Student Review and Appeals - Procedures - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Student Review and Appeals - Procedures

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Approval authority
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)
Responsible Executive member
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)
Designated officer
Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students)
First approved
30 October 2007
Last amended
23 April 2021
Review date
27 April 2026
Status
Active
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Linked documents
Student Grievance Resolution - Governing Policy
Related legislation / standards
Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act 2000 (Cth)
Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) Act 2011 (Cth)
Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015 (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 procedures

1.1 These procedures provide a framework to investigate and resolve student review and appeals, as set out in Table 2 of Schedule A of the Student Grievance Resolution – Governing Policy, matters in a timely, fair and just way.

1.2 These procedures adhere to good practice principles for managing student review and appeals.

2. Scope and application

2.1 This procedure applies to all current students of the University of the Sunshine Coast.

2.2 For the purpose of these procedures, 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.

2.3 These procedures should be read in conjunction with the Student Grievance Resolution – Governing Policy.

3. Definitions

Please refer to the University’s Glossary of Terms for policies and procedures.

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.

Decision makers: University staff member (academic or professional staff) identified in Schedule A who investigate and deal with a student’s grievance.

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

External review: An application by a complainant dissatisfied with the grievance process to an external agency 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 has the meaning set out 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 of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; 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 to 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 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
  • to deal with the allegation in a timely manner.

Respondent: The person or unit the complainant has a grievance with.

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. Student support

4.1 It is recognised that students involved in these procedures may require personal support. Student Wellbeing offers advice support tailored to a student’s needs. The support provided may include special arrangements for study. Access to this support is available to students whether or not a review or appeal is lodged.

4.2 Students are encouraged to consult the USC Student Guild for advice and support with any review or appeal submission. Contact with the USC Student Guild must be scheduled with adequate notice ahead of the specified deadlines for submission of a review or appeal.

4.3 Students may have a support person at any meetings, hearings or interviews. This person must be a representative of the USC Student Guild or another person who is not legally trained. The student may confer with the support person, but the support person may not advocate on the student’s behalf. Students must give adequate notice to the person arranging the meeting the name of any support person attending.

4.4 In certain circumstances the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students) may provide approval to allow the support person to advocate on the student’s behalf. The Student should email the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students), (PVCStudents@usc.edu.au) five (5) business days before the meeting, requesting approval for their support person to advocate on their behalf. The student should provide evidence and grounds for their request. The outcome will be advised to the student within three (3) business days. If the interview or hearing is being held by a committee or another decision maker, the Office of the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students) will also advise the Secretary to the Committee, or the decision maker, if the request is approved.

4.5 A complainant may contact the Student Ombudsman for guidance in understanding and interpreting these procedures.

5. Managing student review and appeals

5.1 Student review and appeals relate to University decisions which may be reviewed and/or appealed for which the student is seeking resolution. This includes findings of student general misconduct and student academic misconduct. These procedures outline how review and appeals are to be managed in a reasonable timeframe and in a supportive environment, without victimisation or intimidation of anyone connected with the original decision or subsequent decisions.

5.2 Before submitting a review or appeal, students are encouraged to review the Student Grievance Resolution – Governing Policy and these procedures to better understand the process.

5.3 Review and appeals must be lodged within the timeframes specified in these procedures.

5.4 Student review and appeals cannot be raised in the following situations:

(a) public interest disclosures;

(b) decisions of USC Council and USC Council Committees;

(c) the content of approved University policy and procedures; and

(d) matters where the complainant or the respondent have referred the matter to the Queensland Ombudsman.

5.5 Where a grievance is found to be frivolous or vexatious it may be considered as student misconduct under the Student Conduct – Governing Policy and Student Misconduct – Procedures.

5.6 Where a member of the University community initiates or incites adverse action against another person because of their involvement in the review or appeal process, the University will take appropriate action under Student Conduct – Governing Policy and Staff Code of Conduct – Governing Policy.

5.7 A student may withdraw their review or appeal at any time by notifying the University in writing (email: grievances@usc.edu.au) of the withdrawal.

5.8 There is no cost to students who lodges a review or appeal or accesses the support services available at the University.

5.9 Decision makers will consider a student’s review or appeal using the principles of procedural fairness. They will undertake the process in a manner that is reasonable, fair and impartial including evaluating all relevant facts, disclosing any conflicts of interest and maintaining privacy and confidentiality of the matter (see Section 12).

5.10 Decision makers can investigate and/or request more information related to a review or appeal from the complainant or other members of the University to assess the submission.

5.11 Students seeking reviews or appeals should read these procedures with the relevant procedures found in Table 2 of Schedule A of the Student Grievance Resolution – Governing Policy for specific detail those review and appeals.

5.12 The process has two or three required steps depending on the category of grievance (as specified in Table 2 of Schedule A of the Student Grievance Resolution – Governing Policy):

(a) Step 1: Understand the decision;

(b) Step 2: Review the decision; and

(c) Step 3: Appeal the decision.

Figure 1: Review and appeals flowchart

Note: Not all steps are available depending on the category of grievance (as specified in Table 2 of Schedule A of the Student Grievance Resolution – Governing Policy).

6. Step 1: Understand the decision

6.1 The student informally contacts the decision maker in person or in writing to obtain an explanation of the decision, any additional information about the decision, check any details and correct any misunderstandings.

6.2 The informal contact with the decision maker to be made within ten (10) business days of the original decision, unless otherwise specified.

6.3 Outcomes of Step 1 may include:

(a) the decision maker sets aside the decision;

(b) the decision maker affirms the decision;

(c) the student, with a better understanding of the grounds upon which the decision was made, does not seek a review of the decision; or

(d) the student submits a formal application to review the decision (Step 2).

6.4 The complainant will be advised of the outcome within five (5) business days from receipt of the submission.

7. Step 2: Review

7.1 Where the matter is unable to be resolved during Step 1 or Step 1 is not available, the complainant may commence Step 2 of the process.

7.2 A request for review must be submitted within twenty (20) business days of the original decision.

7.3 Students can submit their request to review the decision and all relevant supporting documentation online to the decision maker as per the instructions set out on the University’s website.

7.4 The request must contain the grounds for the review and supporting evidence. Grounds for review include:

(a) relevant factors that the original decision did not take into account;

(b) new relevant information; and

(c) procedural errors.

It will not be sufficient for students to assert circumstances, performance or changes to circumstance without some evidence to substantiate or support their claims. If the complainant seems to have no reasonable ground, or lacks appropriate evidence to support the review, the University shall advise the student within five (5) business days that their application cannot be progressed unless further information is provided.

7.5 The review request should contain details on:

(a) the nature of the student’s review request;

(b) the timelines for events pertinent to the review;

(c) what action has been taken to resolve the matter to date;

(d) the evidence available to support the review;

(e) the outcome the student is seeking (see Section 5.6.4 Student Grievance Resolution – Governing Policy); and

(f) additional support material to explain special circumstances not raised previously.

7.6 The University will acknowledge receipt of the review request within five (5) business days. The relevant decision maker is to commence consideration of the appeal within ten (10) business days of receipt. The student will be kept informed of the progress of the review submission during the investigation process at regular intervals.

7.7 The outcomes of Step 2 may include the decision maker undertaking one or more of the following actions:

(a) deems the application to be invalid;

(b) sets aside the decision;

(c) affirms the decision; or

(d) amends the original decision.

7.8 Once a decision is reached, the University will advise the complainant the outcome within five (5) business days. The decision letter will outline:

(a) the process of investigation followed by the decision maker;

(b) the reasons for the decision;

(c) any implications for international students (e.g. VISA considerations)

(d) advice on options to seek a Step 3, if available; and

(e) support services available for the student.

7.9 The student, following notification of Step 2 decision may:

(a) accept the review decision;

(b) submit a formal application to appeal the decision (for decisions where an internal appeal is available); or

(c) if no appeal process within the University is available, lodge a complaint with an agency external to the University (where relevant).

8. Step 3: Appeal the decision

8.1 If a student is not satisfied with a review decision (Step 2 decision), or the way in which the review was handled, the student may lodge an appeal, subject to any limitations in policies and procedures.

8.2 The appeal must contain the grounds for the appeal and supporting evidence. Grounds for appeal include:

(a) relevant factors that was not take into account;

(b) new relevant information; and

(c) procedural errors.

It will not be sufficient for students to assert circumstances, performance or changes to circumstance without some evidence to substantiate or support their claims. If the complainant seems to have no reasonable ground, or lacks appropriate evidence to support the review, the University shall advise the student within five (5) business days that their application cannot be progressed unless further information is provided.

8.3 The appeal should contain details on:

(a) the nature of the student’s appeal;

(b) the timelines for events pertinent to the appeal;

(c) what action has been taken to resolve the matter to date;

(d) the evidence available to support the appeal;

(e) the outcome the student is seeking (see Section 5.6.4 Student Grievance Resolution – Governing Policy); and

(f) additional support material to explain special circumstances not raised previously.

8.4 An appeal must be submitted within ten (10) business days of the review decision. If there is no avenue to review a decision (Step 2), the student must submit their appeal within twenty (20) business days from the original decision. Refer to Table 2 of Schedule A of the Student Grievance Resolution – Governing Policy.

8.5 Students should submit their appeal and all relevant supporting documentation online to the decision maker as per the instructions set out on the University’s website.

8.6 Appeal applications will be acknowledged within five (5) business days of receipt.

8.7 The relevant decision maker is to commence consideration of the appeal within ten (10) business days of receipt. The student will be kept informed of the progress of the appeal submission during the investigation process at regular intervals.

8.8 The outcomes of Step 3 may include the decision maker undertaking one or more of the following actions outcomes:

(a) deems the application to be invalid;

(b) sets aside the decision;

(c) affirms the decision; or

(d) amends the decision.

8.9 Once a decision is reached, the University will advise the complainant the outcome within five (5) business days.

8.10 The decision letter will outline:

(a) the process of investigation followed by the decision maker;

(b) the reasons for the decision;

(c) any implications for international students (e.g. VISA considerations);

(d) advice on options to seek an external appeal; and

(e) support services available for the student.

8.11 The student, following notification of Step 3 decision, may:

(a) accept the outcome of the appeal; or

(b) lodge a complaint with an agency external to the University (where relevant).

8.12 For appeals where the decision maker is the Student Academic Appeals Committee, also refer to Section 9.

8.13 For appeals where the decision involves the Student General Misconduct Appeals Committee, also refer to Section 10.

9. Student Academic Appeals Committee

9.1 The Student Academic Appeals Committee (SAAC) is a standing committee of Academic Board, with Terms of Reference and Composition approved by Academic Board.

9.2 The SAAC will only consider Step 3 appeal requests relating to academic matters as identified as the decision maker in Table 2 of Schedule A of the Student Grievance Resolution – Governing Policy.

9.3 The Chairperson of the SAAC will consider whether an appeal has grounds as set out in Section 8.2 above. The Chairperson will consider the students appeal and the University’s records to identify any grounds of appeal. If convinced that the internal appeal does not have grounds, the Chairperson will report to the SAAC which may dismiss the appeal without further hearing.

9.4 When an appeal is referred to the SAAC for consideration, the SAAC and the student will be provided with a full copy of the student's appeal, the response provided by the decision maker whose decision is being contested and the student's counter response and all other relevant material. The student’s academic record will be made available to the SAAC and the SAAC may call for and consider any additional material. However, the SAAC must ensure that the student is given an opportunity to comment on all material relevant to the subject matter of the internal appeal. The student’s written comments will be made available to the SAAC for consideration.

9.5 When considering a matter regarding an assessment result (including higher degree theses), granting of credit or admission to a program, the grounds for appeal are limited to:

(a) improper, irregular, or negligent conduct by a person involved; or

(b) discrimination, prejudice, or bias against a student; or

(c) failure to adhere to relevant published policies and procedures.

9.6 A judgement regarding the academic merit of any work or the equivalency of academic content, does not fall within the jurisdiction of the SAAC. However, if the SAAC does find that the grounds for appeal set out in Section 8.2 above are met, based on this decision, the SAAC may refer the evaluation of the academic merit of any work or the equivalency of any academic content back to the original or an independent decision maker for reconsideration.

9.7 The SAAC will hear the internal appeal in accordance with the principles of procedural fairness. The SAAC will:

(a) exclude any member who has been involved in any previous grievance-handling in relation to the substantive matters connected with the student’s appeal, or may have any other real or perceived conflict of interest;

(b) consider all relevant material related to the student’s appeal; and

(c) interview any respondent/s and any other parties relevant to the appeal, subject to their agreement to be interviewed.

9.8 In the case of appeals relating to student academic misconduct or breaches of responsible research conduct, students will be provided with the opportunity to attend a hearing. The Secretary will notify the student accordingly at least eight (8) business days prior to the hearing.

9.9 Students invited to a hearing may remain in the hearing for the presentation of all evidence to the SAAC, except when the SAAC is deliberating. The Secretary must notify the student at least five (5) business days prior to the hearing of the names of any witnesses the SAAC has invited to speak. The student may, through the Chairperson, question any witnesses speaking to the SAAC. The student may invite witnesses with the Chairperson’s approval, after notifying the Secretary at least five (5) business days prior to the hearing of the names and contact details of for the invited witnesses.

9.10 The student may notify the Secretary prior to the interview or hearing that they plan to attend. However, the student is not obliged to attend an interview or hearing or to notify the Secretary if they intend to do so.

9.11 The SAAC may draw attention to any apparent problems arising from the administration of relevant University policies and procedures or other administrative processes of the University.

10. Student General Misconduct Appeals Committee

10.1 The Student General Misconduct Appeals Committee (Committee) Terms of Reference and Composition are approved by the Vice-Chancellor and President.

10.2 The Committee will only consider Step 3 appeal requests from substantiated general misconduct findings under Student Misconduct – Procedures. The Committee makes a recommendation to the Vice-Chancellor and President.

10.3 The Chairperson of the Committee will consider whether an appeal has grounds as set out in Section 8.2. The Chairperson will review the students appeal and the University’s records to identify any grounds of appeal. If convinced that the appeal does not have grounds, the Chairperson will report to the Committee which may recommend to the Vice-Chancellor and President to dismiss the appeal without further hearing.

10.4 When an appeal is referred to the Committee for consideration, the Committee and the student will be provided with a full copy of the student's appeal, the response provided by the decision maker whose decision is contested and the student's counter response and all other relevant material. The Committee may call for and consider any additional material. However, the Committee must ensure the student is given an opportunity to comment on all material relevant to the subject matter of the appeal. The student’s written comments will be made available to the Committee for consideration.

10.10 The Committee will hear the appeal in accordance with the principles of procedural fairness. The committee will:

(a) exclude any member who has been involved in any previous substantive matters connected with the student’s appeal, or may have any other real or perceived conflict of interest;

(b) consider all relevant material related to the student’s appeal; and

(c) interview the student, any respondent/s and any other parties relevant to the appeal, subject to their agreement to be interviewed.

10.11 The Secretary will notify the student of the appeal hearing details at least eight (8) business days prior to the hearing.

10.12 Students invited to the hearing may remain in the hearing for the presentation of all evidence to the Committee, except when the Committee is deliberating. The Secretary must notify the student at least five (5) business days prior to the hearing of the names of any witnesses the Committee has invited to speak. The student may, through the Chairperson, question any witnesses speaking to the Committee. The student may invite witnesses with the Chairperson’s approval, after notifying the Secretary at least five (5) business days prior to the hearing of the names and contact details of for the invited witnesses.

10.13 The Committee can decide to impose any one or more of the following conditions, if the report involves allegations of assault, sexual harassment, sexual assault, bullying or discrimination:

(a) permitting a witness who is present at the hearing, to respond to questions from the Committee from another location, via videoconference or by other means in order to minimise interaction between the complainant and witness;

(b) offering the witness the opportunity to be accompanied by a support person, providing the person is not legally trained and acts on the same conditions as Section 4.3; and

(c) other arrangements to minimise interaction between the witness and the complainant.

The Committee must observe procedural fairness.

10.14 The student may notify the Secretary prior to the hearing that they plan to attend. However, the student is not obliged to attend an hearing or to notify the Secretary if they intend to do so.

10.15 Within five (5) business days of reaching a decision, or the hearing, the Committee will forward their recommendation to the Vice-Chancellor and President.

10.16 Within five (5) business days of receiving the Committee’s recommendation the Vice-Chancellor and President, based on the advice of the Committee, will make a final determination on the appeal and the student will be informed.

10.17 The Committee may draw attention to any apparent problems arising from the administration of relevant University policies and procedures or other administrative or operational processes.

11. External Review

11.1 If a student is not satisfied with the University’s final decision, having exhausted all relevant stages available for resolving a grievance, the student may lodge an appeal to an external agency in accordance with their procedures.

11.2 If suspended, excluded or expelled, a student who chooses to access an external review process, must advise the University of lodgement by email (grievances@usc.edu.au) of an external review within ten (10) business days of receipt of the University’s final determination. Should one or more external review(s) be lodged, the University will usually maintain the student’s enrolment as active until at least one external review process is completed.

11.3 Queensland Ombudsman: Information on how to make a complaint can be found at the Queensland Ombudsman website http://www.ombudsman.qld.gov.au

11.4 International students may contact the Australian Department of Education, Skills and Employment which will only intervene where the University’s appeals process was not conducted correctly or if the University did not make the appeals process available to the student.

11.5 If any external complaint handling process results in a decision that supports a student, the University will implement any required corrective or preventive measure immediately and advise the student of the outcome.

11.6 If any external complaint handling process results in a decision that indicates a committee did not follow procedural fairness and supports a student, the University may choose to re-hear the matter. The re-hearing would be held by the relevant committee as per the University’s policies and procedures, however, the committee would consist of members not previously involved.

12. Confidentiality

12.1 The University will treat all information as confidential and not release to any third party or external agency, except where it is required by law, to ensure matters are investigated or the person expressly consents to its release in writing.

13 Timeframe Extensions

13.1 Where exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated, the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students) may extend the decision makers timeframes listed in these procedures. The student will be notified in writing of any extension granted to a timeframe.

13.2 Where a student’s submission is being made later than the relevant specified deadline, the student must include a written explanation for any delay in lodging the review or appeal request and attach supporting evidence. Unless the relevant decision maker determines the delay is reasonable, the relevant decision maker may deny a late review or appeal request.

14. Recordkeeping and Reporting

14.1 Records must be managed according to Information Management Framework - Governing Policy. The full copy of the student review or appeal submission and an official record must be maintained of any decisions made to resolve the matter must be kept.

14.2 Students should keep their own notes and records of any meetings held and any agreements reached in relation to the review or appeal.

14.3 The University will maintain complete records of the processes including:

(a) copies of all correspondence with the student, including email, concerning grievances or appeals and received from the student including all documentation;

(b) a written record of the outcome of any review or internal appeal process, including the reasons for any decisions reached; and

(c) evidence of any action taken by the University in response to the review or internal appeal.

14.4 The University maintains a register summarising all deliberations, findings and decisions of student application of reviews and internal appeals made under this procedure for reporting purposes.

Student Forms and Guidelines

See: https://www.usc.edu.au/learn/student-support/have-your-say/compliments-complaints-feedback-or-student-grievances

Staff Guidelines

Staff guidelines and templates are available on MyUSC (staff login required).

https://my.usc.edu.au/student-success/about-students/evaluation-and-feedback/student-grievance-resolution

Footnotes

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

END

Appendix A – Summary of Timelines

The University recognises that, in order to ensure a fair and equitable outcome is achieved, complex issues involving multiple parties may take longer to resolve. The Procedures set out how an extension to the timelines may be approved in extenuating circumstances.

Step 1 - Understand the decision

Attempt informal resolution

Complainant

within 10 business days of the original decision

Advise outcome

University

within 5 business days of receipt of submission

Step 2 – Review of decision

Lodge formal written review of decision

Complainant

within 20 business days of the original decision

Acknowledge receipt

University

within 5 business days of receipt of submission by the University

Commence process to resolve

University

within 10 business days of receipt of submission

Advise decision about submission

University

within 5 business days of decision being reached

Step 3 – Appeal the decision

Submit request for review

Complainant

within 10 business days of Step 2 decision notification unless there is no Step 2 available, then within 20 business days of original decision

Acknowledge receipt

University

within 5 business days of receipt of review request

Commence process to resolve

University

within 10 business days of receipt of submission

Advise decision

University

within 5 business days of decision being reached*

*unless Section 10.15 applies, then within 5 business days of the Committee’s recommendation being sent to the Vice-Chancellor and President

External review

Lodgement of an appeal with an external body, e.g. Queensland Ombudsman

Complainant

If, excluded for unsatisfactory academic progress or attendance, or if suspended or expelled for general misconduct or academic misconduct the complainant must advise the University within 10 business days of the final University decision

All external review requests to external bodies must be lodged in accordance the process set by the relevant external body

END