Role of the Student Ombudsman

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Role of the Student Ombudsman

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1. Preamble

1.1 The University of the Sunshine Coast (‘University’) must ensure the academic integrity of its courses, programs and processes is above question, and that members of the University community receive fair and equitable treatment within its system.

1.2 In situations where it can be shown there has been a failure of a process in respect of an academic course or program; the University considers it to be its responsibility to investigate any disadvantage to students, and to seek to redress that disadvantage.

1.3 The University endorses the principles of natural justice in relation to investigations of any complaints and/or grievances made by any party. Natural justice requires that in any matter of adjudication, those parties directly involved have a right to a hearing, and that the adjudicator shall not be biased.

2. Functions of the Student Ombudsman

2.1 The Role of the Student Ombudsman is established to:

2.1.1 Provide impartial and confidential support to students who are aggrieved, including interpretation of University policies and procedures.
2.1.2 Where appropriate, liaise with faculties and other University stakeholders to facilitate complaint resolution.
2.1.3 Collect, analyse, evaluate and apply data, and relevant research to assist in developing complaint resolution options and good practice.
2.1.4 Provide campus communication and education about the Student Ombudsman role, and complaint resolution and negotiation skills.
2.1.5 Contribute to the development and reviews of the University’s academic and conduct policies and procedures as required.
2.1.6 Provide an annual report of student grievances and concerns, presenting de-identified aggregate data, and identifying trends or areas for improvement.

2.2 The Student Ombudsman reports to the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students) and –

2.2.1 shall operate in accordance with the Student Ombudsman – Managerial Policy and this document;
2.2.2 may be appointed as the Investigation Officer pursuant to the Student Complaints and Appeals – Governing Policy and associated Procedures; and
2.2.3 is an impartial and adjunct resource to the University’s grievance and appeal policy and procedures for conflict resolution.

2.3 The Student Ombudsman shall not –

2.3.1 provide advice to students as to the merits of their case;
2.3.2 have any role in matters concerning harassment, bullying or discrimination;
2.3.3 have any role in matters which come before the Student Discipline Committee;
2.3.4 have any role in matters which come before the Staff Discipline Committee;
2.3.5 have any role in academic matters concerning students enrolled in research higher degrees;
2.3.6 have the power to change or overrule any academic decisions in relation to the grading of assessment items;
2.3.7 have any role in matters in which the complainant is not a student or a former student of the University;
2.3.8 have power to investigate any matter in which he/she has or is perceived to have a conflict of interest. In these circumstances an Assistant Student Ombudsman may be appointed to investigate the matter; and
2.3.9 have the power to investigate any decision of the Student Appeals Committee or the Exclusions Committee.

2.4 Notwithstanding 2.3.6, the Vice-Chancellor, Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor or Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students) may appoint the Student Ombudsman to investigate to determine whether proper processes were followed in the grading and review of grading, of assessment items; and to make recommendations regarding sending assessment items for external regrading. This is subject to the student having followed the procedures set out in the Assessment: Courses and Coursework Programs – Procedures.

2.5 University staff and students are required to provide information, advice and/or assistance as requested by the Student Ombudsman in the course of conducting his/her enquiries.

2.6 The Student Ombudsman, where appropriate, shall make recommendations to the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students).

3. Appointment

3.1 The Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor shall appoint a person to conduct the duties of the Student Ombudsman and where it is necessary the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor may appoint one or more persons as part-time Assistant Student Ombudsmen with the same authority and responsibilities as the Student Ombudsman.

4. Authority to Inquire

4.1 Student Ombudsman will conduct inquiries in accordance with University policies and procedures but may follow such processes as he/she deems appropriate for the particular inquiry.

4.2 The Student Ombudsman shall be given access to all University records and documents relating to the inquiry. This shall not include access to confidential data held in staff personnel files or in confidential student files which are not relevant to the complaint.

4.3 A limitation on issues considered by the Student Ombudsman as part of any inquiry or investigation shall be that the conduct or incident occurred within two (2) years of the complaint being raised, with the further limitation that, in relation to a complaint which requires the need to view examination papers or written assignments, these complaints shall only be investigated after the finalisation of the formal Review of Grade processes set out in the Assessment: Courses and Coursework Programs - Procedures.

4.4 The Student Ombudsman may for any reason request the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor to appoint an Assistant Student Ombudsman and thereafter the Student Ombudsman may refer any matter to the Assistant Student Ombudsman. In the case of a conflict of interest the Student Ombudsman must request the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor to appoint an Assistant Student Ombudsman and thereafter the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor may refer the matter to the Assistant Student Ombudsman.

5. Reports of Investigations

5.1 All investigation reports shall be confidential.

5.2 As soon as practical after the completion of an investigation the Student Ombudsman shall provide the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students) with a copy of the investigation report. The investigation report shall include recommendation/s on any measures to be taken to resolve the matter and any other information, finding or recommendations required by any University policy or procedure or that the Student Ombudsman considers appropriate.

5.3 Where the Student Ombudsman believes that during an investigation there arise matters of principle, policy or administration involving a sector or number of sectors of University, the Student Ombudsman may submit to the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students) a separate written report identifying those issues and making recommendations.

5.4 Where it becomes apparent to the Student Ombudsman during an inquiry there is a situation, system or process which is likely to cause similar problems in the future, the Student Ombudsman shall make recommendations as appropriate to the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students).

5.5 The Student Ombudsman may, at any time of the year, bring to the attention of the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students), Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor and/or Vice-Chancellor/President, any matter: 5.5.1 arising from an inquiry; or 5.5.2 any matter relating to University processes, procedures, systems, rules or policies.

5.6 The Student Ombudsman will provide an Annual Report for the preceding year to the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students), Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor/President by 31st March of the following year, or as soon as practicable thereafter. Each report shall summarise issues raised and recommendations for changes to policies and procedures in the light of supported cases. The Annual Report of the Student Ombudsman will be posted on the Student Ombudsman website within 28 days of being presented, and may be forwarded before that date both to other executive staff of the University, and to Deans and/or Ombudsman at other universities or Commonwealth and/or State Ombudsman on request.

6. Review of Role of Student Ombudsman

This document and the related Managerial Policy are implemented for a period of 12 months. At the end of this period the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor will initiate a review of the Policy and this document.

7. Changes to Role

Any changes to the Role of the Student Ombudsman must be referred to the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor for approval prior to implementation.

8. Approval History

Approved by: Vice-Chancellor and President Date:  1 July 2014

END

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