your work or copying the work of others could lead not only to sanctions from the university, but also to a professional conduct investigation by CIMA, which could ultimately result in your registration with CIMA being cancelled, destroying your prospects of becoming a chartered management accountant.
If you feel comfortable doing so, you should remind the group of the consequences of sharing or requesting information. On a personal level, you should speak to your friend, reminding him that although you suspect he wasn’t specifically asking for a copy of your coursework, you can’t discuss any specifics, as you could both end up in serious trouble. You could, however, offer to set up some joint study sessions to help keep you both motivated and share any useful resources you come across.
If other CIMA students are in the group whom you suspect will copy work or pay for work from others, you have information that could be significant. Under Byelaw 11 of the Royal Charter, Byelaws and Regulations, you must report to CIMA anything which causes you reasonably to believe that another member or registered student may be guilty of misconduct. Information about making a report can be found online. You should then take any steps asked of you to assist CIMA’s investigation.
Cheating can take many different forms. Here are some examples of activities you must make sure you do not engage in:
- Allowing someone to copy your work whether or not you receive payment for it.
- Copying someone else’s work, whether published or otherwise, and passing it off as your own.
- Paraphrasing or reordering someone else’s work, whether published or otherwise, and passing it off as your own.
- Never share your coursework with anybody.
- Ensure when printing or saving your work that others cannot gain access to it.
- Ensure you correctly reference all extracts and ideas, and when copying directly from a source, you use quotation marks and cite the original source.
More information about CIMA’s exam policies is available online.
— Bryony Clear Hill is the associate manager–Ethics Awareness for CIMA and is based in the UK. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Drew Adamek, an FM magazine senior editor, at Andrew.Adamek@aicpa-cima.com.