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Student Complaints Procedures

Preamble

Consistent with its commitment to excellence, the University has adopted these procedures to assist both students and staff in the resolution of student concerns and complaints constructively, quickly and fairly.

Where minor concerns arise, students are encouraged to take a common-sense approach and raise them directly with the relevant staff, with the aim of resolving them at the lowest possible level and without undue formality. However, where informal discussions have not yielded a satisfactory resolution, or where the matter is more serious, the following procedures provide for a more formal process to be pursued.

Complaints considered through these procedures will be monitored and reviewed to enable the University to continually improve processes and services in support of student learning.

Student and staff rights and responsibilities in relation to these procedures are set out in the appendix.

Procedures

1.   Definitions
 In these procedures
 complaint means a written statement submitted by a student about a matter that requires formal consideration and resolution by the University in the terms set out in these procedures
 natural justice means the right to have a decision made by an unbiased decision-maker who observes fair and impartial procedures.
2.   Application and scope
 (1) Subject to subsection (2), these procedures apply to complaints about any aspect of the teaching and learning process and the broad provision made by the University to support that process.
 (2) These procedures may not be used
 (a)  where the complaint can be dealt with under the Student Discipline Regulations 2012 or the Assessment Regulations 2005, or
 (b) to challenge the academic judgement of examiners.
 (3) Depending on the nature of the complaint, these procedures should be read in conjunction with the Staff Code of Conduct, the Code of Ethics for Academic Staff, and/or the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students.
 (4) No action will be taken on malicious or anonymous complaints.
 (5) A complainant must be able to demonstrate that the complaint is brought without malice and is based on evidence that the complainant honestly and reasonably believes to be substantially true. Those responsible for resolving complaints under these procedures must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the complainant is protected against any subsequent recrimination or victimisation.
 (6) Students and staff involved in the consideration and resolution of concerns and complaints have various rights and responsibilities, which are outlined in the appendix to these procedures.
3.   Informal resolution of concerns
 (1) Before making formal written complaints, students are encouraged to seek a resolution to any concerns by raising and discussing them informally with the relevant staff member who is most directly associated with the matter.
 (2) A staff member with whom a concern is raised by a student is expected to deal with the matter in an open and professional manner and to take reasonable and prompt action to try to resolve it informally.
 (3) A student who is uncertain about how to seek informal resolution of a concern is encouraged to seek advice from the Group Manager, Student Support Services on 07 856 2889 Ext. 5199 or the Waikato Student Union Advocacy Officer.
4.   Formal complaints procedures
 (1) Where it has not been possible to resolve a concern informally, a student may make a formal complaint.
 (2)  A student who wishes to make a formal complaint must submit it in writing, on the prescribed form (available online at www.waikato.ac.nz/sasd/files/docs/complaintform.doc), to the Dean or Head, or equivalent, who is responsible for the action or matter that has given rise to the complaint.
 (3) The written complaint must be submitted within three months after the occurrence of the action or matter that has given rise to the complaint, unless the Dean or Head, or equivalent, agrees to receive it beyond this timeframe.
 (4) If the complainant prefers not to address the complaint to the person recommended in subsection (2) it may be addressed to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, who will address the complaint and make a decision in accordance with these procedures.
 (5) A Dean or Head, or equivalent, who receives a student complaint must acknowledge it in writing within three working days. He or she must also lodge the complaint in the relevant Division, Faculty or School of Studies complaints register, using the student ID number as identifier (rather than the student’s name), and must maintain a file of all documentation in relation to the consideration of the complaint.
 (6) The Dean or Head, or equivalent, must ensure that any staff member named in the complaint receives a copy as soon as practicable.
 (7) The Dean or Head, or equivalent, must consider the complaint in accordance with the principles of natural justice, and must ensure that all parties to the complaint are accorded the full benefit of those principles.
 (8) The process may include meetings with relevant staff and/or the complainant. Where meetings are held, the parties may, if they wish, be accompanied by a peer support person.
5.   Resolution of complaints
 (1)  The Dean or Head, or equivalent, must make a decision in relation to the complaint and must notify his or her decision to the parties, in writing, within 28 days of receiving the complaint.
 (2)  If the complaint involves a university process or service and if, in the opinion of the relevant Dean or Head, or equivalent, the complaint has substance, the Dean or Head, or equivalent, must arrange for the relevant process or service to be reviewed, with a view to preventing a recurrence and ensuring continued improvement.
6.   Appeals
 (1) Any party to a student complaint who is dissatisfied with a decision by a Dean or Head, or equivalent, under these procedures may appeal to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor.
 (2) The appeal must be submitted in writing within 28 days of the letter notifying the decision.
 (3) The Deputy Vice-Chancellor will consider the relevant documentation and may, at his or her discretion, consult the Dean or Head, or equivalent, who made the decision. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor may also interview any parties to the complaint.
 (4) If he or she determines that the complaint process has been conducted in accordance with these procedures and the outcome is appropriate, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor may dismiss the appeal. Otherwise, he or she will decide the appeal in consultation with the relevant Dean or Head, or equivalent, and any other parties. Subject to subsections (6) and (7), the decision of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor under this section is final.
 (5) The Deputy Vice-Chancellor will notify his or her appeal decision in writing to the parties.
 (6) When he or she notifies the parties of the appeal decision, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor will inform the parties of the Ombudsman's role in relation to complaints about government organisations (including universities) that affect people in their personal capacities.
 (7) The Deputy Vice-Chancellor will also inform any staff members who are dissatisfied with a student complaint process of the steps available to them under the University's Procedure for Resolving Employment Relationship Problems and Personal Grievances.
 (8) If the original complaint was addressed to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor under section 4(4), any appeal must be made to the Vice-Chancellor. That appeal will be considered and decided, in accordance with appeal processes consistent with those set out in these procedures, by a nominee of the Vice-Chancellor.
7.   Confidentiality
 All processes and decisions under these procedures are confidential to the parties and staff directly involved.
8.   Annual report to the Academic Board
 The Deputy Vice-Chancellor must submit an annual report to the Academic Board, including an overview of student complaints and decisions during the relevant year, together with any consequent recommendations with respect to the teaching and learning process and the provision made by the University to support that process.

Appendix

Rights and Responsibilities of Parties to a Student Complaint

Parties to a student complaint have the right to

  • be treated with courtesy at all times
  • a fair and timely investigation process in accordance with the principles of natural justice
  • express their points of view without fear of recrimination
  • receive full information at all stages of the complaint process
  • be advised in writing of all decisions made in relation to the complaint
  • appeal the outcome
  • in the case of a staff member, avail himself or herself of the Procedure for Resolving Employment Relationship Problems and Personal Grievances.

Parties to a student complaint have a responsibility to

  • treat all parties with courtesy at all times
  • respect the points of view of others
  • respect the rights of all parties to the complaint with respect to confidentiality
  • in the case of the complainant, ensure that the complaint is made in good faith and complies with the requirements of the Student Complaints Procedures
  • provide full and accurate information to the person investigating the complaint
  • not take any action that may prejudice the situation or be regarded as an act of recrimination against any other party.

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