Policy Student Complaints Procedure

Student Complaints Procedure


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Intent

This Procedure supports the Student Complaints Policy to promote and underpin JCU’s commitment to transparent, fair and timely resolution of student complaints.

JCU recognises that complaints provide useful information to improve the student experience and University practices.

Scope

This Procedure applies to complaints considered under the Student Complaints Policy.

Introduction

Staff must follow the processes set out within this Procedure when receiving, considering, investigating and determining a complaint made under the Student Complaints Policy.

Students are encouraged to engage with the JCU Student Association Student Advocates or to find alternative means of advocacy and support in the formulation of their complaint. Staff will advise students engaging in complaint management processes of advocacy options and support services.

Students can make a formal complaint through the JCU webpage at https://www.jcu.edu.au/students/feedback-and-complaints.

Procedure

1. Informal Resolution

1.1  A student should attempt to resolve their complaint informally, directly with the relevant staff member or through the relevant College or Directorate.

1.2  In informal complaint resolution, the parties to a complaint will explore options and make their own decisions about how to resolve a complaint, rather than having a third party make and enforce a decision.

2. Formal Complaint Submission

2.1 The University will not accept a formal complaint submission that is:

a)   outside the scope of the Student Complaints Policy, because:

  • the person who has submitted the complaint is not a JCU student; or
  • the submission does not present a circumstance that meets the definition of a complaint; or
  • another policy or procedure has been or can be used to consider the complaint; or

b) submitted more than 12 months after the latest relevant action, notification of a decision, or omission with regard to the matter that is the subject of the complaint.

  • A late submission may be accepted at the discretion of the Director, Student Services.  This discretion will be exercised where there are demonstrated exceptional circumstances regarding the complaint submission or the significance of the complaint for the University community.

2.2 Otherwise, a student who is unable to resolve their complaint informally can submit a formal complaint under this Procedure.

2.3 A formal complaint submission must be made in writing, and include:

a)   the basis for the complaint;

b)   if known, the name of the person (or University Unit) about whom the complaint is made;

c)   a description of the events that have given rise to the complaint;

d)   a description of the efforts made, if appropriate, to informally resolve the complaint, with an explanation of why informal resolution is impossible, inappropriate or unsatisfactory;

e)   any relevant documentary evidence (referenced in the descriptions discussed above);

f)    the name and contact details of any witness; and

g)   the outcome the complainant seeks.

2.4 A complainant can withdraw their complaint submission at any time by writing to the Student Complaints and Misconduct Advisor. The Advisor will stop management of the submission and/or advise any staff members to whom the submission has been referred to stop complaint resolution.

3.  Receipt and Assessment

3.1  The Student Complaints and Misconduct Advisor will confirm receipt of a formal complaint submission within two university working days, unless that formal complaint was submitted anonymously.

3.2  Where a formal complaint is submitted anonymously, any further action will depend on the ability to consider the complaint without being able to verify claims made in it through further contact with the complainant.

3.3  The Student Complaints and Misconduct Advisor may recommend to the Director Student Services that a complaint is frivolous, trivial or vexatious. Within five (5) University working days the Director Student Services may determine, that the complaint:

a)   is frivolous, trivial or vexatious, may dismiss the complaint and notify the complainant. The decision of the Director, Student Services, is final and not subject to further review within the University. This does not preclude a student from seeking review by an appropriate external body; or

b)   is not frivolous, trivial or vexatious, and notify the Advisor.

3.4  Subject to clauses 3.2 and 3.3, a formal complaint submission will be processed within five (5) University working days of its receipt. The Student Complaints and Misconduct Advisor will determine that the submission:

a)   will not be accepted, in accordance with clause 2.1. The Advisor will refer the complaint back to the person who made the submission; or

b)   has not been made in accordance with clause 2.2 and/or clause 2.3. The Advisor will refer the complaint back to the complainant; or

c)   falls within the scope of another University policy which, for the purpose of complaint resolution, has a procedure to review the action, decision or omission that is the subject of the complaint. The Advisor will refer the complaint for consideration under that policy and advise the complainant of this referral; or

d)   will be managed under the Student Complaint Procedure. The Advisor will:

  • determine the period during which complaint resolution is expected to be achieved. This will be at least fifteen (15) University working days. It may be longer due to the complexity of the complaint;
  • refer the complaint to the relevant College Dean, Director or equivalent (the “Responsible Officer”), unless the Advisor determines on the basis of the submission that a reasonable apprehension of bias or a conflict of interest exists with regard to that officer, in which case the Advisor will appoint the next most senior officer as the Responsible Officer; and
  • advise the complainant of this referral.

3.5  The Responsible Officer will acknowledge receipt of the referral of the complaint submission. If they believe they have a conflict of interest, or the complainant will reasonably apprehend bias, regarding the referral, they will advise the Student Complaints and Misconduct Advisor, who will re-refer the complaint under clause 3.4 c).

4.  Formal Complaint Resolution

4.1  The Responsible Officer will determine a process for resolving the complaint. This may include:

a)   nominating an appropriate staff member(s) to assist; and/or

b)   meeting with the parties (with their respective support person), together or separately; and/or

c)   providing for mediation, conciliation or investigation of the complaint by an appropriately trained and independent person; and/or

d)    obtaining all other relevant evidence in the University’s possession.

4.2  The Responsible Officer will advise the complainant of progress throughout the resolution of the complaint.

4.3  The Responsible Officer will ensure all parties involved in resolving the complaint are treated fairly and reasonably. If the University then also acts under a conduct policy, the procedural fairness provisions of that policy will apply.

4.4  The Responsible Officer will consider in what ways the complaint might be valid and the appropriate response, including if a remedy is justified. This will include that:

a)   the complaint resolution must consider if any human rights are relevant to the complaint and the resolution must be compatible with these rights;

b)   in determining appropriate remedy, remedial action the complainant has sought is considered; and

c)   a remedy must be within the authority of the Responsible Officer or be recommended by the Responsible Officer to the appropriately delegated person or body, which has then authorised the remedy.

4.5  The Responsible Officer will report in writing on the complaint resolution process and the determination of the complaint (“the Responsible Officer’s Report”: see section 5) to the complainant, other parties to the complaint resolution as required, and the Student Complaints and Misconduct Advisor within the expected complaint resolution period.

4.6  Where a Responsible Officer is unable to report within the expected complaint resolution period, they may request an extension of the period from the Student Complaints and Misconduct Advisor. The request for an extension will outline the steps already taken and those steps still to be taken to finalise the complaint resolution process, and provide for timely complaint resolution. Also, if the proposed complaint resolution period is beyond 45 business days from the date the complaint submission was received and a human right is relevant to the complaint, the Responsible Officer will seek the agreement of the complainant regarding the proposed complaint resolution period.

a)   The Advisor may grant or reject the request and advise the Responsible Officer accordingly.

b)   If an extension is granted, the Advisor will advise the complainant of the new timeframe anticipated for response and the Responsible Officer will advise the complainant of progress regarding the resolution of their complaint periodically.

4.7  Where a Responsible Officer has failed to act with regard to any of clauses 4.1-4.6, the Student Complaints and Misconduct Advisor will refer the complaint to the next most senior officer, who then becomes the Responsible Officer, under the process found in clause 3.4.

5.  Responsible Officer’s Report

5.1  The Responsible Officer’s Report will:

a)   document the process used for resolving the complaint and findings relevant to the complaint. If any human rights are relevant to the complaint, the report will:

  • show the Responsible Officer has properly considered human rights in making any decision communicated within the report by:
    • identifying the human rights that may be affected by the decision; and
    • concluding whether the decision would be compatible with human rights
  • contain recommendations for the review of any policies, programs, procedures, practices or services undertaken in relation to their compatibility with human rights as an outcome of the decision

b)   note if an agreement has been reached by the parties and, if so, the terms of that agreement;

c)   if no agreement is reached by the parties, state the determination and provide reasons in support of it;

d)   state actions (including remedies as required) which, as a result of the determination, have been undertaken or are to be undertaken under the Responsible Officer’s direction;

e)   state actions (including remedies as required) which have been undertaken by other University officers at the Responsible Officer’s recommendation, and recommend any other actions outside of the Responsible Officer’s area of authority; and

f)    refer to the student’s right to review and appeal the determination (see the Student Complaint Policy).

5.2  For record-keeping purposes, the Responsible Officer will also provide the Student Complaints and Misconduct Advisor with a copy of all documentation relevant to the complaint.

5.3  If the Responsible Officer has made any recommendations for actions required to make systemic improvements to University practices, including the review of policies or procedures, the Student Complaints and Misconduct Advisor will forward recommendation(s) to the relevant officer(s). Officers who receive a Responsible Officer’s recommendation(s) will advise the Student Complaints and Misconduct Advisor and the Responsible Officer of their response to the recommendation(s) within five (5) University working days.

5.4  If a remedy is approved, then the University will implement its corrective and preventative actions as soon as possible. The staff member who authorised the remedy will keep the complainant appropriately informed of progress in implementing the remedy.

6.  External Appeal Options

6.1  The following complaints handling services provide free and impartial external appeals processes that complainants may choose to access:

a)   the Queensland Ombudsman has jurisdiction to investigate administrative actions undertaken by Queensland universities;

b)   the Human Rights Commission Queensland can investigate complaints of discrimination and human rights breaches under Queensland laws;

c)   the Australian Human Rights Commission can investigate complaints of discrimination and human rights breaches under federal laws; and

d)   the Tertiary Education, Quality and Standards Agency considers complaints about non-compliance with the Higher Education Thresholds standards or the TEQSA Act.

6.2 Students studying at the JCU Singapore campus who remain dissatisfied with the determination of their complaint by JCU may use the Singapore Government’s approved dispute resolution scheme managed by the Council for Private Education (CPE) in Singapore. The student may approach the CPE’s Student Services Centre (SSC) for help. Note: after reviewing a complaint, the SSC may refer students to the CPE Mediation – Arbitration Scheme and there may be additional costs to use this Scheme.

6.3  The University will deal promptly with all requests from external complaints agencies.

6.4  Students can contact or lodge a complaint with external complaints agencies at any time. These external agencies might expect that a complainant should first attempt to resolve their grievances internally, using the procedures of the University, unless there are exceptional circumstances or has been an unreasonable lapse of time without a response to a formal complaint.

7.  Confidentiality

7.1  The Information Privacy Act (1994) and the Information Privacy Policy states that staff and the University must only use the information provided by students for the purpose for which it was provided.  Students may disclose highly personal, sensitive or medical information as part of their formal complaint.  That information can only be used for the purposes of:

a)   resolving or determining the formal complaint; and/or

b)   referring the formal complaint under another policy or procedure of the University;

and should be treated confidentially and in accordance with the Information Privacy Policy.

8.  Reporting and Record-keeping

8.1  The Director, Student Services will provide an annual written report to VCAC and the Academic Board which will include:

a)   quantitative and qualitative analysis of the formal complaints received, referred, resolved and withdrawn, and of performance in complaint handling; and

b)   recommendations for changes to policy and practice, including with regard to the management of complaints.

8.2  Records will be kept in accordance with the University’s Records Management Policy.

Related policy instruments

Student Complaints Policy

Student Code of Conduct

Administration

NOTE:  Printed copies of this procedure are uncontrolled, and currency can only be assured at the time of printing.

Approval Details

Policy Sponsor

Academic Board

Version no

21-1

Date for next Major Review

11/06/2024

Revision History

Version

Approval date

Implementation date

Details

Author

21-1

11/06/2021

02/07/2021

Procedure established to support reviewed and amended Student Complaints Policy.

Director, Student Services

Keywords

Complaint, grievance, feedback, conduct, application, human rights, discrimination

Contact person

Director, Student Services