Student Grievance Resolution - Governing Policy

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Student Grievance Resolution - Governing Policy

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Approval authority
Council
Responsible officer
Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor
Designated officer
Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students)
First approved
6 December 2016
Last amended
31 January 2017
Effective start date
31 January 2017
Review date
6 December 2021
Status
Active
Related documents
Anti-Discrimination and Freedom from Harassment - Governing Policy
Equity and Diversity - Governing Policy
Monitoring Academic Progress and Exclusion - Academic Policy
Review of Assessment and Final Grade - Procedures
Student Conduct - Governing Policy
Student General Misconduct - Procedures
Student Grievance Resolution - Procedures
Student Ombudsman - Managerial Policy
Student Review and Appeals - Procedures
Superseded documents
Student Complaints and Appeals - Governing Policy
Related legislation / standards
Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act 2000
Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015
National Code of Practice for Reg ... Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2007
USC Student Charter

1. Purpose of policy

1.1 This policy provides a framework to investigate and resolve student grievances in a timely, fair and just way and ensures all grievances are resolved without victimisation or intimidation of anyone connected with the grievance. It outlines the expectations and responsibilities of staff and students engaged in the process.

1.2 This policy, which should be read in conjunction with the Student Grievance Resolution – Procedures and the Student Review and Appeals - Procedures, aims to ensure that all parties are appropriately supported during a grievance resolution process.

2. Policy scope and application

2.1 This policy applies to grievances where a complainant and/or respondent is a University of the Sunshine Coast student regardless of the location of their studies either on-campus or off-campus.

2.2 For the purpose of this policy, a person whose enrolment is suspended or cancelled by the University and who requests a review or lodges an appeal against a decision, may access this process.

2.3 Students have the right to submit a grievance concerning any matter or decision affecting them which has been made by the University.

2.4 A USC student who undertakes cross-institutional study at another university is considered a student of the host institution for matters directly relating to their studies at that institution.

2.5 Grievances about University decisions relating to student general misconduct and student research misconduct are not within the scope of this policy. Please refer to the Student Conduct – Governing Policy and the Research Misconduct – Governing Policy.

3. Definitions

Please refer to the University’s Glossary of Terms for policies and procedures. Terms and definitions identified below are specific to these procedures and are critical to its effectiveness:

Grievance is a real or perceived cause for complaint, dissatisfaction, disagreement or dispute, raised by a student for which the student is seeking resolution. Grievances must be related directly to the student’s studies at the University or life as a student.

Anonymous complaint: A grievance may initially be made by a complainant or representative anonymously and, where sufficient information is provided to make an investigation feasible, such grievances will be investigated.

Review means an appraisal of an initial decision affecting the complainant by a more senior officer of the University who is a designated decision maker. A request for a review may be upheld in part or in whole.

Appeal is a written application by a complainant to have a decision affecting the complainant investigated. An appeal may be upheld or dismissed in part or in whole.

Mediation/conciliation are informal discussions and negotiations involving the complainant and respondent/s trying to reach a mutually acceptable resolution of the student’s grievance. Resolution is therefore reached by agreed outcome, and not by an imposed decision.

Procedural Fairness (Natural Justice): Procedural fairness refers to the process by which a decision is reached and not the decision itself. With regard to grievances, procedural fairness requires that a student or staff member, against whom a grievance is raised by a student, be provided with:

  • all relevant details and evidence of the grievance; and
  • an opportunity to present their version of events concerning the grievance.

The procedure also requires a decision maker:

  • to act impartially and without bias;
  • to consider all relevant information;
  • not take into account any irrelevant matters; and
  • to deal with the grievance in a timely manner.

Discrimination related grievances: involve matters relating to unfair treatment based on irrelevant factors such as a person's race, disability, gender etc. Refer to the Anti-Discrimination and Freedom from Harassment - Governing Policy.

Frivolous complaint is a complaint that is deemed to be groundless and trivial. A complaint found to be frivolous will be dismissed by the University.

Vexatious Complaint is a complaint made maliciously with the intent to annoy or embarrass the respondent or made with another ulterior purpose. A complaint found to be vexatious will be dismissed by the University. Making a vexatious complaint may constitute misconduct under the Student Conduct – Governing Policy.

Show Cause Notice: For the purpose of this policy, when a student is issued with a show cause notice arising from an academic progress decision, the show cause notice is deemed to be the notification of a Stage 1 decision. Students are given an opportunity to respond to the show cause notice at Stage 2 of the grievance process within the specific time frame set out in the relevant policy.

4. Principles for resolving student grievances

4.1 The University will:

(a) deal with grievances within the time limits set out in the procedures and in accordance with procedural fairness (natural justice) principles;

(b) ensure that formal student grievances are properly and impartially considered by the relevant decision maker;

(c) respect confidentiality by disclosing only information necessary to consider and respond to a request for resolving a grievance;

(d) explain a decision clearly in writing and ensure that any further steps the student may take in the resolution process are conveyed with the decision;

(e) neither intimidate nor victimise a complainant.

4.2 The Student will:

(a) familiarise themselves with the Student Grievance Resolution – Governing Policy and Student Grievance Resolution – Procedures prior to submitting a request for the resolution of a grievance;

(b) ensure that a formal grievance is submitted in writing within the specified deadlines;

(c) substantiate an argument for dissatisfaction with an earlier decision when seeking a review or appeal of that decision in accordance with the Student Review and Appeals – Procedures; and

(d) if relevant, provide any new or additional information to support a review or appeal.

4.3 When submitting a formal grievance, students are encouraged to seek advice and support from the USC Student Guild. Procedural guidance may also be sought from the Student Ombudsman.

5. Processes for resolving student grievances

5.1 The processes for resolving student grievances are:

  • Informal discussion or negotiation process through mediation/conciliation.
  • Stage 1: A formal written grievance considered;
  • Stage 2. A written review of Stage 1 decision considered;
  • Stage 3: A written appeal of Stage 2 decision considered; and
  • Stage 4: A written appeal of Stage 3 decision considered by an external body.

5.2 In the first instance, the University encourages an informal resolution or conciliation of student grievances, where appropriate, as early as possible and as close as feasible to the source of the student’s dissatisfaction.

5.3 Schedule A of this policy sets out the relevant decision makers for the typical stages of the student grievance resolution processes, providing a detailed and convenient cross-reference to various university policies and procedures.

5.4 The associated Student Grievance Resolution – Procedures and Student Reviews and Appeals – Procedures specify deadlines and the required documentation to be submitted for each stage. The procedures also provide detailed guidance for staff on adherence to good practice principles for handling complaints and grievances, to ensure the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness are observed.

5.5 Unless a student provides on appeal or review, new information which has not previously been considered in the resolution of a grievance or evidence that the publicised process has not been adhered to, the University may consider a matter resolved and the internal grievance process exhausted.

6. Informal discussion or negotiation process through mediation/conciliation

While students are encouraged to attempt an informal discussion or negotiation through mediation/conciliation concerning of their grievance first, this may not apply in a number of situations including:

(a) refund of fees

(b) credit transfer decisions

(c) cancellation of enrolment in a program

(d) academic progress and exclusion

7. Formal resolution process

7.1 Stage 1 – Formal Grievance or Notice of decision:

If a grievance is unable to be resolved informally through discussion and negotiation, the student may lodge a formal written grievance. Stage 1 also includes notification of University decisions which directly affect the student, for example when a student is asked to ‘Show Cause’ why they should not be excluded for unsatisfactory academic progress.

7.2 Stage 2 – Review:

If a formal grievance is not resolved at Stage 1 to the student’s satisfaction, the student may request a review of the decision. Stage 2 also includes responding to University decisions which directly affect the student, such as submitting a Show Cause response, as specifically referred to in University’s policies and procedures. Students should refer to the Student Reviews and Appeals – Procedures.

7.3 Stage 3 – Internal Appeal:

If a complainant is not satisfied with the review decision in Stage 2, the student may be able to lodge an appeal of the decision. Refer to Schedule A for the relevant decision makers.

7.4 Stage 4 – External Appeal:

If a complainant remains dissatisfied with the University’s internal appeal outcome, and the grievance remains unresolved, the student may refer the grievance for external review to the Queensland State Ombudsman or similar external agencies, or in the case of international students to the Australian Department of Education and Training.

7.4.1 The Queensland State Ombudsman only considers requests for external review after the University’s internal processes for resolving a grievance have been exhausted.

7.4.2 The Australian Department of Education and Training only intervenes where the University’s appeals process are not conducted correctly or if the University does not make the appeals process available to the student.

8. Student Academic Appeals Committee

8.1 The Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor will appoint an appropriate Student Academic Appeals Committee, as required.

8.2 The Student Academic Appeals Committee will investigate the appeal and make a determination of findings and recommendations. The Committee will provide their findings and recommendations to the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor for determination of appropriate action.

9. Records Management

Relevant records at all stages of resolving a grievance, including review and appeals, must be captured by staff and should provide reliable and accurate evidence of decisions and actions. All relevant records must be captured in an approved records management system, in line with the University’s Information Management Framework – Governing Policy.

10. Schedule of Relevant Decision Makers

The Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor has authority to amend and maintain Schedule A: Relevant decision makers, to align with relevant policies and procedures.

END of Policy

Appendix 1

Student Grievance Resolution Flow chart (PDF)

(An accessible version of this flow chart can be made available on request from Student Services and Engagement.)

Schedule A: Relevant decision makers for grievances

See also: Schedule A (PDF – Printer-friendly version)

Note: Where the nominated decision maker was involved in the decision at a previous stage, the review or appeal will be delegated to another appropriate senior staff member, for example, where the Course Coordinator is also the Head of School or the Executive Dean.

  • Table 1: Student-initiated grievances (students seeking informal resolution or making a formal grievance Stage 1)
  • Table 2: University Decisions (students may seek a Review at Stage 2)
  • Table 3: University-initiated matters (students may seek a Review at Stage 2)
Table 1: Student-initiated grievances
Nature of Grievance Relevant Policies and Procedures Informal step Stage 1 -
Formal grievance

Decision maker
Stage 2 -
Review

Decision maker
Stage 3 -
Internal Appeal

Decision maker
Marks for an individual assessment task (other than a final mark/ grade)
(including request for special consideration)
Note: This does not apply to the major research project/ thesis within a Bachelor Honours Degree
Review of Assessment and Final Grade - Procedures Discuss with assessor/ refer the matter to the Course Coordinator, and/or to the Head of School. If matter not resolved by informal step, student may wait and seek a review of final grade (see Table 3, below); or make a formal grievance – Stage 1 Course Coordinator Head of School n/a
Lodge an Application for a Review of Final Grade (Form)

(see Table 3, below)
Course content, or an action or decision by a staff member (or other person acting for the University) in relation to the delivery of a course e.g. WIL placement allocation Various, e.g.
Workplace and Industry Placement - Procedures
Talk to the teaching staff / Course Coordinator
e.g. Schools may have a process for seeking re-allocation of WIL placement locations on the grounds of exceptional circumstances
Course Coordinator Head of School Executive Dean
Administrative decision, service or advice,
e.g. enrolment, deferred examination, fees, graduation ceremonies,
credit transfer, etc.
Numerous, e.g. Admissions, Enrolments and Graduation - Academic Policy Credit Transfer – Academic Policy Administration of Central Examinations - Procedures Contact Student Central Manager of relevant Student Services and Engagement Unit Director, Student Services and Engagement Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students)
(only where appeal is available, as specified in
relevant policies and procedures)
Allegation of discrimination, bullying or harassment
- by a staff member


Anti-Discrimination and Freedom from Harassment - Governing Policy Contact Student Wellbeing Head of School
(re: Academic Staff)
Executive Dean (re: Academic Staff) Member of Executive with line management of previous Decision Maker
Cost Centre Manager (re: Professional staff), e.g. Director; Head of School Decision maker consults with Human Resources Member of Executive with line management of previous Decision Maker
Allegation of discrimination, bullying or harassment
- by another student or by a visitor
Anti-Discrimination and Freedom from Harassment - Governing Policy Contact Student Wellbeing Director, Student Services and Engagement Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students) Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor
Bachelor Honours End-on or Embedded (Differentiated Pathway) Degrees Difficulties meeting project milestones/ program expectations; supervisory relationship; etc Bachelor Honours Degree - Procedures – Part A discuss problems with Honours Supervisor in the first instance; seek resolution with Honours Supervisor and/or Honours Coordinator Head of School Executive Dean Student Academic Appeals Committee makes a recommendation to the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor
Bachelor Honours – Embedded (Four Year) Degree Issues with arrangements of their program Bachelor Honours Degree - Procedures – Part B n/a Head of School Executive Dean Student Academic Appeals Committee makes a recommendation to the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor
Higher degree by research (HDR) candidates – Difficulties meeting project or thesis milestones/ candidature expectations; supervisory relationship Higher-degrees-by-research-candidature-procedures discuss problems with HDR Supervisor in the first instance Faculty HDR Coordinator and/or Associate Dean, Research Head of School Executive Dean
Privacy, including recording of personal information Information Management Framework - Governing Policy n/a Right to Information (RTI) Officer/ Privacy Officer
(Director,
Information Services)
Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor n/a
Table 2: University Decisions (students may seek a Review at Stage 2)
Nature of grievance - Student dissatisfied with University Decision re: Relevant Policies and Procedures Stage 2 -
Review

Decision maker
Stage 3 -
Internal Appeal

Decision maker
waiving a pre-requisite or co-requisite conditions Enrolments and Graduation - Procedures Head of School Executive Dean
request for variation of program requirements Enrolments and Graduation - Procedures Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor n/a
application for removal of academic penalty; and/or
removal of financial liability

(in special circumstances)
Enrolments and Graduation - Procedures Director, Student Services and Engagement n/a
Refund of fees Enrolments and Graduation - Procedures Domestic Students
Director, Student Services and Engagement
International Students
Pro Vice-Chancellor (International & Quality)
n/a
Decision not to award a Commonwealth Scholarship Selection of Students for Commonwealth Scholarships - Procedures Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor Vice-Chancellor and President
Decision not to award a Postgraduate Research Scholarship Postgraduate Research Scholarships - Procedures Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Student Academic Appeals Committee makes a recommendation to the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor
Bachelor Honours – Embedded (Four Year) Final honours classification (process only, not a review of grade) Bachelor Honours Degree - Procedures – Part B Executive Dean Student Academic Appeals Committee makes a recommendation to the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor
Unsuccessful admission application Admissions - Procedures Manager, Student Business Services Director, USC International (for international students) Director, Student Services and Engagement
Unsuccessful re-admission following suspension for Student Academic Misconduct Student Academic Integrity - Governing Policy Student Academic Misconduct - Procedures Executive Dean
Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor
Unsuccessful re-admission following expulsion for Student Academic Misconduct Student Academic Integrity - Governing Policy Student Academic Misconduct - Procedures n/a n/a
Unsuccessful re-admission following expulsion for Student General Misconduct Student Conduct and Discipline - Governing Policy n/a n/a
Unsuccessful re-admission following exclusion for unsatisfactory academic progress Monitoring Academic Progress and Exclusion - Procedures Executive Dean
Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor
Table 3: University-initiated matters (students may seek a Review Stage 2)
Nature of
University Decision
Relevant Policies and Procedures Stage 2 -
Review Decision Maker
Stage 3 -
Internal Appeal
Final Grade for a course
(including request for special consideration)
Note: This does not apply to the major research project/ thesis within a Bachelor Honours Degree
Review of Assessment and Final Grade - Procedures Executive Dean (Lodge an Application for a Review of Final Grade Form) Student Academic Appeals Committee makes a recommendation to the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor
Failure to make satisfactory academic progress (i.e. Student issued with a
show cause notice, as to why they should not be excluded)
(Coursework students)
Monitoring Academic Progress and Exclusion - Procedures Executive Dean
(Respond to Show Cause)
Student Academic Appeals Committee makes a recommendation to the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor
Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor - where determination to ask for show cause was made by Executive Dean (Respond to Show Cause) Student Academic Appeals Committee makes a recommendation to the Vice-Chancellor and President
Failure to make satisfactory academic progress (HDR candidate issued with a show cause notice, as to why they should not be excluded) or Termination of Higher degree by research candidature Higher-degrees-by-research-candidature-procedures Research Degrees Committee
(Respond to Show Cause)
Student Academic Appeals Committee makes a recommendation to the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor
Withdrawal of a Commonwealth Scholarship Selection of Students for Commonwealth Scholarships - Procedures Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor Vice-Chancellor and President
Withdrawal of a Postgraduate Research Scholarship Postgraduate Research Scholarships - Procedures Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Student Academic Appeals Committee makes a recommendation to the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor
Student Academic Misconduct Student Academic Integrity - Governing Policy Student Academic Misconduct - Procedures Executive Dean
where determination was made by Head of School or another academic staff member as investigator

Student Academic Appeals Committee makes a recommendation to the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor
(n/a, where determination of misconduct was made by Executive Dean)

END

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