Student Grievance Resolution - Governing Policy - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Student Grievance Resolution - Governing Policy

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Approval authority
Council
Responsible Executive member
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)
Designated officer
Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students)
First approved
30 October 2007
Last amended
8 July 2021
Review date
27 April 2026
Status
Active
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Linked documents
Student Grievances - Procedures
Student Review and Appeals - Procedures
Superseded documents
Student Complaints and Appeals - Governing Policy
Related legislation / standards
Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act 2000 (Cth)
Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2021 (Cth)
National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018
USC Student Charter
Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld)
AS/NZS 10002:2014 Australian/New Zealand Standard, Guidelines for complaint management in organisati
TEQSA Guidance Note: Grievance and Complaint Handling

1. Purpose of policy

The purpose of this policy is to:

(a) to provide a framework for students to submit a grievance;

(b) provide 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; and

(c) describe the expectations and responsibilities of staff and students engaged in the student grievance resolution processes.

2. Policy scope and application

2.1 This policy applies to all students and recently enrolled students of the University regardless of the location of their studies either on-campus or off-campus.

2.2 This policy applies to all grievances raised by students.

2.3 For the purpose of this policy, a person whose enrolment is suspended or cancelled by the University may access this process to raise a grievance about the decision to suspend or cancel their enrolment.

2.4 For the purpose of this policy, a former student wanting to raise a grievance Section 5.5 may access this process.

2.5 A University of the Sunshine Coast 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.

2.6 The University will respond to any grievance submitted by an international student enrolled at the University of the Sunshine Coast related to the University, the University’s education agents or any related party with whom the University has an arrangement to deliver the international student’s course or related services.

3. Definitions

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

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.

Appeal: 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 or a new determination made.

Complainant: The student raising the grievance.

Discrimination related grievances: Matters relating to unfair treatment based on attributes such as a person's race, disability, gender or sexuality. Refer to the Sexual Assault Sexual Harassment and Respectful Relationships (Students) - Governing Policy.

External review: An application to an external agency by a complainant dissatisfied with the grievance process seeking an appraisal of the fairness and appropriateness of the grievance process undertaken by the University.

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

Grievance: A real or perceived cause for complaint, dissatisfaction, disagreement or dispute, concerning a student for which resolution is being sought. Grievances must be related directly to the student’s studies at the University or life as a student.

Human rights: as defined in the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld). Rights relevant to a student’s relationship to the University may include (but are not limited to) the rights of freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief; freedom of expression; peaceful assembly and freedom of association; cultural rights including those of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples; the right to a fair hearing; and the right to protection of privacy and reputation.

Mediation/conciliation: 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:

“‘Procedural fairness is about providing a person who might be adversely affected by a decision a ‘fair hearing’ before the decision is made.”(1) It refers to the process by which a decision is reached and not the decision itself. With regard to misconduct, procedural fairness requires that a student against whom an allegation of misconduct is made by the University be provided with:

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

The procedure also requires an investigator and/or decision maker to:

  • act impartially, without bias and without preconceived notions of culpability;
  • commence and complete the investigation without undue delay;
  • make inquiries and make findings of fact about the matter/s raised based on sound reasoning and relevant evidence;
  • consider all relevant information and evidence;
  • not take into account any irrelevant matters;
  • inform the student(s) concerned of the allegation and the range of possible consequences if the investigation results in the allegation being substantiated;
  • provide the student(s) concerned with the opportunity to respond to and put forward evidence or arguments in their favour;
  • provide an opportunity for the student(s) concerned to make a case concerning why a particular consequence should not follow in the event that the allegation is substantiated; and
  • deal with the allegation in a timely manner.

Review: A written application by a complainant requesting an appraisal of an initial decision affecting the complainant. The review is conducted by an independent or 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 or a new determination made.

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

4. Policy Statement

4.1 The University will maintain and comply with processes which ensure it fulfils the responsibilities and obligations under procedural fairness and provide processes to investigate grievances.

4.2 The University is committed to making decisions consistent with the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld).

5. Principles

5.1 Depending on the type of grievance (refer to Schedule A), the grievance will be resolved using one of the following procedures:

(a) Student Grievances - Procedures; or

(b) Student Review and Appeals - Procedures.

5.2 If a student raises a grievance that relates to a review or appeal that also involves a separate grievance that falls under the scope of the Student Grievances – Procedures, the review or appeal decision maker may not be in a position to respond to all aspects of the grievance. In such instances, the grievances may be separated so that the review or appeal is managed under the Student Review and Appeals – Procedures and the separate grievance is managed under the Student Grievances – Procedures.

5.3 The University will:

(a) manage student grievances in accordance with procedural fairness principles;

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

(c) administer student grievances within the time limits as determined in the Student Grievances – Procedures or the Student Review and Appeals – Procedures, dependent on the type of grievance;

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

(e) 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; and

(f) neither intimidate nor victimise a complainant, respondent or any other person involved with the grievance.

5.4 Students are expected to:

(a) familiarise themselves with the Student Grievance Resolution – Governing Policy and, depending on the type of grievance (see Schedule A), the relevant 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) provide the required documentation for the type of grievance in accordance with the relevant procedures;

(d) explain their grievance clearly with reasons;

(e) provide evidence in support of their grievance; and

(f) act in good faith and not submit grievances for frivolous or vexatious reasons.

5.5 Student Grievances

5.5.1 Grievances considered in accordance with the Student Grievances - Procedures relate to:

(a) an administrative decision;

(b) a problem or concern raised by a student regarding their treatment as a student;

(c) the quality or delivery of a service or advice provided by the University;

(d) the conduct of staff; or

(e) the conduct of other students.

5.5.2 Categories of grievances considered under the Student Grievances - Procedures are set out in Table 1 of Schedule A.

5.5.3 The process for raising these grievances is governed by the Student Grievances – Procedures. The process has two or three required steps depending on the category of grievance (as specified in Table 1 of Schedule A):

Step 1: Resolve the non-academic grievance informally;

Step 2: Make a formal grievance; and

Step 3: Refer the grievance to the final decision maker.

5.5.4 The student, in raising these grievances, is typically seeking:

(a) an apology;

(b) correction of an error in relation to the student or the student’s record;

(c) a decision by the University; and/or

(d) improvement of existing services and processes.

5.5.5 Decision makers for each step of grievances managed through the Student Grievances – Procedures are set out in Table 1 of Schedule A.

5.6 Review and Appeals

5.6.1 The Review and Appeals – Procedures manage student grievances related to University decisions which may be reviewed and/or appealed and include substantiated findings of student general misconduct and student academic misconduct.

5.6.2 University decisions which may be reviewed and/or appealed are set out in Table 2 of Schedule A.

5.6.3 The process for making an academic grievance is governed by the Student Review and Appeals – Procedures. The process has two or three required steps depending on the particular decision (as specified in Table 2 of Schedule A):

Step 1: Understanding the decision;

Step 2: Reviewing the decision; and

Step 3: Appealing the decision.

5.6.4 The student, in raising a review or appeal grievance, is usually seeking:

(a) the original decision to be set aside; and/or

(b) the original decision to be amended.

5.6.5 The University will not set aside a decision simply because the student disagrees with it.

5.6.6 Decision makers for each step of review or appeal grievances managed by the Student Review and Appeals - Procedures are set out in Table 2 of Schedule A.

5.6.7 If a student is raising a review or appeal grievance related to suspension, expulsion or exclusion, they will usually be entitled to continue being enrolled in their program of study while the grievance is being resolved by the University.

6. Authorities/Responsibilities

The following authorities/responsibilities are delegated under this policy:

Activity

University Officer/Committee

Amend and maintain Schedule A: Relevant decision makers for grievances.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

Footnotes

(1) Good Decisions resource Queensland Ombudsman (https://www.ombudsman.qld.gov.au/improve-public-administration/public-administration-resources/good-decisions)

END of Policy

Schedule A: Relevant decision makers for resolution of grievances

Notes:

  • 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.
  • The Office of the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students) or Student Services and Engagement receive grievances submitted through the online portal and will refer the grievance to the relevant decision maker. If the submission does not have sufficient information as per the relevant procedures, the student may be requested to provide the information before the grievance is accepted for consideration.

Schedule A includes two tables:

Table 1: Grievances managed through the Student Grievances - Procedures

Category of Non-academic Grievance

Relevant Policies and Procedures

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Conduct of Staff

Allegation of discrimination, bullying, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual assault, or breach of other policy/procedures i.e. privacy

Note: once referred as alleged staff misconduct, the matter will be managed under the Staff Code of Conduct - Governing Policy. The timeframes and process will be as stated in the Staff Code of Conduct - Governing Policy.

Sexual Assault Sexual Harassment and Respectful Relationships (Students) - Governing Policy

Sexual Assault Sexual Harassment and Respectful Relationships (Students)- Procedures

Staff Code of Conduct – Governing Policy

Information Management Framework - Governing Policy

Guidelines for the Resolution of Complaints - Staff

Consult with Student Wellbeing/SafeUSC

Formal reports can be made to Student Wellbeing/SafeUSC. The report will be referred to the Director, Human Resources

N/A

Other grievances related to conduct of staff

Staff Code of Conduct – Governing Policy

Approach the person concerned directly or consult with Student Wellbeing/SafeUSC

Formal reports can be made with Student Wellbeing/SafeUSC. The report will be referred to the Director, Human Resources

N/A

Conduct of Students

Allegation of discrimination, bullying, harassment, sexual harassment or sexual assault

Note: once referred as alleged student misconduct, the matter will be managed under the Student Misconduct – Procedures. The timeframes and process will be as stated in the Student Misconduct – Procedures.

Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment and Respectful Relationships (Students) - Governing Policy

Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment and Respectful Relationships (Students) - Procedures

Student Conduct - Governing Policy

Student Misconduct - Procedures

Consult with Student Wellbeing/SafeUSC

Formal reports can be made with Student Wellbeing/SafeUSC who will refer the report to the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students)

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

Other grievances related to conduct of students

Student Conduct - Governing Policy

Student Misconduct - Procedures

Approach the person concerned (respondent) directly or consult with Student Wellbeing/SafeUSC

Formal reports can be made with Student Wellbeing/SafeUSC who will refer the report to the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students)

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

Student Society/Organisation

Student Conduct - Governing Policy

Approach the person concerned directly (respondent) or consult with Student Wellbeing/SafeUSC

Formal reports can be made with Student Wellbeing/SafeUSC who will refer the report to the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students)

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

Services

Campus services including parking, sporting, security, food and retail facilities.

Student Charter

Approach a front-line representative of the service area directly or consult with Student Wellbeing/SafeUSC

Director, Facilities Management

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students)

Transport Services intercampus bus services

Student Charter

Approach a front-line representative of the service area directly or consult with Student Wellbeing/SafeUSC

Director, Facilities Management

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students)

Information services including library and learning resources, academic / learning / study support and IT services

Student Charter

Approach a front-line representative of the service area directly or consult with Student Wellbeing/SafeUSC

Director, Information Services

Director, Information Technology

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students)

Program, course and teaching quality: including professional accreditation, placements, assessments

Student Charter

Approach the person concerned directly

Head of School

Dean, Graduate Research

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation)

Student Services including:

  • Examinations, timetabling, graduations and Student Central
  • Counselling, student equity and disability and welfare
  • Careers and employment, peer mentoring, tutoring support, scholarships

Numerous, e.g.

Student Charter

Enrolments and Graduation - Procedures

Administration of Central Examinations - Procedures

Student Central

Manager of relevant work area in Student Services and Engagement

Academic Registrar and Director, Student Services

Higher Degrees by Research

Bachelor Honours End-on or Embedded (Differentiated Pathway) Degrees

Difficulties meeting project milestones/ program expectations; supervisory relationship; etc

Bachelor Honours Degree - Procedures – Part A

Honours Coordinator / Program Coordinator

Head of School

(or Director, Thompson Institute)

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

Bachelor Honours – Embedded (Four Year) Degree

Issues with program arrangements

Bachelor Honours Degree - Procedures – Part B

Honours Coordinator / Program Coordinator

Head of School

(or Director, Thompson Institute)

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

Higher degree by research (HDR) candidates

Difficulties meeting project or thesis milestones/ candidature expectations; supervisory relationship

Higher Degrees by Research Candidature - Procedures

Head of School

(or Director, Thompson Institute)

Dean, Graduate Research

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

Administrative

Application for removal of financial liability (in special circumstances)

Student Fees, Charges and Refunds - Procedures

Student Central

Academic Registrar and Director, Student Services

N/A

Refund of fees

Enrolments and Graduation - Procedures

Student Central

Academic Registrar and Director, Student Services

N/A

Administrative decision, service or advice e.g. deferred examination, enrolment

Numerous, e.g.

Enrolments and Graduation - Procedures

Administration of Central Examinations - Procedures

Student Central

Academic Registrar and Director, Student Services

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students)

Decision by a staff member (or other person acting for the University) in relation to the delivery of a course

Various, e.g.

Course Coordinator

Head of School (or Director, Thompson Institute)

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

Table 2: Grievances managed through the Student Review and Appeals - Procedures

Category of decision

Relevant Policies and Procedures

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Admission

Unsuccessful in gaining admission

Admissions - Procedures

Student Central

Associate Director, Student Business Services, Student Services and Engagement

or, for international students, the Head, International Office

N/A

Academic Progress

Request for variation of program requirements

Enrolments and Graduation - Procedures

Program Coordinator

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

N/A

Application for removal of academic penalty (in special circumstances)

Enrolments and Graduation - Procedures

N/A

Academic Registrar and Director, Student Services

Student Academic Appeals Committee

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

Course Coordinator

Head of School or Deputy Head, Learning and Teaching (or Director, Thompson Institute)

(Lodge an Application for a Review of Final Grade Form)

Student Academic Appeals Committee

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 - Procedures

N/A

Head of School

(or Director, Thompson Institute)

or nominee (refer to section 5.5 of the Monitoring Academic Progress and Exclusion - Procedures)
(Respond to Show Cause)

Student Academic Appeals Committee

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

Supervisor

Head of School (or Director, Thompson Institute) considers the Show Cause and determines whether to:

(a) Continue candidature, outlining any specific conditions; or

(b) Recommend termination of candidature to the Dean, Graduate Research.

Dean, Graduate Research will determine whether to:

(a) permit the student to continue under specified conditions; or

(b) terminate the candidature.

Student Academic Appeals Committee

Assessment

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

Note: Alternatively, students can lodge an Application for a Review of Final Grade (Form)

Review of Assessment and Final Grade - Procedures

Assessor within 5 business days of notification of result

Course Coordinator / Program Coordinator

N/A

Enrolment

Waiving a pre-requisite or co-requisite condition/s

Enrolments and Graduation - Procedures

Student Central

Head of School (or Director, Thompson Institute)

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

Graduation

Bachelor Honours – Embedded (Four Year)

Final honours classification

(process only, not a review of grade)

Bachelor Honours Degree - Procedures – Part B

Student Central

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

Student Academic Appeals Committee

Credit for Prior Learning

Decision not to grant credit transfer

Credit Transfer - Procedures

Program Coordinator.

(Academic Registrar and Director, Student Services or nominee may apply decisions based on articulation agreements and precedents register)

Head of School

(or Director, Thompson Institute)

Student Academic Appeals Committee

Scholarships

Decision not to award a Commonwealth Scholarship

Selection of Students for Commonwealth ISSP Scholarships - Procedures

Student Central

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

Vice-Chancellor and President

Decision not to award a Postgraduate Research Scholarship

Higher Degrees by Research Scholarships - Procedures

Student Central

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation)

Student Academic Appeals Committee

Withdrawal of a Commonwealth Scholarship

Selection of Students for Commonwealth ISSP Scholarships - Procedures

Student Central

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

Vice-Chancellor and President

Withdrawal of a HDR Scholarship

Higher Degrees by Research Scholarships - Procedures

Student Central

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation)

Student Academic Appeals Committee

Misconduct

Substantiated finding and/or penalty of Student General Misconduct

Student Misconduct - Procedures

Original decision maker

N/A

Vice-Chancellor and President on recommendation from the Student General Misconduct Appeals Committee

Substantiated finding and/or penalty of Student Academic Misconduct

Student Conduct - Governing Policy

Student Misconduct - Procedures

Original decision maker

Director, C-SALT as delegate of Head of School where the original determination was made by Academic Lead, Integrity and Compliance Unit, C-SALT

N/a, where determination of misconduct was made by Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

Student Academic Appeals Committee

Breach of Responsible Research Conduct

Responsible Research Conduct – Governing Policy

Managing and Investigating Breaches of Responsible Research Conduct - Procedures

Student Conduct - Governing Policy

Student Misconduct - Procedures

Original decision maker

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation)

N/A, where the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) was involved in determination of breach outcome

Student Academic Appeals Committee

END