These procedures are governed by the Student Complaints Policy.
2.1 A student who wishes to provide feedback about their experience at, or of, ACU, the University’s operations or to make suggestions for improvement, but does not require any formal resolution, may submit feedback through the online feedback form.
2.2 Feedback will be referred by the Office of the Academic Registrar to the manager responsible for the relevant organisational unit for consideration.
3.1 A complaint may be lodged in relation to administrative and/or academic issues. Grounds for complaint include, but are not limited to:
- conduct of staff;
- conduct of students;
- conduct of an external agency cooperating with the University in its professional experience or community engagement placements where the student has been unable to resolve their complaint through the agency’s complaint handling procedure;
- conduct of an external agency authorised by the University as authorised education agents assisting international applicants applying to study at ACU where the student has been unable to resolve their complaint through the agency’s complaint handling procedure;
- provision of services, including campus services, IT services and student services; or
- course and teaching quality.
3.2 Before lodging a formal complaint, a student should ensure that the subject of their complaint is not grounds for appeal under the Student Appeals Policy and Procedure.
4.1 Any lower level of complaint management must be exhausted before proceeding to the next higher level.
4.2 A complaint may comprise the following stages:
- Informal complaint resolution conducted in accordance with section 5;
- Formal complaint resolution conducted in accordance with section 9; and
- Review of complaint outcome conducted in accordance with section 10
5.1 A student or prospective student who feels that a academic or administrative issue is unsatisfactory or unacceptable is strongly encouraged to attempt to resolve the matter directly with the person or area concerned, or with the appropriate supervisor of that person .
5.2 A student may proceed directly to the lodgement of a formal complaint where it is more appropriate for serious or sensitive matters.
6.1 Before lodging a formal complaint, a student is encouraged to seek confidential, independent professional advice from the Student Advocacy Service to understand:
- whether the appropriate steps have been undertaken to attempt to resolve the complaint informally;
- whether a formal complaint is appropriate, or whether another University process should be pursued; and
- the student complaint procedures and what resolution may be possible as an outcome of a formal complaint.
6.2 A student or prospective student who has been unable to resolve a complaint to their satisfaction informally under Section 4 may submit a formal complaint to the Office of the Academic Registrar . Complaints must be lodged online, or by mail to PO Box 968 North Sydney NSW 2059.
6.3 A complaint should 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. Academic Registrar or complaint handler may, at their discretion, extend the time for lodging a complaint.
6.4 In lodging a formal complaint, a complainant is responsible for ensuring that the matter raised has substance and is genuine and they must conduct themselves in an appropriate manner.
6.5 A formal complaint must:
- be in writing;
- provide the student identity number (where issued) and contact details unless the complainant elects to remain anonymous;
- state the grounds for complaint fully;
- include any supporting information or evidence on which the complainant is basing their complaint as detailed in section 6.6;
- indicate the steps taken to date, including advice sought and/or provided, and any action taken by the complainant subsequent to obtaining such advice; and
- indicate what the complainant considers to be a satisfactory resolution to their complaint.
6.6 Relevant information or evidence includes specific details that are sufficient to allow an investigation to proceed and enable any other party/ies to respond which will include matters such as the:
- names of any other party/ies;
- the time, date, place of any events relevant to the complaint; and
- details of witnesses, if relevant.
6.7 New grounds or new evidence will not normally be accepted at any later stage of the complaint process, unless:
- there has been a major change in circumstance following the lodging of the initial complaint;
- 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; or
- other exceptional circumstances exist.
6.8 Failure of the complainant and/or the complainant'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 complaint handler.
7.1 Upon receipt of a formal complaint, the Academic Registrar will record the lodgement in the University Register of Complaints.
7.2 The Academic Registrar will undertake a preliminary assessment of the formal complaint submission and may take any of the following actions:
- refer the formal complaint to the appropriate complaint handler for resolution;
- seek more information from the complainant where insufficient detail has been provided to allow appropriate referral to a complaint handler;
- advise the student that the submission falls outside the scope of this Policy and refer them to another process such as the Student Appeals Policy;
- advise the complainant that their behaviour constitutes unreasonable complainant conduct and action is being taken under section 9.10 to change or limit their access to the complaint management process; or
- advise the complainant that the complaint is lacking in substance and is unable to be reasonably investigated by the University.
7.3 In any matter which includes specific complaints that fall under the code black (personal threat) or code green (sexual assault/harassment) incident categories of the Critical Incident Management Policy including, but not limited to, alleged assault, violent behaviour or sexual assault/harassment, will be referred for management according to the ACU Critical Incident Management Policy and will be dealt with under this Policy at the conclusion of the critical incident response.
7.4 The Academic Registrar will monitor the progress of complaint resolution and will escalate as necessary according to section 9.11.
8.1 Any formal complaint received directly by a staff member must be referred to the Academic Registrar in the first instance.
8.2 A complaint that relates to:
- an academic matter, including a matter arising in connection with a professional experience or community engagement placement; or
- a non-academic matter within the jurisdiction of, or related to, a School or Faculty;
may progress through the following levels:
- investigation of a formal complaint by the relevant Head of School, or equivalent;
- review of a complaint outcome by the Executive Dean.
8.3 A complaint that relates to a matter within the jurisdiction of, or related to, any organisational unit other than a School or Faculty may progress through the following levels:
- investigation of a formal complaint by the manager responsible for the relevant organisational unit for example, the Manager of the relevant Section;
- review of a complaint outcome by the Director of the relevant Directorate;
8.4 A student submitting a complaint that relates to another student may seek support from staff of the relevant faculty, or of the Office of Student Success. The complaint may progress through the following levels:
- investigation of a formal complaint by an Associate Vice-Chancellor or Campus Dean;
- review of a complaint outcome by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Coordination).
8.5 Where the relevant complaint handler designated under sections 8.2-8.4 is the subject of, or has been involved in the matter to which the complaint relates, the complaint will be referred by the Academic Registrar to another staff member at the same level who has had no previous involvement.
9.1 The Academic Registrar will refer the complaint to the relevant complaint handler identified in Sections 8.2-8.5.
9.2 The complaint handler will initiate action within 10 working days of receipt of the complaint including all relevant material from the complainant.
9.3 The complaint handler will take the following initial action where the matter includes specific complaints:
- against the conduct of a member of staff that might be in contravention of the Code of Conduct for All Staff, the matter will be referred to the Director, Human Resources who will determine whether the complaint will be dealt with in accordance with the relevant Human Resources policy or the Student Complaints Management Policy; or
- that might constitute misconduct under the Student Conduct and Discipline Policy will be referred to the relevant Authorised Officer under that Policy who will determine whether the complaint will be dealt with in accordance with the Student Conduct and Discipline Policy or the Student Complaints Management Policy; or
- that may constitute discrimination or harassment, reference should be made to the Discrimination and Harassment Policy, however the complaint will be dealt with under the Student Complaints Management Policy.
9.4 The complaint handler will respond to the complainant in writing within 10 working days and advise that the matter is being investigated. In the case of an international student this is a requirement of the ESOS Act and National Code.
9.5 If the complaint handler considers that the grounds of a complaint do not relate to matters set out in Section 3 of the policy, the complaint handler will notify the complainant accordingly.
9.6 If the complaint handler considers that the grounds of a complaint do relate to matters set out in Section 3 of the policy, the complaint handler will conduct an investigation into and/or a review of the issues raised.
9.7 If the complaint handler 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.
9.8 The complaint handler will:
- determine the matter on the basis of evidence brought forward by the complainant, the respondent and/or the University, act fairly, and in accordance with the relevant policy and procedures;
- give all relevant parties a copy of, or an opportunity to inspect, all documentation relevant to the subject matter of the complaint;
- give the parties a reasonable opportunity to make a case or response in writing and/or to appear before that person;
- give the parties at least five working days' written notice of the date, time and place of any meeting or hearing regarding the complaint;
- permit a complainant, and any support person whom a complainant appoints under section 6 of the policy, to be present at any meeting or hearing regarding the complaint, except during interviews with the respondent or witnesses;
- conduct any meeting in closed session and treat the complaint in strict confidence, except as necessary for the discharge of that person's responsibilities or as otherwise required by law.
9.9 The complaint handler may, at their discretion:
- interview the student or prospective student who has lodged the complaint;
- interview any relevant staff, students or other persons;
- seek advice from other relevant staff and/or students, and/or access advice and/or expertise from such other person(s) as the officer deems appropriate.
9.10 The complaint handler will notify the complainant of the outcome of the investigation and/or the proposal for resolution of their complaint under this policy within 20 working days of the receipt of the complaint for investigation by the complaint handler . A further time period may be required in cases where the matter is complex, including where the complaint handler is required to investigate any counter-complaint lodged, or where the matter is referred for resolution under a different University policy.
9.11 Where there has been no notification of the outcome of a complaint within 20 working days of lodgement and the student has not been notified that a further time period is required for the investigation, the complaint will be escalated to the supervisor of the complaint handler.
10.1 If the complainant is not satisfied that the complaint management process has led to a satisfactory resolution, they may request a review of the investigation and complaint outcome by the relevant review officer identified in sections 8.2-8.5. Such a review will be limited to:
- that the University has failed to act in accordance with these Procedures and the Principles for managing complaints as set out in section 3 of the Policy; or
- the identification of new grounds or new evidence that could not reasonably have been provided or was not reasonably available at the time of investigation, and in all likelihood would have had a significant bearing on the complaint outcome.
10.2 The request for review of a complaint outcome must be in writing and should be received by the reviewing officer within 20 working days of notification of the complaint outcome to the students.
10.3 Where a major change in circumstance has arisen under section 10.1(b) and the reviewing officer determines that it should be taken into consideration, the matter will normally be referred back to the complaint handler who undertook the initial review, for further consideration.
10.4 The reviewing officer will notify the complainant of the outcome of the review within 20 working days of the receipt of the complaint for investigation by the reviewing officer.
11.1 Anonymous complaints will normally only be investigated where sufficient information from the complainant has been provided which would allow an investigation to proceed without the source of the complaint being known.
11.2 Where a complainant identifies themselves but asks to have their identity withheld, the Academic Registrar, in consultation with the complaint handler, will determine whether it is possible to resolve the complaint in accordance with the principles of fairness and natural justice without revealing the identity of the complainant.
12.1 Any staff member involved in the management of a student complaint that is subject to behaviour that may constitute unreasonable complainant conduct, may refer the matter to the Academic Registrar.
12.2 Where the Academic Registrar determines that the behaviour constitutes unreasonable complainant conduct, the Academic Registrar may respond by taking any or all of the following actions:
- limit contact with a complainant to a sole staff member;
- limit or modify the forms and/or frequency of contact that the complainant can have with the University;
- limit the length of documentation that will be accepted; and/or
- prohibit further action on any complaint from the student or prospective student without prior approval from the Academic Registrar.
12.3 Any action under section 12.2(d) should only be taken after consultation with the Office of General Counsel.
12.4 The Academic Registrar may refer the matter for consideration under the Serious Health Conditions Policy or the Student Conduct and Discipline Policy.
13.1 The complaint handler will notify the complainant, in writing, of the outcome of the investigation and/or the proposal for resolution of their complaint under this policy. The complainant will be notified of:
- the process undertaken to consider the complaint;
- the outcome of any investigation, including any recommendation(s) for administrative action that the University will consider;
- the proposed resolution of the complaint including handling under another University Policy;
- the reason(s) for that proposal; and
- the avenue of further complaint available to the student or prospective student.
13.2 The written response to the complainant will be retained as a formal record of communication with the student in accordance with the Records and Archive Management Policy.
13.3 Any conditions placed upon or relating to a student’s enrolment as an outcome of a complaint will be held on the student’s personal file.
13.4 The complaint handler will communicate the outcome of the investigation and/or any proposal for resolution of any complaint to all other relevant parties involved in the process and such other officer(s) of the University that may need to take action as a result of the decision.
13.5 Any action required of the University as a result of an outcome of a complaint must be initiated within 10 working days of the notification.
13.6 A copy of the outcomes of any investigation of a formal complaint under section 9 or 10 will be maintained on the University Register of Complaints, held in the Office of the Academic Registrar.
13.7 An annual summary and analysis of complaints must be tabled at Academic Administrative Committee (AAC) for noting by Academic Board.
Page last updated: 2019-09-25
Short url: https://handbook.acu.edu.au/2315897