Student Complaint Management Policy

1. Objectives
2. Principles
3. Definitions
4. Scope of the policy
5. Support and/or representation during the complaint process
6. Informal dialogue regarding a complaint
7. Formal communications
8. Formal complaint
9. Progression of complaint
10. Investigation and/or review of formal complaint
11. Notification of outcome of complaint
12. Withdrawal of complaint
13. Malicious or vexatious complaints
14. Other avenues of complaint

1. Objectives

In line with its Mission, the University aims to promote and maintain a supportive learning environment within which students can optimise their personal, academic and professional development.  The aim of the Student Complaint Management Policy is to provide fair and equitable processes which enable student concerns to be addressed as quickly as possible and at a level as close to the source as possible.

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2. Principles

The Student Complaint Management Policy is based on the following principles:

2.1 All actions under this policy are to be based on values that are consistent with the University Mission and to be underpinned by principles of mutual respect, natural justice and procedural fairness for and by all students, staff and others who may be involved.

2.2 All parties to a complaint have the right to be:

  1. heard;
  2. treated without bias or pre-judgement;
  3. informed of any complaint made which relates to them;
  4. provided with an opportunity to respond to any complaint pertaining to them;
  5. informed about the status of any complaint which has been formally raised and to which they are a party or in which they are named.

2.3 A person or committee handling a complaint will:

  1. deal with the matter as expeditiously as possible, consistent with the need to act fairly;
  2. determine the matter on the basis of evidence adduced by the student, the respondent and/or the University, act fairly, and proceed in the way that is appropriate;
  3. give all relevant parties a copy of, or an opportunity to inspect, all documentation relevant to the subject matter of the complaint;
  4. give the parties a reasonable opportunity to make a case or response in writing and/or to appear before that person or committee;
  5. give the parties at least five working days’ written notice of the date, time and place of any meeting or hearing regarding the complaint;
  6. permit a student and any support person whom a student appoints under Section 5 to be present at any meeting or hearing regarding the complaint, except during interviews with the respondent or witnesses and when members of a committee wish to confer privately among themselves or to consider their decision;
  7. conduct any meeting in closed session and treat the complaint in strict confidence, except as necessary for the discharge of that person’s or committee’s responsibilities or as otherwise required by law.

2.4 Students and staff will familiarise themselves with and adhere to all relevant University regulations, associated written procedures and standards of conduct.

2.5 The University will take all reasonable steps to prevent students suffering any disadvantage (including through victimisation) as a result of lodging a complaint.

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3. Definitions

Complainant means the student who has initiated the complaint.

Respondent means a person or organisational unit against whom a complaint has been raised under this policy.

Appropriate confidentiality refers to situations when a senior officer of the University may disclose to another person as much information as is necessary for the explicit purposes of clarification or assistance to enable the complaints process to be facilitated.

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4. Scope of the policy

4.1 This policy will apply to management of complaints arising between parties including:

  1. student: student
  2. student: staff member
  3. student: external agency - such as those agencies co-operating with the University in its professional experience or community engagement placements, such as, clinical, school, business placements, provided that the student should first have exhausted avenues of resolution under any applicable complaint or complaint handling procedure of the co-operating agency.

4.2 This policy applies in cases other than those addressed in other specific University policies or regulations, for example, the Student Appeals Policy and Research and Professional Doctorate Degree Regulations, or in legislation applicable within the relevant jurisdiction.

4.3 Not every concern or complaint can or will be answered to each student’s satisfaction.   Further, there will be occasions when the University, in implementing its policies and procedures, legitimately will not provide the response or outcome sought by the student.

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5. Support and/or representation during the complaint process

In any discussions or interviews in which a student participates during any complaint process under this policy, whether as a complainant or respondent, the student may, at his or her discretion, be accompanied by one other person, other than a person with a qualification in law, whom the student designates as their support person under this policy.  A support person may make submissions on behalf of a student unless the person or committee dealing with the complaint considers that the making of any submission is or might be disruptive to, or may unreasonably extend, the proceedings.  A support person may not be a person who was involved in, associated with, or alleged to have been involved in or associated with the subject matter of the complaint.

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6. Informal dialogue regarding a complaint

A student who has any concern that comes within the ambit of this policy is strongly encouraged to attempt to resolve that concern informally and as close to the source of the concern as possible.

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7. Formal communications

The timelines and associated provisions relating to formal communications contained in the Academic Regulations will apply to communications under this policy.

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8. Formal complaint

8.1 A student who has been unable to resolve a complaint to their satisfaction through informal dialogue under Section 6 may submit a formal complaint.

8.2 Any formal complaint must:

  1. be in writing;
  2. be dated and signed by the student;
  3. provide the student identity number and contact details of the student;
  4. provide details of the subject matter of the complaint and, in particular, specific details of the matter in relation to which the complaint is made; this will include matters such as the names of any other party/ies, the time, date, place, the subject matter of the complaint and details of witnesses, if relevant;
  5. provide sufficient information to enable any other party/ies to respond;
  6. indicate the steps taken to date, including advice sought and/or provided, and any action taken by the student subsequent to obtaining such advice;
  7. include any supporting information or evidence on which the student relies; and
  8. indicate what the student considers to be a satisfactory solution of their complaint.

8.3 In lodging a formal complaint, a student is responsible for ensuring that the matter raised has substance and is genuine and the student must participate in the process in an appropriate manner and honour any agreement reached or decision made by the University to resolve the complaint.

8.4 It is the responsibility of a student to state their grounds for complaint fully and to provide all relevant evidence from the first stage of any complaint. New grounds or new evidence should not be introduced at any later stage of the complaint process, unless:

  1. there has been a major change in circumstance following the lodging of the initial complaint; and
  2. the associated information or evidence has a significant bearing on the complaint and was not reasonably available at the time the complaint was first lodged.

Where such a major change in circumstance has arisen and the person/committee dealing with the complaint determines that it should be taken into consideration, the matter will normally be referred back to the level of the officer who undertook the initial review, for further consideration.

8.5 Failure of the student and/or the student’s support person to appear for discussion of any complaint, at the time notified to them, will not prevent the matter being considered by the person with whom the complaint has been lodged.

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9. Progression of complaint

9.1 A student must exhaust any lower level of complaint management before proceeding to the next higher level. Any complaint directed to an officer at a level other than in accordance with this Policy will be re-directed to the appropriate officer or officer at the appropriate level.

9.2 A student whose complaint relates to:

  1. an academic matter, including a matter arising in connection with a professional experience or community engagement placement; or
  2. a non-academic matter within the jurisdiction of or related to a School or Faculty; may progress the complaint through the following levels:
    1. Head of the relevant School, or equivalent;
    2. Executive Dean;
    3. Provost.

9.3 A student whose complaint relates to a matter within the jurisdiction of or related to any organisational unit other than a School or Faculty may progress the complaint through the following levels:

  1. to the manager responsible for the relevant organisational unit, for example, the Manager of the relevant Section;
  2. to the Director of the relevant Directorate; or
  3. to the relevant Deputy Vice-Chancellor or the Provost.

9.4 A student whose complaint relates to another student may address the complaint to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Students, Learning and Teaching).

9.5 In the event that the student is dissatisfied with the outcome of an investigation and/or the resolution proposed by the relevant Deputy Vice-Chancellor or the Provost, the student may lodge an appeal with the University Appeals Committee1.

9.6 In any case where a complaint includes specific complaints against the conduct of a member of staff which might be in contravention of the Staff Code of Conduct, the University will determine whether the complaint will be dealt with in accordance with this Policy, the Student Appeals Policy or the relevant Human Relations Policy.

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10. Investigation and/or review of formal complaint

10.1 A complaint should normally be lodged within 20 working days of the occurrence of the subject matter of the complaint or of notification of the matter which is the subject of the complaint.

10.2 The officer responsible for dealing with a complaint will initiate action within 10 working days2 of receipt of the complaint.

10.3 If the responsible officer considers that the ground(s) of a student’s complaint does/do not relate to matters set out in Section 4, the responsible officer will notify the student accordingly.

If the responsible officer considers that the ground(s) of a student’s complaint does/do relate to matters set out in Section 4, the responsible officer will normally conduct an investigation into and/or a review of the issues raised.

10.4 If the responsible officer had previously been involved in the decision to which the complaint relates, the complaint will be referred to another staff member nominated by that officer’s supervisor.

10.5 The relevant officer will normally:

  1. interview the student who has lodged the complaint;
  2. interview any relevant staff, students or other persons;
  3. seek advice from other relevant staff and/or students, and/or access advice and/or expertise from such other person(s) as the responsible officer deems appropriate.

10.6 Following such investigation, the officer will advise the student of the outcome of the investigation, including any recommendation(s) for administrative action to be considered and/or taken by the University and the proposed resolution of the complaint if applicable.

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11. Notification of outcome of complaint

11.1 The student will be notified, in writing, of the outcome of the investigation and/or the proposal for resolution of their complaint under this policy normally within 20 working days of the student’s lodgment of the complaint with the relevant officer. A further time period may be required in cases where that officer is required to investigate any counter-complaint lodged.

The student will be notified of:

  1. the process undertaken to consider the complaint;
  2. the outcome of any investigation, including any recommendation(s) for administrative action that the University will consider;
  3. the proposed resolution of the complaint; and
  4. the reason(s) for that proposal.

11.2 A copy or summary of the outcome of the investigation and/or any proposal for resolution of any complaint will be provided to the relevant Provost, Deputy Vice-Chancellor(s), Executive Dean, Head of School, or equivalent, Course Coordinator, Academic Registrar, other Director and/or such other officer(s) as may need to take action as a result of the decision.

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12. Withdrawal of complaint

At any time during the process a student may withdraw a complaint, by notice in writing to the relevant officer. Upon such withdrawal, consideration of the complaint will normally be discontinued.

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13. Malicious or vexatious complaints

In any case in which a complaint is found to be frivolous, vexatious or malicious, action may be taken under Statute 10 Student Conduct and Discipline.

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14. Other avenues of complaint

14.1 Any matter dealt with under this policy may not also be addressed under the Student Appeals Policy.

14.2 While students are encouraged to resolve any concerns or complaints they may have arising from their status as a student of the University, nothing in this policy derogates from the right of a student to access any other complaint mechanism available to the student as legislated in the relevant State or Territory. If any external process is initiated, the internal complaint process may be terminated.

14.3 Following exhaustion of internal complaint management processes, in the case of subject matters for which there is no specific external independent arbiter, a student can appeal to the University Visitor, who is an independent arbiter, external to the University3.

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1 See Student Appeals Policy.
2 Under the ESOS Act and National Code, in the case of an international student the responsible officer must respond to the student within 10 working days and advise that the matter is being investigated.
3 See the Policy on Review by the University Visitor of Unresolved Appeals or Complaints by Students.

Page last updated: 28 Jun 2017

Short url: https://handbook.acu.edu.au/565088