Student Complaint Management Policy and Procedures

Policy Student Services Student Complaint Management Policy and Procedures

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Intent

To state the policy, including the principles to be applied and the procedures to be followed, in the management of student complaints and appeals in order to resolve complaints and appeals fairly, promptly and efficiently, and to improve University practice.

Scope

Any current or former JCU student can make a complaint or submit an appeal under this policy.

JCU or any JCU unit, staff member or student can be the respondent to a complaint under this policy.

When a complaint or appeal falls within the provisions of another University policy, then the complaint will be dealt with under that policy.

If a complaint has been dealt with as a formal complaint under another University policy, the same complaint cannot be the subject of a formal complaint under this policy. If a decision about a formal complaint has been the subject of an appeal processed under another University policy, the same decision cannot be the subject of an appeal under this policy.

Nothing in this policy is intended to exclude or in any way affect the application of the legislation in force in the place where a decision, act or omission leading to a Complaint, arises or occurs.

Definitions

Definition of terms used in this policy are as per the Policy Glossary with the following additions:

Complainant: A current or former JCU student who makes a complaint.

Complaint: A complaint is a student’s expression of dissatisfaction that their rights, existing interests and/or reasonable expectations have been adversely and unjustifiably impacted because of an action, decision or omission within the control or responsibility of the University. Any circumstance related to University operations, services, and decisions, or the conduct of its staff, its students, or people associated with the University or using University facilities may be the subject of a complaint.

Contact Officer: A Contact Officer means a Contact Officer appointed under the Discrimination and Harassment policy or where no Contact Officers have been appointed, then the Discrimination Advisor under the same policy.

Discrimination: Discrimination means discrimination as defined in the Discrimination and Harassment Policy.

Formal complaint: A formal complaint is a complaint that is submitted in writing to the University in accordance with clauses 2.1 to 2.4 of the Procedures in this Policy.

Harassment: Harassment means harassment as defined in the Discrimination and Harassment Policy

Informal complaint: An informal complaint is where a complainant seeks to resolve the matter before a formal complaint has been submitted under this Policy.

Investigation Panel: A panel formed to investigate research candidature matters.

JCU Student Association Student Advocate: A JCU Student Association Student Advocate includes any staff member of the Student Association so designated by either the Cairns or Townsville Directors of the JCU Student Association.

Natural justice: Natural justice, also known as procedural fairness, is concerned with the procedures used by a decision-maker, rather than the decision reached. It requires a fair and transparent procedure be used when making a decision, which includes the respondent being informed of the complaint. All parties to a complaint (complainant and respondent) must be afforded natural justice. Natural justice requires:

  • The right to be heard;
  • The right to be treated without bias;
  • A decision based on evidence.

These rules involve parties to a complaint having a reasonable opportunity to prepare and present a case and to have their cases considered justly.

Respondent: A person or entity about whom a complaint is made, which may include a student, a staff member, a unit of the University, the University and/or a person or entity associated with the University.

Responsible Officer: The University staff member who is responsible for the determination of a formal complaint.

Staff member: A member of staff of James Cook University, James Cook University Brisbane or James Cook University Singapore.

Student Appeal: A student appeal is a statement by a student that is submitted to the University in accordance with clauses 3.1 to 3.3 of the Procedures in this Policy.

Student Appeal Panel: A panel formed to consider a student appeal.

University working day: University working day means a day other than Saturday or Sunday, or a public holiday or a Vice-Chancellor declared University holiday in the place or places in which an act or event (including the making of a determination or decision) is to be done under this Policy.

Policy and Procedures

Principles

  1. JCU is committed to having an effective system of complaint management that responds to complaints in a positive way and contributes to the continuous improvement of the teaching and learning environment.
  2. This Policy and related materials and forms will be promoted to and readily accessible by staff and students, including through the JCU website.
  3. A student has the right to make a complaint, and to submit an appeal on reasonable grounds about the determination of their complaint, to the University. Complainants will have an opportunity to formally present their case at minimal cost to themselves.
  4. Students are encouraged to resolve their complaint informally in the first instance. Should a student deem that informal resolution is not possible, appropriate or satisfactory; the student may submit a formal complaint.
  5. A complainant can appeal the outcome of a formal complaint, or of a determination under another Policy that does not have an appeal process, with regard to the procedural fairness of the complaint resolution process.
  6. A complainant may at any time withdraw their complaint, by notice in writing to the Director, Student Services. If a complaint is withdrawn, any processes arising out of the complaint may, at the discretion of the Director, Student Services, be either continued or discontinued.
  7. A complainant will not be treated less favourably, victimised, or otherwise discriminated against as a result of making or withdrawing a complaint.
  8. Complaints will be resolved in a timely manner.
  9. University officers must take or recommend appropriate action to discharge any of the University’s duty of care obligations which arise during the complaint resolution process.
  10. Confidentiality must be maintained to the greatest possible extent at all stages of the complaint management process. Communication must be limited to persons to whom disclosure is consistent with their official position and responsibility, or with specific responsibility to assist in the resolution of the complaint or appeal.
  11. A complainant will be referred for assistance in preparing and submitting a complaint or appeal to appropriate advocacy options and support services. A complainant or respondent may at any stage seek the assistance of a support person, other than a person acting in the capacity of a lawyer. Note: JCU Student Association Student Advocates are available to all JCU students to assist in the complaint process.
  12. Parties to a complaint will conduct themselves honestly and courteously and seek to achieve an amicable resolution of the complaint where possible.
  13. The complaint resolution process will be conducted in accordance with the principles of natural justice.
  14. Resources such as training, documented procedures, guidelines, templates and supporting information technology systems will be available to staff who will be involved in responding to student complaints.
  15. Parties to a formal complaint or student appeal will be kept informed of the progress of the complaint or appeal, and, within a reasonable timeframe, will be provided with written advice of the University’s determination(s) in relation to the complaint or appeal and the reason for the determination(s).
  16. The availability of the University’s complaint management processes does not remove a person’s right to contact, lodge a complaint with, or seek a review by an appropriate external organisation or to take action under relevant laws.

Procedures

1. Informal complaint resolution

1.1 Students are encouraged to resolve their complaint informally in the first instance by making an initial approach to the relevant staff member or student to discuss the matter. This informal method of resolution allows the parties to explore options and make their own decisions about how to resolve a complaint rather than having a third party make and enforce a decision.

1.2 A student wishing to make a complaint is encouraged to seek advice from a person independent of the complaint and knowledgeable about this complaint resolution process, such as a JCU Student Association Student Advocate or an appropriate staff member (including a Contact Officer). Together with the independent person, the student should:

  • consider whether the complaint is reasonable;
  • clarify the details of the matter, including the events that occurred, the basis for the complaint and the remedy sought;
  • consider and confirm whether the complaint is best resolved informally or whether it requires the student to submit a formal complaint.

2. Formal complaint resolution

2.1  If a student’s complaint cannot be resolved as outlined in section 1, the student may make a formal complaint.

2.2 A formal complaint must be submitted in writing to the Director, Student Services.

2.3 The University will not accept a formal complaint 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, other than in exceptional circumstances as determined by the Director, Student Services.

2.4 The formal complaint statement must include, where relevant, the following details:

  • The name of the person (or University Unit) about whom the complaint is made;
  • A description of the events that have occurred, including efforts made to informally resolve the complaint;
  • The basis for the complaint;
  • The name and contact details of any witness or supporting party;
  • The outcome the complainant seeks;
  • The name of a JCU Student Association Student Advocate or support person who will accompany the student to meetings or hearings which are arranged.

Relevant documentary evidence should be attached to and referenced within the statement.

2.5 Students are encouraged when making a formal complaint to seek assistance from a JCU Student Association Student Advocate, an appropriate staff member, or, in relation to allegations of discrimination and/or harassment, from a Contact Officer.

2.6 The Director, Student Services will promptly acknowledge receipt of a formal complaint. If the Director, Student Services determines that a submission is not made in accordance with clauses 2.1-2.4 it will be referred back to the complainant. An anonymous complaint will be recorded: further action with regard to that complaint will depend on the ability to consider the complaint without being able to seek to verify claims made in it through further contact with the complainant.

2.7 The Director, Student Services may make an assessment that a complaint is frivolous, trivial or vexatious, 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.

2.8 Subject to clause 2.7, the Director, Student Services will refer a Formal Complaint within five (5) days of its receipt.

Where the complaint falls within the provisions of another University policy, the complaint will be referred to be dealt with under that policy.

Where the complaint is to be managed under this policy, the complaint will be referred to the relevant College Dean, Director or equivalent, or, with regard to research candidature matters, the Dean of Graduate Research (the “Responsible Officer”). Where the Director, Student Services determines that a conflict of interest or apprehension of bias exists, the next most senior officer will be appointed as the Responsible Officer.

The Director, Student Services will advise the complainant of the Responsible Officer, the date of referral of the complaint and anticipated time-frame for response.

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

  • nominating an appropriate staff member to assist;
  • meeting with the parties (with their respective support person), together or separately, and/or;
  • providing for mediation, conciliation or investigation of the complaint by an appropriately trained and independent person.

The Responsible Officer shall ensure all parties are afforded natural justice, which includes providing the respondent with the opportunity to respond in writing to the complaint.

Where the complaint relates to an allegation of discrimination or harassment, the Responsible Officer shall seek advice from the. Dean Learning, Teaching and Student Engagement

2.10 The Responsible Officer will consider whether or not the complaint is substantiated and the appropriate response.

2.11  The Responsible Officer will report in writing on the complaint resolution process and the determination concerning the complaint (“the Responsible Officer’s Report”) to the complainant, any respondent and the Director, Student Services within not more than fifteen (15) University working days of receipt of the complaint, other than where the Director, Student Services has approved an extension (see 2.12 and 2.13)

The Responsible Officer’s Report will:

  • Document the process used for resolving the complaint and findings relevant to the complaint.
  • Note if an agreement has been reached by the parties and, if so, the terms of that agreement.
  • If no agreement is reached by the parties, state the determination and provide reasons in support of it.
  • Where the Responsible Officer has authority to do so, state any actions (including remedies if appropriate) which, as a result of the determination, have been undertaken or are to be undertaken under the Responsible Officer’s direction.
  • Recommend actions (including remedies if appropriate) which are not within the Responsible Officer’s authority but which the Responsible Officer considers are required as a result of the determination.
  • Refer to the student’s right to appeal—see section 3 below.

For record-keeping purposes, the Responsible Officer will also provide the Director, Student Services with a copy of all documentation relevant to the complaint.

If the Responsible Officer has made any recommendations for actions required as a result of the determination, including the review of policies or procedures, the Director, Student Services will consider the recommendations and take action as appropriate.

2.12 Where the Director, Student Services makes the assessment that, due to the nature of the complaint, the Responsible Officer will require more than fifteen (15) days to reach a determination, the Director, Student Services when referring the allegation to the Responsible Officer may nominate a longer timeframe for the Responsible Officer to provide a report.

2.13 Where a determination has not been able to be reached by the due date, the Responsible Officer may seek an extension from the Director, Student Services of the time required to provide a report. The request for an extension will outline the steps already taken and those steps still to be taken to finalise the complaint resolution process. If an extension is granted, the Director, Student Services will advise the complainant of the new timeframe anticipated for response.

2.14 Where a Responsible Officer fails to act with regard to clauses 2.8-2.13, the Director, Student Services will refer the complaint to the next most senior officer, who then becomes the Responsible Officer. The Director, Student Services will advise the complainant of the new Responsible Officer and date of referral of the complaint.

3. Student appeal process

3.1 If a complainant, after receiving a determination of their formal complaint, believes they have grounds for a student appeal, they may initiate that appeal. The grounds for a student appeal are limited to a breach of natural justice having occurred in the resolution of a formal complaint.

3.2 Student appeals under this policy must be submitted in writing to the Director, Student Services within twenty (20) University working days of the date of the notice to the complainant of the determination of the formal complaint.

3.3 The student appeal statement should:

  • Identify the determinations which are being appealed;
  • Explain, with relevant evidence, why the process used by the decision-maker, and/or the determination itself, was procedurally unfair, and why a fair procedure might have led to a different determination; and
  • Attach relevant documentation that supports this explanation.

A student appeal statement must not exceed ten (10) pages in length.

3.4  Students are encouraged, when preparing a student appeal statement and in the course of the appeal process, to seek assistance from a JCU Student Association Student Advocate or an appropriate staff member.

3.5 The Director, Student Services will promptly acknowledge receipt of a student appeal. A submission not made in accordance with clauses 3.1-3.3 will be referred back to the complainant.

3.6 The Director, Student Services will prepare a set of the existing documents related to a determination that is subject to an appeal and provide those documents to the Review Officer and/or Appeal Panel as appropriate. Where a student appeal is made against a determination under another policy, those who were responsible for the determination will provide all relevant documents to the Director, Student Services upon the latter’s request.

3.7  If the complaint determination which is the subject of the appeal was made by a College Dean, Director or equivalent (otherwise, see clause 3.10), the Director, Student Services will refer the appeal within two (2) University working days of its receipt for review to the relevant Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

3.8  The Review Officer will provide a written response (“Review Officer’s Report”) to the parties to the appeal and to the Director, Student Services within five (5) University working days of the referral, advising:

  • whether or not procedural fairness was afforded the complainant when considering the formal complaint and/or making the determination, providing the reasons for this conclusion.
  • whether or not the determination of the formal complaint is confirmed.

3.9 The Director, Student Services will provide the parties to the appeal with a copy of the Review Officer’s Report within two (2) University working days of the receipt of that report and:

  • If the determination of the formal complaint is not confirmed, refer the formal complaint, including the Review Officer’s Report, back to the Responsible Officer for the complaint to be re-heard in accordance with the procedures outlined in Sections 2 and 3. The Director, Student Services will also invite the complainant to provide, within ten (10) University working days of that invitation, an additional written statement of no more than ten (10) pages in length, for consideration by the Responsible Officer.
  • If the determination is confirmed, ask the complainant to advise in writing, within ten (10) University working days, if they wish to continue with their appeal and, if the complainant does wish to continue the appeal, invite the complainant to provide an additional written statement of no more than ten (10) pages in length, within ten (10) University working days of that invitation, for consideration by a Student Appeal Panel.

3.10 The Director, Student Services will convene a Student Appeal Panel within ten (10) University working days in the event of:

  • a complainant advising they wish to continue with an appeal following the receipt of a Review Officer’s Report; or
  • the submission of an appeal against a determination of a formal complaint made by a Deputy Vice Chancellor or more senior officer.

The membership of the Student Appeal Panel will be in accordance with Schedule A, clause 2, unless the complaint concerns a research candidature matter, in which case the Student Appeal Panel membership will be in accordance with Schedule A, clause 2.1.

3.11 The Student Appeal Panel will consider the complainant’s student appeal statement and any complainant’s response to the Review Officer’s Report. The Student Appeal Panel will determine whether or not the complainant has made a case for the original determination to be reconsidered. If there is a case to consider, the Student Appeal Panel will make reasonable inquiries or otherwise investigate the matter before making a decision on that case.

3.12 The Student Appeal Panel can uphold or dismiss the student appeal.

3.13 The Student Appeal Panel will provide advice in writing of its decision to the parties to the appeal and to the Director, Student Services within five (5) University working days of making the decision. The Student Appeal Panel’s advice will:

  • Document the deliberations and findings of the Student Appeal Panel.
  • State its decision and provide reasons for it.
  • Refer the complainant to their right to access avenues for external appeal — see section 5 below.

The Student Appeal Panel should also note any policy or procedure that the Panel believes, as a result of its deliberations, needs to be reviewed.

For record-keeping purposes, the Student Appeal Panel will provide the Director, Student Services with a copy of all documentation relevant to the appeal.

3.14 If the Student Appeal Panel upholds the student appeal and sets aside the determination of the formal complaint, the Director, Student Services will refer the formal complaint, including the Student Appeal Panel advice, back to the Responsible Officer for the complaint to be re-heard in accordance with the procedures outlined in Section 2. The Director, Student Services will also invite the complainant to provide, within ten (10) University working days of that invitation, an additional written statement of no more than ten (10) pages in length, for consideration by the Responsible Officer.

4. Remedies

4.1 If a complaint is upheld, the Responsible Officer must give consideration to an appropriate remedy and should take into consideration any remedial action the complainant has sought.

4.2 A remedy must be within the authority of the staff member who has determined the complaint or considered the appeal, or, if not, recommended by that staff member to another staff member who has the authority to grant such a remedy and approved by that authorised staff member.

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

5. Avenues for External Appeal

5.1  A student has the right to contact or lodge a complaint with external organisations at any time. The University notes that many external bodies advise that, ordinarily, students should first attempt to resolve their grievances internally using the procedures of the University before seeking external assistance.

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

  • The Queensland Ombudsman has jurisdiction to investigate administrative actions undertaken by Queensland universities. Students may contact the office of the Queensland Ombudsman at any time throughout or after the complaint process. Generally the Ombudsman only investigates claims once all internal appeals processes with the University are determined and internal appeal avenues are exhausted.
  • The Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland can investigate complaints of discrimination. Students may contact the Commission at any time throughout or after the complaint process.
  • The Australian Human Rights Commission can investigate complaints of discrimination and human rights breaches. Students may contact the Commission at any time throughout or after the complaint process.

5.3 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.

5.4 The University will deal promptly with all requests from the Queensland Ombudsman, Australian Human Rights Commission and similar bodies related to complaints and appeals.

6. International students studying in Australia

6.1 Where the complainant is an International Student visa holder, the University will only report to Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations against the students ‘Confirmation of Enrolment’, if otherwise required to, once the internal complaint management process as per sections 2 to 3 of this policy has been concluded.

7. International students studying in Singapore

7.1  Where the outcome of a student complainant or student appeal for a Singapore Student Visa holder might entail the reversal of the restrictions or conditions on his/her enrolment, including suspension or termination, the University will not report to the Singapore Immigration Check Point and Authority about a student’s non-attendance until the internal complaint management process as per sections 2 to 3 of this policy has been concluded

8. Confidentiality

8.1  Maintenance of confidentiality to the greatest possible extent at all stages of these procedures is essential to the best interests of the parties to a complaint. Communication about the complaint must be limited to persons to whom disclosure is consistent with official position and responsibilities.

8.2  Many accusations are potentially defamatory. In order that defences to a defamation action are available to the University or to persons involved in the grievance, the following procedures must be observed:

  • a person making a complaint under these procedures must act honestly and in good faith;
  • any staff member or student wishing to communicate with another person about a matter coming under these procedures must protect the privacy of all personal information;
  • all correspondence to be marked "personal and confidential";
  • all persons involved in these procedures must act within their roles and guidelines of James Cook University.

8.3  In certain circumstances the University may be legally required to release confidential information.

9. Reporting and Record-keeping

9.1 The Director, Student Services will provide a quarterly written report to VCAC and the Academic Board which will include:

  • Quantitative and qualitative analysis of the formal complaints and Student Appeals received, referred, resolved and withdrawn, and of performance in complaint handling;
  • Recommendations for changes to policy and practice, including with regard to the management of complaints.

9.2 Records will be kept in accordance with relevant University policy.

Schedule A: Composition of Panels

1. Student Appeal Panel

Other than where specified below, a Student Appeal Panel will comprise

  • the Chair, Academic Board, who will act as Chair; and
  • two staff members who will be nominated by the Director, Student Services. The two staff will not be from the college/directorate against which a complaint is made. Where possible, staff members will be selected from outside of the college/division against which a complaint is made.
1.1 Student Appeal Panel – Research Candidature Matter

Where the formal complaint concerns a research candidature matter, a Student Appeal Panel will comprise:

  • three staff members who are Level 1 members of the University’s Register of Supervisors. Where possible, staff members will be selected from outside of the college/division against which a complaint is made.

1 “In general terms, personal information is any information about an identifiable individual, and includes a person’s name, address, telephone number, date of birth, marital status, employment history, criminal history, financial and medical details, and information about the person’s family and relationships." Queensland Ombudsman’s Office, Better Decisions Project, Nov 2005.

Related documents and legislation

The University complies with all the requirements of the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (Cwlth) and the National Code of Practice for Registration Authorities and Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students.

The University notes AS ISO 10002-2006 Customer satisfaction—Guidelines for complaints handling in organizations.

Code of Conduct

Enrolment Requirements for International Student Visa-Holders

Information Privacy Policy

Records Management

Student Conduct Policy

Staff Guidelines

Administration

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

Approval Details

Policy Sponsor

Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic

Approval Authority

Academic Board

Date for next Major Review

13/10/2016

Revision History

NOTE: A minor amendment will not result in a change of the next major review date.

Approval date - the date the approval authority approved the establishment, minor or major amendment or disestablishment

Implementation Date - the date the policy was published in the Policy Library and is the date the policy takes effect

Version

Approval date

Implementation date

Details

Author

17-325/03/201727/04/2017Further edits to align with changes made in versions 17-1 and 17-2 relating to merit reviews: removal of Clause 1 from Schedule A; Schedule A re-numbered.Manager Student Complaints and Quality Improvement
17-26/03/20177/03/2017

Removal of last sentence at 2.4 and removal of 2.10 (both referencing HDR Merit review process); numbering updated.

Quality, Standards and Policy Officer
17-110/02/201715/02/2017Removal of clause 3 and second sentence of clause 4 (in the procedures section) referencing HDR Merit reviews; numbering updated.Dean Graduate Research School

16-1

23/08/2016

24/08/2016

Minor amendments to align with Council approved Academic and Student Delegations Register

Associate Director, Enrolment and Client Services

15-1

24/06/2015

 

Policy sponsor and approval authority amended to reflect approved policy framework

Quality, Standards and Policy

14-1

5/06/2014

 

Minor amendments to replace Registrar role with Director, Student Services

 

11-1

13/10/2011

13/02/2012

Approved by Council

 

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