Student Complaints Resolution Procedure

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Section 1 - Preamble

(1) This Procedure was approved by the Vice-Chancellor on 12 November 2012 and incorporates all amendments to 27 October 2014.

(2) This Procedure is pursuant to the Student Complaints Resolution Policy.

Section 2 - Purpose

(3) To document the University's student complaints resolution process.

Section 3 - Scope

(4) This applies to concerns and complaints by current, former or prospective students as set out in the Student Complaints Resolution Policy.

Section 4 - Policy

(5) Refer to the Student Complaints Resolution Policy.

Section 5 - Procedures

(6) This Procedure provides two avenues for students to resolve their concerns or complaints within the University:

  1. Informal resolution where students discuss their concern directly with the person/s or area whose actions have led to the concern (clauses 10-12)
  2. Formal resolution of a complaint by the University (clauses 13-15).

    Students may also refer complaints or other matters to external organisations in accordance either with the particular organisation's procedures or with clauses 38-39.

(7) At any stage, and in any meeting relevant to the resolution of a complaint or concern, the student has the right to a support person other than a legal practitioner or a person who is undergoing legal training. The support person may include a Designated Complaints Contact, Harassment and Discrimination Contact Officer, student representative or Deakin University Student Association (DUSA) advocate, family member or friend. The support person cannot advocate for either party.

(8) Allegations of discrimination, sexual harassment, bullying or victimisation should in the first instance be discussed with a Harassment and Discrimination Contact Officer or with the relevant Head of School or area manager, who will:

  1. help clarify the allegations being raised
  2. ensure that the student is offered immediate support where necessary and is provided with relevant resources and information, including their rights and responsibilities
  3. discuss the options and strategies available to address the matter, including lodging a formal complaint
  4. keep confidential notes in a secure location.

(9) The Harassment and Discrimination Contact Officer or relevant Head of School or area manager will refer any serious matters to the Student Complaints Manager.

Informal resolution of student concerns

(10) Where possible, a student who has a concern about a matter covered by this Procedure should in the first instance raise it directly with the person/s or area whose action or decision has led to the concern and attempt to reach a satisfactory resolution.

(11) If a concern is informally resolved to the satisfaction of the student and agreed actions have been implemented, no further action is required and the matter is not recorded in the Complaints Handling System as a complaint.

(12) If a concern is not resolved to the satisfaction of the student, the student may lodge a complaint as set out in clauses 16-18.

Formal resolution of student complaints by the University

(13) The following matters are treated by the University as student complaints:

  1. matters about which students are dissatisfied that they wish to have formally investigated by the University, whether or not the student has first attempted to resolve the concern with the person or area whose action or decision has led to the concern
  2. all serious matters.

(14) All steps taken and decisions made as part of the formal resolution of a student complaint are, as soon as practicable, recorded in the Complaints Handling System and communicated in writing to all affected parties.

(15) A student may withdraw a complaint or appeal at any time by notifying the Student Complaints Manager in writing.

Lodging complaints

(16) To lodge a complaint, students complete and submit a Student Complaint form to a Designated Complaints Contact or the Student Complaints Manager in person, through the mail, electronically or online. The form requires:

  1. the inclusion of details of the complaint, including the background, reasons for making the complaint, details of informal attempts to resolve the matter (or the reasons for bypassing that stage, where applicable), facts relied upon and the outcome sought, names of the respondent/s and any witnesses
  2. the attachment of all supporting documentation
  3. acknowledgement that formal investigation of the complaint requires that the identity of the complainant and details of the complaint be shared with any respondent(s).

(17) Complaints must be lodged:

  1. as soon as practicable after the student first becomes aware of the matter that is the subject of the complaint
  2. no later than six months after the last incident occurred, unless there is justification for late lodgement in accordance with clause 18.

(18) A complaint lodged after six months will only be investigated where the Student Complaints Manager is satisfied that:

  1. it relates to a serious matter, or
  2. the complainant can demonstrate that circumstances outside their control prevented them from lodging the complaint within the deadline, and
  3. it is still practicable for the University to investigate the complaint.

Preliminary assessment and initiation of investigation or conciliation

(19) Within a maximum of five working days of a complaint form being lodged, the Designated Complaints Contact or Student Complaints Manager or nominee:

  1. acknowledges receipt of the complaint in writing
  2. undertakes a preliminary assessment to determine whether it should be handled under this Procedure or another process (e.g. review of grades, or special consideration)
  3. where the matter should be pursued through another process, directs the student, in writing, to the area responsible and provides that area with a written copy of the complaint and the advice provided
  4. where the matter should be pursued through this process, refers the matter to the Student Complaints Manager (where the complaint is lodged with a Designated Complaints Contact)
  5. records the matter and any action taken in the Complaints Handling System.

(20) On receipt of the complaint, the Student Complaints Manager may request further information or documentation from the complainant.

(21) Within a maximum of 10 working days of a complaint being lodged and any additional information or documentation being supplied, the Student Complaints Manager:

  1. where appropriate, may refer the matter to an informal resolution process
  2. determines the most suitable method for dealing with the complaint (e.g. by conciliation or formal investigation) in consultation with specialist areas and/or the parties as appropriate
  3. initiates the conciliation or investigation
  4. records the action taken in the Complaints Handling System
  5. notifies the student and any other party affected by the complaint in writing about the process for resolution.

Formal investigations

(22) Possible methods for conducting a formal investigation are:

  1. for most matters: formal local investigation by an investigator from the area to which the complaint relates, chosen in consultation with the Faculty Pro Vice-Chancellor or manager of the area as appropriate
  2. for serious matters: formal independent investigation by an investigator from an area other than that to which the complaint relates, chosen in consultation with relevant areas, e.g. a member of the Office of the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Planning and Integrity) or Equity and Diversity Unit, the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research Development and Training) or a Pro Vice-Chancellor from another Faculty
  3. for complex or serious matters requiring a substantial investigation: formal independent investigation by an inquiry panel appointed by the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Planning and Integrity) on the advice of the Student Complaints Manager and in consultation with relevant areas.

(23) Investigators and members of an inquiry panel should have no prior involvement in the matter and have the capacity and seniority to consider the issues and provide appropriate recommendations.

(24) Investigators and members of inquiry panels must:

  1. act fairly and impartially
  2. exercise independent judgement
  3. conduct themselves in a professional and courteous manner
  4. treat the process as confidential and only disclose information to others on a 'need-to-know' basis
  5. disclose actual, perceived or potential conflicts of interest as soon as they become apparent.

(25) The investigator or inquiry panel investigates a complaint in a timely manner and seeks whatever information, advice or assistance is necessary to reach a recommendation.

(26) The investigator or inquiry panel may investigate the matter on merit and/or process as appropriate.

(27) An investigation on process considers the following procedural elements to determine whether the original action or decision was justified:

  1. procedural fairness — including whether the person responsible for the action or decision:
    1. was biased in favour of a particular outcome
    2. provided each person with an opportunity to be heard
    3. based their action or decision on evidence
  2. compliance with relevant procedures or legislation
  3. whether the person taking the action or decision was authorised to do so.

(28) Each party is provided with an opportunity to present their case and, where appropriate, to comment on any information presented during the investigation.

(29) Students and respondents are expected to cooperate with the investigation, attend any meetings and behave in a reasonable and courteous manner.

(30) After completing an investigation, the investigator or inquiry panel prepares a written report regarding the determination/s and further action/s (as appropriate) as set out below:

Determination Action
a. Complaint substantiated on the evidence Recommendation referred to the appropriate staff member for immediate action
b. Complaint not substantiated on the evidence No further action required
c. Relevant procedure followed No further action required
d. Breaches occurred with respect to procedural fairness, compliance and/or authority to act Matter referred to the responsible staff member for determination in accordance with the relevant procedure from the point at which the breach occurred
e. Matter should have been dealt with in accordance with another Deakin procedure Matter referred for urgent consideration by an appropriate staff member
f. There is insufficient evidence to reach a determination Matter terminated, but may be reopened if further evidence becomes available
g. There is evidence to suggest that the complaint is frivolous or lacking substance Recommendations made which may include referral for disciplinary action
h. There is evidence to suggest that the complaint may be vexatious Matter referred to the staff member in charge of the relevant area or process (e.g. disciplinary process) for consideration

(31) The Student Complaints Manager provides all parties involved in the investigation with a written statement detailing the outcome of the investigation and the reasons for the outcome, usually within five working days of the determination being finalised.

(32) All parties are referred to appropriate internal and/or external avenues for appeal and provided with information about procedures and timelines for lodging an appeal.

Appeals

(33) Either party may appeal a determination under clause 29 within 20 working days of formal written notification of the outcome of the investigation.

(34) Appeals should be submitted to the Student Complaints Manager on a Deakin University Student Complaint Appeal Form.

(35) Appeals from a determination resulting from a formal local investigation:

  1. may be made on one or more of the following grounds:
    1. breach of procedural fairness
    2. breach of compliance
    3. breach in relation to authority to act
    4. availability of substantial new evidence relating to the original complaint that was not reasonably available to the investigator at the time the disputed finding was reached
  2. are dealt with via a formal independent investigation in accordance with the procedures set out in clauses 22-32.

(36) Appeals from a determination resulting from a formal independent investigation:

  1. may only be made internally if there is substantial new evidence available relating to the original complaint that was not reasonably available to the investigator at the time the disputed finding was reached
  2. are dealt with via a new formal independent investigation in accordance with the procedures set out in clauses 22-32.

(37) Appeals on procedural grounds against a determination resulting from a formal independent investigation may be made to an appropriate external organisation in accordance with clauses 38-39.

Formal resolution of student complaint by external organisation

(38) Students can seek an external review of final University decisions by the Victorian Ombudsman. Students may also access other external organisations such as the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and the Australian Human Rights Commission.

(39) Where the University is aware that a complaint has been lodged by a student with an external organisation, the matter is recorded in the Complaints Handling System.

Section 6 - Definitions

(40) For the purpose of this Procedure:

  1. Bullying: any repeated unreasonable behaviour that causes a risk to the health or safety of another person
  2. Complainant: a person who lodges a complaint
  3. Complaint: a properly lodged expression of dissatisfaction requiring formal resolution
  4. Concern: an expression of dissatisfaction that can be resolved directly with the person or area involved without the need for formal action
  5. Designated Complaints Contacts: members of staff in Faculties and other areas who are designated to provide advice and receive complaints as stipulated in the Student Complaints Resolution Policy.
  6. Complaints Handling System: system for recording and monitoring the progress of student complaints
  7. Harassment and Discrimination Contact Officer: a person who provides information and support to an individual who believes they may have been subjected to or accused of unlawful conduct
  8. Respondent: a person who is the subject of a complaint
  9. Serious matter: includes a matter that (a) involves an offence under law (e.g. assault); (b) incurs on the University an obligation to act (e.g. discrimination, sexual harassment, harassment, vilification, bullying, victimisation); or (c) is otherwise considered to present a significant risk to the University or its members.