Policy

Student Grievance Resolution - Policy

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1. Purpose and Objectives

The University is committed to providing an effective student complaints management system based on best practice. The policy and procedures reflect, practically and philosophically, the expectations and responsibilities of both the University and its students when dealing with grievances or appeals.

2. Definitions, Terms, Acronyms

appeal – an application made by a student to have a decision reviewed where that decision relates to a matter affecting his or her studies or life as a student.

Enterprise AgreementThe University of Queensland Enterprise Agreement 2014 - 2017

frivolous or vexatious – grievances are identified as frivolous and/or vexatious when the substance of the grievance is recognised as any of the following:

(a) trivial;

(b) without merit;

(c) not in good faith;

(d) pursued with undue persistence or with malice; or

(e) already considered by the University and satisfactory measures taken to resolve the matter.

good faith – honest, sincere, without malice or ill intent.

grievance – a problem or concern raised by a student about something affecting his or her studies or life as a student, for which the student is seeking resolution. The term complaint is often used interchangeably with grievance.

procedural fairness – the processes by which an outcome is reached and not the outcome itself. With regard to complaint resolution at The University of Queensland, procedural fairness (natural justice) requires that a respondent to a complaint must be provided with:

  • sufficient details of the complaint to enable the respondent to formulate a response;
  • information about the process by which the matter is to be resolved, and
  • opportunity to put their case and respond to the complaint.

In addition:

  • any decision-maker must act impartially and without bias;
  • all relevant submissions and evidence must be considered;
  • irrelevant matters must not be taken into account; and
  • the complaint must be dealt with in a timely manner.

3. Policy Scope/Coverage

This policy applies to all students and to University staff involved in managing or responding to student grievances or appeals to decisions made in accordance with University policy, procedures and rules.

Where it is considered that the matters contained in the grievance may amount to misconduct or serious misconduct (as defined in the Enterprise Agreement) by a staff member, the matter must be referred to the staff member's supervisor for consideration in accordance with the relevant provision of the Enterprise Agreement.

4. Policy Statement

The following principles guide the student grievance resolution processes:

(a) the resolution of student grievances will be handled informally where possible and appropriate;

(b) student grievances will be addressed as close as possible to the source of student dissatisfaction;

(c) a student is entitled to appeal to the next most senior decision maker, providing they can either supply new or additional information to support their case or they can substantiate an argument as to why the original decision did not comply with University’s policies, rules or procedures. (It is not sufficient to simply disagree with the decision and to want it examined by a more senior staff member);

(d) grievances will be resolved expeditiously, with due regard to legislative requirements (For example, Standard 8 of the National Code of Practice for Registration Authorities and Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students (2007) requires the process to commence within 10 business days, is to be at no direct cost to the student and is to be finalised as soon as practicable) and confidentiality as endorsed in the University’s PPL 1.60.02 Privacy Management;

(e) a student’s enrolment will be maintained while the complaint and appeal process is ongoing. However, this does not entitle a student to enrol in courses or programs for which they are not eligible;

(f) a student will not suffer any reprisal as a result of lodging a grievance or an appeal;

(g) a student who lodges a grievance that is frivolous and/or vexatious, will have their grievance dismissed or discontinued. Such conduct may be considered as misconduct and investigated under the University’s PPL 3.60.04 Student Integrity and Misconduct Policy;

(h) a student attending an interview associated with resolving their grievance or appeal may be accompanied by a support person. This person must not be a legal representative or a currently practicing solicitor or barrister.

(i) the student grievance process will promote the principles of procedural fairness and natural justice;

(j) grievance procedures and the support available to students will be widely publicised to facilitate access to the grievance resolution process;

(k) a student may choose to have their grievance reviewed by an external complaint handling process. The University will not continue further consideration of matters where the process options have been exhausted or where the student has taken their grievance to an external agency.

Custodians
Academic Registrar
Mr Mark Erickson

Procedures

Student Grievance Resolution - Procedures

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1. Purpose and Objectives

These procedures enact PPL 3.60.02a Student Grievance Resolution — Policy.

2. Definitions, Terms, Acronyms

appeal – an application made by a student to have a decision reviewed where that decision relates to a matter affecting his or her studies or life as a student.

decision-maker – in the context of these procedures, a person or body that considers the student’s grievance or appeal and makes a decision as to what remedy, if any, should be applied.

grievance – a problem or concern raised by a student about something affecting his or her studies or life as a student, for which the student is seeking a resolution. The term complaint is often used interchangeably with grievance.

Organisational Unit Head – Head of School, Institute Director or equivalent.

procedural fairness – the processes by which an outcome is reached and not the outcome itself. With regard to complaint resolution at The University of Queensland, procedural fairness (natural justice) requires that a respondent to a complaint must be provided with:

  • sufficient details of the complaint to enable the respondent to formulate a response,
  • information about the process by which the matter is to be resolved, and
  • opportunity to put their case and respond to the complaint.

In addition:

  • any decision-maker must act impartially and without bias;
  • all relevant submissions and evidence must be considered;
  • irrelevant matters must not be taken into account, and
  • the complaint must be dealt with in a timely manner.

SSAC – Senate Student Appeals Committee

UQU – The University of Queensland Union (Student Union).

3. Procedures Scope/Coverage

These procedures apply to all students and to University staff involved in managing student grievances or appeals to decisions made in accordance with University policy, procedures and rules.

4. Procedures Statement

Student grievance resolution procedures seek to facilitate the informal resolution of grievances as close as possible to the source of student dissatisfaction, and to provide a general framework for the complaints management system under which the University will handle and respond to complaints.

5. Support for Students

There are a number of advocacy and support services free to students in the grievance resolution process.

  1. Representatives of UQU may take an advocacy role in the grievance resolution process. Students can consult UQU, which can help the student to present their grievance. To book an appointment with a UQU representative, students should contact the Student Help on Campus (SHOC) centre.
  2. The University’s Student Services staff do not advocate on behalf of students, however, Student Services staff can provide students with documentation attesting to circumstances that may be taken into account by the University in considering a grievance or an appeal (for example, evidence of attendance at a personal counselling appointment).
  3. In cases of alleged discrimination or harassment (including sexual harassment), students may see a Discrimination and Harassment Contact Officer (DHCO). DHCOs provide information on UQ policy (including student grievance, prevention of sexual harassment and discrimination and harassment). DHCOs are not able to advocate on a student’s behalf or become in any way involved in resolving a grievance. A list of DHCOs and a description of their role is available from http://www.uq.edu.au/equity/

Where students initiate meetings to resolve grievances with University staff or are invited to attend meetings for this purpose, students may request the presence of a support person to attend with them, in addition or in preference to a representative of the UQU. The role played by someone in the support capacity is as a neutral witness to the discussion. The support person must not be a legal representative or a currently practicing solicitor or barrister.

6. Informal Resolution

Where appropriate, it is expected that a student will attempt to resolve the issue informally, in the first instance, by approaching the person concerned directly. Informal resolution strategies may include:

  • writing a letter to the individual detailing concerns and requesting the alleged behaviour to stop;
  • requesting a relevant staff member to raise the matter with the individual;
  • requesting a conciliation or mediation be arranged.

Refer to the relevant policy:

If the issue is unable to be resolved informally with the relevant person in the initial step, and where the student requires formal resolution, a formal grievance must be lodged as follows.

7. Lodging a Formal Grievance or Appeal

In order for a grievance or appeal to be accepted for consideration it must:

  1. be in writing (this may be via email or letter);
  2. contain the name of the complainant. (An address to which correspondence can be sent should be provided. Where an anonymous complaint is received, efforts will be made to the extent practicable, to investigate the complaint);
  3. provide details of the resolution sought;
  4. where relevant, provide details of informal steps taken to seek resolution;
  5. where relevant, the name and contact details, if known, of any respondent or witnesses to the incident/s which has led to the grievance;
  6. contain sufficient information about the matter to enable an assessment of the grievance to be made;
  7. be lodged by the student who has been aggrieved, or by a third party with explicit written consent from the aggrieved student; and
  8. be lodged within the following timeframes, unless a different time period is prescribed in a specific policy or rule:

(a) formal grievances – within 40 business days of the decision/action giving rise to the grievance. In exceptional circumstances the timeframe for lodging a grievance may be extended beyond 40 business days by the Academic Registrar. The student must submit a written request that includes sufficient reasoning to academic.registar@uq.edu.au.

(b) appeals – within 20 business days of the decision/action giving rise to the appeal. A further extension of up to 20 business days may be given by the relevant appeal person or body upon receipt of the request from the student or their authorised third party representative. In the case of appeals heard by SSAC, the request for an extension must be submitted to the Secretary of SSAC via email senatestudentappeals@uq.edu.au.

In some grievances, for example matters relating to assessment outcomes, shorter timeframes are set in the relevant policies or rules (e.g., appeals to Senate Student Appeals Committee regarding refused ‘Show Cause’ applications must be made within 10 business days).

The letter must be submitted electronically to studentcomplaints@uq.edu.au, or as a hard copy to one of the UQ Student Centres. Appeals to Senate Student Appeals Committee (SSAC) must be submitted directly to the Secretary of SSAC via email senatestudentappeals@uq.edu.au.

Appeals submitted to SSAC must be within SSAC jurisdiction, and must have sufficient grounds as specified in PPL 3.60.05 Appeals to Senate by Students.

There is no cost associated with lodging a formal grievance or appeal. A student's enrolment will be maintained while the complaint and appeal process is ongoing. However, this does not entitle a student to enrol in courses or programs they are not qualified to be in.

8. Procedures for Staff

8.1 Requirement to act fairly, impartially and exercise independent judgment

Staff who investigate or decide complaints or appeals must act fairly and impartially. They should seek advice about the process and their responsibilities under it from an appropriate source (for example, Student Administration), and must exercise independent judgment at all times about the particular complaint or appeal, based on their objective assessment of the evidence.

Staff must conduct themselves in a professional and courteous manner at all times.

8.2 Confidentiality

Staff who investigate or hear a complaint or appeal must treat it as confidential and must only disclose information to others strictly on a “need-to-know” basis.

8.3 Conflicts of interest

Staff involved in a complaint or appeal must disclose actual, perceived or potential conflicts of interest (whether personal, financial or otherwise) as soon as they become aware of them. That staff member’s supervisor (or other person to whom they are accountable under that process) must assess whether that conflict does, or is likely to be seen to, preclude that staff member from acting fairly and impartially. If so, another person must be appointed to replace the staff member as investigator or decision-maker.

Staff who have previously advised or supported a student must not be involved in undertaking an investigation or in a decision-making capacity in relation to that student’s complaint or appeal. Advice may be sought from the Academic Registrar.

8.4 Role of a decision-maker

A decision-maker who received a complaint or appeal must take the following steps:

  1. Acknowledge receipt of a complaint within 10 business days of lodgement and provide an explanation to the student of the grievance resolution process and the estimated timeframe for resolution.
  2. Assess the detail of the complaint and seek further information from relevant parties where necessary and appropriate. Where the nature of the complaint is unclear, particularly in terms of who the appropriate decision-maker may be (e.g., if there are legislative implications), advice must be sought from the Student Complaints and Grievance Resolution Unit in Academic Services Division.
  3. Seek advice from the Academic Registrar or Director, Human Resources in instances where a grievance may potentially be more appropriately managed through the staff or student misconduct process.
  4. Decide how the grievance will best be resolved and advise the relevant parties of this decision.
  5. If the grievance is not sufficiently supported by appropriate grounds, communicate this decision to the student along with the rationale.
  6. Advise the student of further avenues for their concerns to be addressed if they have not been resolved to their satisfaction.

8.4.1 Decision-makers must:

  • identify key issues;
  • keep a record of all transactions;
  • maintain key timeframes;
  • make decisions; and
  • communicate decisions.

8.4.2 Making the decision

In coming to a decision, the decision-maker must follow fair procedures observing natural justice and due process. This requires gathering information relevant to the decision and providing procedural fairness to people whose interests may be adversely affected by any decision.

All findings of fact must be supported by relevant evidence. After the decision-maker has gathered the evidence, this must be evaluated to determine what is relevant to the grievance or appeal. All relevant evidence must be considered, not just the evidence which supports the finding the decision-maker may want to make. Whether the evidence that has been gathered is sufficient to prove a fact must be assessed in accordance with the civil standard (proof on the balance of probabilities). The strength of evidence necessary to establish a fact on the balance of probabilities may vary according to the seriousness of the issues involved, that is, the more serious the issue, the stronger the evidence required. The decision-maker needs to ensure they record all findings of fact and their reasoning for them.

The decision-maker must reasonably exercise their discretion, within the limits of their authority. In reaching a decision, the decision-maker must have regard for legislation and University policy and should consult with other officers as appropriate (for example Student Administration).

The decision-maker must ensure they take into account relevant matters and disregard irrelevant detail, noting the reasons for doing so. Where necessary, the decision-maker should determine the weight to be given to competing factors considered when making a decision and detail their rationale. For example, a student may allege that they had no internet access to manage their enrolment during a certain time period but system logs of their mySI-net account indicate they had logged in on several occasions during that same time period. In that circumstance, more weight may be placed on the system logs than the claim made by the student, because physical records can be produced to substantiate the system activity.

When considering an appeal the decision-maker must have regard to whether:

(a) the student has provided additional, substantive information;

(b) a fair and proper process for considering the grievance/appeal has been followed;

(c) there was an appropriate level of information on which the decision-maker made the initial decision;

(d) the decision was fair and reasonable in the circumstances;

(e) the outcome, including any penalties imposed, was fair and reasonable in the circumstances.

8.4.3 Communicating the decision

In the case of all formal grievances and appeals, the decision made must be communicated to the student in writing, and this decision advice must contain the reasons for the decision.

The purpose of giving reasons for a decision is to enable the person affected by the decision:

  • to understand why the decision was made;
  • to decide whether to appeal the decision if they remain dissatisfied; and
  • if they appeal the decision, to identify the grounds for the appeal.

A person adversely affected by the decision must be notified of any review or appeal process at the time they are notified of the decision, including the time allowed to apply for the review/appeal and how to apply for the review/appeal.

Where a decision finds in favour of the student, the University must take steps to implement the decision or corrective action as soon as practicable after the decision is reached, and to advise the student about the action that will be, or has been, taken.

8.5 Possible remedies

Where a finding in relation to a grievance or appeal is in favour of the student, possible remedies might include, but are not limited to:

  • offering an apology where appropriate;
  • correcting an error to the extent possible;
  • making a new decision; and
  • undertaking to revise and improve existing processes.

9. Decision-Maker Tables

The Decision-Maker Tables describe the steps, within the University, a student must take to have a grievance dealt with, or to appeal one or more of the decisions listed.

Students are expected in the first instance to attempt to resolve the matter informally with the individual closest to the source of the decision or grievance. However, where this is not practicable or a student believes the matter remains unresolved, the student may choose to lodge a formal grievance, or to make a formal appeal.

9.1 Formal academic appeals

Topic

Decision-maker

Appeal

Notes

Admission to a program not governed by PPL 3.40.06

Head of Academic Unit (for example: Head of School)/ Associate Dean (Academic), or as defined by specific program rules

Senate Student Appeals Committee (SSAC)

For example: admissions to Postgraduate coursework programs under PPL 3.40.07

Show Cause

Associate Dean (Academic)

SSAC

 

Assessment

Head of Academic Unit (for example: Head of School) (before the date of finalisation of results of the course); Associate Dean (Academic) (after the date of finalisation of results of the course)

 

SSAC

An example of this is a request for an assessment remark.

In all cases, it is expected that a student will seek feedback from the course coordinator before starting the formal process.

Mid-semester deferred examinations

Head of Academic Unit (for example: Head of School)

Associate Dean (Academic)

 

Another decision by the Associate Dean (Academic), Executive Dean, or the President of the Academic Board that directly affects the student

Associate Dean (Academic) / Executive Dean / President of the Academic Board

SSAC

For example, requests for program variations.

Change to finalised results (refer to PPL 3.50.01 Academic Records)

Associate Dean (Academic) / Executive Dean (before the remark finalisation date); President of the Academic Board

SSAC

 

OS-HELP

Director of UQ Advantage

SSAC

 

Termination of a Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarship, a UQ Excellence Scholarship or a UQ Merit Scholarship based on changes in student’s eligibility

Scholarship Show Cause Committee Chair

SSAC

 

All matters relating to admission, enrolment or assessment of the PhD, MPhil and research professional doctorates

Dean, Graduate School

SSAC

 

 

9.2 Formal academic grievances

Topic

Decision-maker

Appeal

Notes

Admission to a program governed by PPL 3.40.06

See PPL 3.40.06 for admissions to undergraduate and non-award programs and CSP

President of the Academic Board

For example: all Undergraduate, Non-Awards and CSP Admissions

Academic or teaching standards

 

Head of Academic Unit (for example: Head of School) for coursework programs; Associate Dean (Research) or Institute Deputy Director for PhD, MPhil and research professional doctorates

Executive Dean for coursework programs; Dean, Graduate School for PhD, MPhil and research professional doctorates

The category “academic standards” refers to issues such as teaching, supervision, academic programs and workloads.

Responsible conduct of research

Head of academic Unit (for example: Head of School) / Academic Discipline; other relevant Organisational Unit Head

Executive Dean for coursework programs; Dean, Graduate School for PhD, MPhil and research professional doctorates

Consultation with or transfer to the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) may be applicable in some cases.

9.3 Formal administrative grievances/appeals

Topic

Decision-maker

Appeal

Notes

Remission of fees for Commonwealth supported students (HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP); re-credit of fees for full fee paying students who pay up-front (international and domestic students)

Academic Registrar

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) is a body external to the University that has legislative responsibility for managing appeals related to the remission of HECS and FEE-HELP liabilities and Student Learning Entitlements for undergraduate Commonwealth supported students.

International and domestic full fee paying students have the right to take further action under Australia’s consumer protection laws.

Deferred end-of-semester examinations

Director, Student Administration

Academic Registrar

For deferred mid-semester examinations see s9.1.

Changes to finalised results arising from administrative errors

Associate Dean (Academic) / Executive Dean (up to one year after the finalisation of results); Academic Registrar

Academic Registrar

Where the decision-maker is the Academic Registrar, no internal appeal available.

May be considered by an external agency, e.g., Office of the Queensland Ombudsman.

Submission of applications after the due date (e.g., Show Cause Application, Deferred Examination Application, Application for Supplementary Assessment); obtaining medical certificate outside required timeframe

Director, Student Administration

Academic Registrar

 

Administration of policies and procedures

Head of Unit or Division (for example: Head of School; Director, Information Technology Services; University Librarian; Director, Academic or Student Administration; Academic Registrar)

Academic Registrar

An example would be where a policy requirement has been misread or applied out of time by the person enforcing those requirements.

Where the decision-maker hearing the grievance is the Academic Registrar, the appeal person is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic).

Availability of, or access to, University resources and facilities

Head of Unit (for example: Head of School or Academic Discipline; Manager Client Services, Information Technology Services; Manager, Branch of UQ Library); Director, Student Affairs

Academic Registrar

The Academic Registrar may refer some administrative grievances to the Chief Operating Officer for resolution.

University’s obligations under the Education Services For Overseas Students Act and Part D of The National Code of Practice for Registration Authorities and Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students (The National Code)

Academic Registrar

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

Students can appeal to an independent arbiter (e.g., Queensland Ombudsman).

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) may refer some grievances to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International).

9.4 Formal grievances about discrimination, harassment and bullying

Topic

Decision-maker

Appeal

Notes

Discrimination, harassment and bullying

Head of Unit (for example: Head of School or Academic Discipline; Manager Client Services, Information Technology Services; Manager, Branch of UQ Library); Academic Registrar

Head of Division (for example: Executive Dean; Director, Information Technology Services; University Librarian); Academic Registrar

Refer to PPL 1.70.06 Discrimination and Harassment for further information.

Where the decision-maker hearing the grievance is the Academic Registrar, the person hearing the appeal is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic).

10. External Avenues for Grievance Resolution

Where all avenues for escalation or appeal listed in section 9 have been exhausted, without reaching what the student considers to be a satisfactory outcome, the student can then take the matter to the Queensland Ombudsman.

In addition, a number of other external agencies may be able to provide advice or review a decision taken by The University. They include:

The University must respond promptly, when contacted by these external agencies, to provide information relevant to grievances lodged by UQ students or former students.

Custodians
Academic Registrar
Mr Mark Erickson

Guidelines

Student Grievance Resolution - Guidelines

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1. Purpose and Objectives

These guidelines supplement PPL 3.60.02a Student Grievance Resolution — Policy and PPL 3.60.02b Student Grievance Resolution — Procedures and provide practical advice to those involved in the University’s student grievance or appeals processes.

2. Definitions, Terms, Acronyms

No entries for this document.

3. Guidelines Scope/Coverage

These guidelines apply to all staff and students.

4. Guidelines Statement

These guidelines seek to achieve an effective student grievance resolution system by providing clear guidelines to students and staff involved in the grievance or appeal processes.

5. Grievance Guidelines for Students

5.1 Stating the issue

When preparing a formal written complaint the student should clearly state the issue or situation that has caused them concern and identify how they would like this to be resolved. They should also indicate what they have done to attempt to resolve the issue informally.

Care should be taken to state the issue clearly and concisely, including referencing any legislation or policy as appropriate, without using offensive or inflammatory terms.

Examples:

  1. A student may be dissatisfied with the quality of instruction they have received in a course and seek to have this concern investigated. The student should list the course and identify what it is that has caused them to complain, providing all relevant details;
  2. A student may be unhappy about the amount of internet quota that is assigned to them in their program of study, in which case they should set out what issues have arisen, and why they feel a greater quota is required.

5.2 Level of detail

The written complaint should be as specific as possible about the circumstances relating to the grievance and provide relevant evidence.

Examples:

  1. If a student believes unreasonable expectations were placed on their assessment requirements, for example too much assessment work was required for the allocation of a trivial number of marks, the student must give details about the course and assessment items that concerned them.
  2. If a student believes they have been discriminated against because of their race, they must give specific examples of how they believe they have been treated differently from other students and any disadvantage they have experienced as a result.

5.3 Supporting documentation

Wherever possible, students should attach documentary evidence to support their grievance. It is normally not sufficient for a student to claim the existence of certain circumstances or the performance of certain actions or a change of circumstances without providing supporting evidence which verifies their claims. Students should make every effort to support their claim by providing independent evidence. Documents provided to support the grievance must be original or certified copies. They must be in English or official translations must be supplied.

Examples:

  1. If the course profile was changed mid-semester, a student should show how it was changed by providing copies of the two versions;
  2. If a student received correspondence (e.g. letter or email) that is relevant to the grievance, they should attach a copy.

5.4 Describing steps taken

Students must describe what steps they have taken to date to attempt to resolve the grievance.

Examples:

  1. If a student spoke to the course coordinator about the issue, they must say when they talked to them and what happened;
  2. If a student sought advice from the Student Centre or Faculty Office, they must say what advice they were given, when and by whom.

5.5 Submitting a complaint

Students can submit complaint letters and support materials either electronically to studentcomplaints@uq.edu.au, or as a hard-copy to a UQ Student Centre. Students are encouraged to submit letters and materials electronically via email, as it generally reduces the time before their grievance is considered by an appropriate decision-maker.

5.6 Attending an interview

In seeking to work towards informal resolution of a grievance, a student may initiate a meeting with University staff, or as part of an investigation into a grievance, the student may be invited to attend an interview to discuss their concerns. In either case the student is entitled to take a support person with them to the interview.

6. Appeal Guidelines for Students

Where a student is not satisfied with the outcome of a grievance resolution process or a decision made in accordance with University Policy, Procedures and Rules, the student may appeal the outcome with an appropriate body as noted in the Decision-Maker Table in Section 9 of PPL 3.60.02b Student Grievance Resolution — Procedures. The nature of the grievance will determine both the decision-maker and the timeframe available to appeal.

6.1 Stating the issue

When preparing an appeal students should state clearly the decision against which they are appealing, including referencing any legislation or policy as appropriate, and they should explain the grounds of their appeal.

Examples:

  1. A student may believe a University policy, procedure or rule has been applied incorrectly in their circumstance, in which case, they should say what University policy, procedure or rule they are referring to and describe what they believe the error is.
  2. A student may feel they have been treated less favourably than other students in the application of a policy, procedure or rule, in which case, they should give specific examples of other students that can be checked to validate their claims.
  3. A student may feel a decision made in regard to a case of harassment or discrimination was inadequate to resolve an issue.

6.2 Level of detail

Students must be as specific as possible about the circumstances relating to their appeal.

Examples:

  1. If a student claims they were told by a member of staff to take a particular course of action, the student must state who gave them that advice and when.
  2. If a student was prevented from completing assessment by the due date, the student must explain the reasons for this and the steps they took (what, when and with whom they corresponded), to address those circumstances in a timely manner.

6.3 Supporting documentation

Wherever possible students should attach documentary evidence to their appeal. It is normally not sufficient for a student to claim the existence of certain circumstances, or the performance of certain actions, or a change of circumstances, without providing supporting evidence which verifies these claims. It is insufficient to simply say what happened or what changed. Students should make every effort to support what they say by providing independent evidence.

Examples:

  1. If a student was sick, they must provide a medical certificate.
  2. If a student received correspondence (e.g. letter or email) that is relevant to the appeal, they must attach a copy.

6.4 Submitting an appeal

Students can submit appeal letters and support materials (except appeals to Senate Student Appeals Committee) either electronically to studentcomplaints@uq.edu.au, or as a hard-copy to a UQ Student Centre. Students are encouraged to submit letters and materials electronically via email, as it generally reduces the time before their appeal is considered by an appropriate decision- maker.

For further information on the process for appeals to Senate Students Appeals Committee, refer to PPL 3.60.05 Appeals to Senate by Students.

6.5 External avenues for grievance resolution

Students wishing to take the matter to the Queensland Ombudsman should be aware that the Ombudsman would normally focus on issues of procedural compliance or fairness in the decision making process rather than matters concerning academic judgment. The Ombudsman may decline to investigate a complaint if the student making the complaint has not first attempted to resolve the problem through The University’s grievance resolution process.

The Ombudsman’s Office should be contacted for specific advice regarding particular circumstances.

7. Guidelines for Staff

7.1 Roles and responsibilities

All staff should, within the limits of their authority, assist students to resolve problems or concerns as quickly and early as possible with a view to avoiding them escalating to the level of a formal complaint.

While staff may be faced with behaviour they consider rude or unreasonable, or with problems or concerns that may seem trivial or ill-founded, staff should listen calmly, attentively and dispassionately and focus on realistic ways to help the student resolve their problem or concern. If the problem cannot be solved at the informal level, the student should be referred to PPL 3.60.02b Student Grievance Resolution — Procedures to guide their next steps in the grievance resolution process.

In certain instances, senior staff may believe an issue is so serious it should be managed under either student or staff misconduct procedures. In such cases, advice should be sought from the Academic Registrar and/or Director Human Relations as appropriate.

7.2 Decision-makers

7.2.1 Identify the key issues

The first step in any decision-making process or investigation is to correctly identify the key issues so the correct grievance resolution pathway can be followed and the correct decision-maker can be identified to facilitate the grievance resolution process.

Once identified, the decision-maker may conduct their own exploration of the issues, or may call upon another impartial person to investigate the grievance or appeal on their behalf.

During this stage, the decision-maker will need to consider:

  • relevant legislative provisions;
  • relevant University rules, policies and procedures;
  • information available that may be relevant to the grievance or appeal;
  • what additional information needs to be gathered to consider the grievance or appeal.

7.2.2 Record keeping

Accurate record keeping is an important component of good administrative practice. This concept is supported by the obligation imposed on public agencies, including Universities, by s.7 of the Public Records Act (Qld) 2002, to make and keep full and accurate records of their activities.

The obligation covers:

  • oral communications, including telephone calls that are significant in relevance to a grievance or appeal;
  • written communications, including emails and faxes;
  • events and actions, including internal or external meetings, that are relevant to the decision to be made.

Records should be made simultaneously or as soon as practicable following the communication, event or action to which they relate.

Good record keeping:

  • improves decision-making by providing decision-makers with detailed information on which to base their decisions;
  • assists decision-makers to prepare a comprehensive statement of reasons if required;
  • enables the University to establish how a particular decision was made, in the event that the decision is challenged or is the subject of external review;
  • protects individual staff members and the University from criticism by providing a means to explain the rationale behind a decision; and
  • enhances transparency by enabling the University to respond meaningfully and efficiently to requests under the Right to Information Act (Qld) 2009.

Good record keeping enhances accountability in the grievance and appeal processes.

7.2.3 Time limits

The process to resolve a formal grievance should commence no later than 10 business days after receipt by the University of the grievance or appeal, unless a different timeframe is stated in the relevant policy. All reasonable measures should be taken by the decision-maker to ensure the matter is finalised as soon as practicable.

7.3 Assessing the evidence

Staff who decide (or make recommendations to a decision-maker about) a complaint or an appeal, must assess the evidence fairly and objectively and base their recommendations or decisions on all relevant evidence. Evidence is relevant when it is logically probative and rationally leads to the conclusions drawn about a particular fact that is at issue (whether alone or combined with other evidence). Irrelevant evidence must always be disregarded. If there is a conflict in evidence about a particular version of events, efforts should be made to try and corroborate those versions to ascertain which should logically be considered over the other.

7.4 Maintaining student’s enrolment during grievance resolution process

A student’s enrolment should be maintained during grievance resolution process if the procedures for lodging a complaint and appeal have been appropriately followed by the student. Examples when student enrolment should be maintained include:

  • the period during external appeal, if the student exhausted internal grievance resolution options first before appealing to an external appeal body;
  • the period during appealing a re-mark decision where the failing grade may prevent progression. Maintaining enrolment does not enable the student to enrol into courses they are not entitled to.

8. Useful Resources

Extracts from the following publications were used in the compilation of these Procedures:

  • Jackson, J., Fleming, H., Kamvounias, P., & Varnham, S. (2009). Student Grievances & Discipline Matters Project: Final Report to Australian Learning and Teaching Council. Sydney: Australian Learning and Teaching Council.
  • NSW Ombudsman. (2006). Complaint Handling at Universities: Best Practice Guidelines. Sydney, NSW, Australia.
  • NSW Ombudsman. (2009). Managing Unreasonable Complainant Conduct Practice Manual. Sydney, NSW, Australia.
  • Ombudsman, Western Australia. (Undated). GUIDELINES - Conducting administrative investigations. Perth, Western Australia, Australia.
  • Queensland Ombudsman (2013). GOOD DECISION-MAKING GUIDE – Good decisions make good sense, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
Custodians
Academic Registrar
Mr Mark Erickson
Custodians
Academic Registrar
Mr Mark Erickson