Complaints Resolution Policy

Document Number000745
Date Approved27 November 2006
Date Last Amended26 May 2009

1.0 Introduction

The University recognises an individual’s right to make a complaint about the conduct of University operations, services, staff, students, or people associated with the university or using university facilities, where that individual’s interests appear to have been adversely and unjustifiably impacted by such conduct.

The University encourages an organisational culture that responds to such complaints in an open and constructive manner, and in accordance with principles of procedural fairness.

The University is committed to the maintenance and improvement of a system of complaints management which facilitates good administration and a safe and cooperative environment for work and learning.

This policy must be read in conjunction with the Complaints Resolution Procedure 000898 and Complaints Resolution Guideline 000899.

2.0 Policy Intent

The objective of the complaints process is to provide administrative procedures by which complaints can be resolved expeditiously, via the best applicable means, and at the local level where possible.

The objective of a resolution under the complaints process is to assure a fair process, but not necessarily a specific outcome.

The effectiveness of this policy relies upon the cooperation of all parties to a complaint.

3.0 Relevant Definitions

In the context of this document:

complainant means the person making the complaint;

complaint is the informal or formal expression of a concern in regard to some aspect of the conduct of University operations, services, staff, students, or people associated with the university or using university facilities, where the complainant’s interests have been, or appear to have been, adversely and unjustifiably impacted by such conduct, and the complainant wishes to seek redress. Complaints may be based on disputes, mismanagement and misconduct;

disputes means differences relating to: student admissions, assessment, exclusion of students, effectiveness of procedures, or concerns raised by staff or students;

misconduct (including research misconduct) means unethical behaviour; plagiarism; soft marking; conflict of interest; favouritism; improper discrimination; fraud; bribery; bullying behaviour; dishonesty (including fabrication of data, falsification of data, misleading ascription of authorship); ongoing verbal abuse or harassment;

mismanagement means unreasonable decisions; inconsistent application of policy; wrong advice leading to disadvantage; procedural unfairness; failure to provide rights; failing to consider relevant matters; and negligence;

Faculty and Division Complaints Officer means a staff member who is appointed to:

  1. advise on and assist with the resolution of informal complaints; or
  2. receive formal complaints in writing or document the formal complaint; and
  3. notify the formal complaint to the University Complaints Manager;

formal complaint means a concern which has not been resolved informally, and which is then set out in writing, and forwarded to the University Complaints Manager;

informal complaint means a concern, dissatisfaction, or frustration which can be resolved informally and without the need for further action;

procedural fairness / natural justice means the principles of administrative law which will be afforded to all parties in the management of a complaint, and involves all of the following elements:

  • ensuring that all parties to a complaint know what to expect during the complaint handling process;
  •  carrying out the complaint handling process in a transparent manner;
  • providing all parties with equal opportunity to participate in the process;
  • treating all parties in a respectful manner;
  • protecting all parties from retaliation, victimisation, adverse impacts or vexatious claims;
  • providing reasons for decisions made.

public interest disclosure means a confidential disclosure of corrupt conduct, maladministration, substantial waste of public money or contravention of the Government Information (Public Access) (GIPA) Act 2009 by the University or its staff, which is subject to the protections provide by the Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994 (NSW);

respondent means the person who is the subject of the complaint;

University Complaints Manager (or their nominee) means the officer of the University who has overall responsibility to manage and respond to complaints; to oversee the University’s complaints system; and to identify and investigate systematic problems that may give rise to complaints, and recommend organisational improvements.

4.0 Overview of the Complaints Management Process

4.1      The process applies to all members of the University community, and provides a single general system to deal with complaints based on disputes, mismanagement and misconduct.

4.2      All complaints under this policy will be managed by the University Complaints Manager.

4.3      Complaints will not be dealt with under more than one internal process at the same time. Wherever possible, the issue(s) of the complaint will be dealt with in totality by the Complaints Management process.

4.4      A complaint which, due to its nature and subject, would otherwise be managed through another prescribed process will be referred by the Complaints Manager to the appropriate area of the University. These include (but are not limited to) the following:

  1. grade appeals, e.g. Appeal Against Final Result Procedure;
  2. industrial matters, e.g. under the provisions of the appropriate University Workplace Agreement;
  3. student misconduct matters, e.g. referral to a Student Academic Conduct Officer (SACO);
  4. Research Misconduct e.g. Guidelines for the Investigation of Allegations of Research Misconduct.

In the above cases the Complaints Resolution Policy will only apply where there is a complaint that the applicable policy or procedure in question has not been properly followed or the concern has arisen as the direct and demonstrable result of interpersonal conflict or a prejudicial relationship.

4.5      Complaints will not normally be accepted if they are greater than 12 months old.

4.6      Complaints will be acknowledged, and the issues clarified to determine how and where the complaint is best handled.

4.7      It is expected that complainants and respondents will cooperate in good faith with the complaints process.

4.8      Complaints will be managed in a manner that:

  1. assists in the timely resolution of the complaint by facilitating early resolution at the lowest level possible;
  2. ensures the principles of procedural fairness are applied to all involved in the complaints process;
  3. ensures privacy and confidentiality are maintained for all parties involved in the complaints process;
  4. ensures that individuals involved in the handling of a complaint or investigating or adjudicating on a complaint, must not act in any complaint in which they have a conflict of interest;
  5. provides the University, or a particular section, of the University with the means to identify ways of improving the services it provides.

4.9      A complainant may withdraw their complaint at any time.

4.10    If a formal complaint has not been resolved within a reasonable timeframe, or if the processes used to resolve the complaint have been defective, a request for a review of the procedures can be lodged by the complainant.

4.11    At any time, a complainant who is dissatisfied with the outcome of a complaint, or the processes used to resolve the complaint, can appeal to an external agency such as the NSW Ombudsman.

4.12    If the complaint is taken to an external agency, the University may cease the internal process.

4.13    The University will take all reasonable steps to protect those who make public disclosures from any detrimental action under the Public Disclosures Act 1994.

4.14    Information about this policy and the complaint procedures will be widely disseminated within the University.

4.15    Key staff will be provided with training organised by the University.

5.0 Essential Supporting Documents

Complaints Resolution Procedure 000898
Complaints Resolution Guideline 000899

6.0 Related Documents

Academic Staff Enterprise Agreement 2010
Code of Conduct 000059
Course Management and Assessment Procedure Manual 000996 (Section 20 - Review of Final Results in a Course)
General Staff Enterprise Agreement 2010
Investigation of Allegations of Research Misconduct Guidelines 000872
Student Misconduct Rule 000935
Teachers Enterprise Agreement 2010
Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW)
Child Protection (Prohibited Employment) Act 1998 (NSW)
Crimes Act 1900 (NSW)
Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA) (NSW)
Health Records Information Privacy Act 2002 (NSW)
Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988 (NSW)
NSW Ombudsman Complaint Handling at Universities: Best Practice Guidelines 2006
Ombudsman Act 1974 (NSW)
Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 (NSW)
Public Disclosures Act 1994 (NSW)
Public Finance and Audit Act 1983 (NSW)
Work, Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW)
Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Commonwealth)
Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (Commonwealth)
Education Services for Overseas Students National Code (Commonwealth)
Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Commonwealth)
Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Commonwealth)
The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 (Commonwealth) 

Approval AuthorityVice-Chancellor
Date Approved27 November 2006
Date Last Amended26 May 2009
Date for Review26 May 2012
Policy SponsorDirector Council Services and Chancellery
Policy OwnerUniversity Complaints Manager
Policy ContactUniversity Complaints Manager
Amendment History

Policy Sponsor modified from Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic and Global Relations) to Director Council Services and Chancellery, to reflect structural changes, and updated Enterprise Agreements, The Secretariat, 19 August 2013.

Minor amendment - Replacement of Appeal Against Final Result Procedure 000261 with Clause 20 in Course Management and Assessment Procedure Manual 000996, effective from 1 January 2013, approved Academic Senate Resolution AS13:057, 22 May 2013.

Minor amendments to clause 3.0, 4.13 and 6.0 to reflect changes from 'Protected disclosures' to 'Public Interest Disclosures', effected by Governance and Policy Unit 14 May 2012

23 August 2011 - Administrative amendments due to implementation of Student Misconduct Rule which replaced Student Discipline Rules effective 25 July 2011.

Updated FOI to GIPA provisions, 28 September 2010.

Revised policy approved: Vice-Chancellor, 26 May 2009

Updated: Vice-Chancellor, 28 August 2007

Amendment to definitions, 15 April 2007

Amended: Vice-Chancellor, 27 November 2006

Approved: Vice-Chancellor, 29 March 2006