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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, paper convenor or Head of School or equivalent 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 by the University under 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.
          student means a person enrolled at the University of Waikato.
    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
        1. where the complaint can be dealt with under the Higher Degree Appeals and Complaints Regulations, Student Discipline Regulations or the Assessment Regulations , or
        2. 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 Student Conduct, The Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice and/or The Education (Pastoral Care of Domestic Tertiary Students) Interim Code of Practice 2019.
      4. No action will be taken on complaints that are anonymous, frivolous, vexatious or not made in good faith.
      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 of 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 Waikato Students’ Union Student Support and Advocacy Service.
    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, accompanied by evidence, through My Waikato addressed to the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Director or equivalent responsible for the area in which the action or matter that has given rise to the complaint occurred or, if requested to be considered under the Tikanga Māori procedure set out under section 5 of these procedures, to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Māori; if the complaint is about a Pro Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Director or equivalent, it must be submitted to the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor.
      3. The written complaint must be submitted within three months of the occurrence of the action or matter that has given rise to the complaint unless the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Director or equivalent agrees to receive it beyond this timeframe.
      4. The Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Director or equivalent who receives a student complaint must acknowledge it in writing as soon as practicable (normally within three working days). They must create and maintain a file of all documentation in relation to the consideration of the complaint.
      5. The Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Director 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.
      6. The process of consideration may include meetings with relevant staff, students and the complainant. Where meetings are held, the parties may, if they wish, be accompanied by a support person.
      7. The Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Director or equivalent may refer a matter to the Police if they believe that a crime has been committed and may suspend consideration of a complaint until such time as any associated Police matter has been concluded.
    5. Tikanga Māori
      1. The spirit of tikanga is to seek resolutions to complaints in a Māori way that encourages a facilitated open exchange of views in order to achieve a resolution that is agreed by all the parties involved.
      2. A complaint may only be addressed through the Tikanga Māori process if
        1. the complainant, and
        2. the person answering the complaint, and
        3. the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Māori
        4. agree to the arrangements determined under subsection (3).
      3. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor Māori is responsible for determining the arrangements for the Tikanga Māori process after discussion with the parties and for informing the parties of the nature and implications of the process.
      4. If, at any time after having agreed to the arrangements determined under subsection (3) the complainant or the person answering the complaint wish to withdraw from the Tikanga Māori process, they may do so only with the agreement of all other parties listed under subsection (2); in such cases, the complaint will be referred to the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Director or equivalent responsible for the area in which the action or matter that has given rise to the complaint occurred; if the complaint is about a Pro Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Director or equivalent it will be referred to the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor.
      5. Under the Tikanga Māori process a resolution is negotiated by the complainant and the person answering the complaint.
      6. The process is facilitated by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Māori, assisted by a tikanga panel appointed by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Māori.
      7. A resolution negotiated by the complainant and the person answering the complaint is final; there is no right of appeal.
      8. Section 6, subsections (1) and (2) and section 7 of these procedures do not apply to complaints addressed under the Tikanga Māori process.
    6. Resolution of complaints
      1. The Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Director or equivalent must make a decision in relation to the complaint and notify their decision to the parties, in writing, as soon as practicable (normally within 28 days of receiving the complaint).
      2. When the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Director or equivalent notifies the parties of their decision they must include information on the relevant provision for appeal.
      3. If the complaint involves a University process or service and if, in the opinion of the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Director or equivalent the complaint has substance, the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Director or equivalent may arrange for the relevant process or service to be reviewed with a view to preventing a recurrence and ensuring continued improvement.
      4. If the complaint involves a breach of the Staff Code of Conduct and if, in the opinion of the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Director or equivalent the complaint has substance, the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Director or equivalent may refer the matter to the Director of Human Resources and Employment Relations for consideration of formal disciplinary action.
    7. Appeals
      1. A complainant or a person who was the subject of a complaint may appeal to the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor against any decision taken by a Pro Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Director or equivalent under section 6 of these procedures.
      2. If the original complaint was addressed to the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor under section 4(2) of these procedures, any appeal of that decision must be made to the Vice-Chancellor. That appeal will be considered and decided by the Vice-Chancellor or their nominee in accordance with appeal processes consistent with these procedures.
      3. An appeal may only be made on one or more of the following grounds:
        1. that the process used for addressing the complaint was unfair
        2. that the decision reached was manifestly at odds with the evidence
        3. that the remedy imposed was manifestly at odds with the misconduct
        4. that significant new evidence has become available that could not reasonably have been obtained and presented during the initial process that could have had a material effect on the outcome.
      4. The appeal must be submitted in writing within 28 days of the date of the letter notifying the decision.
      5. The Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor or the Vice-Chancellor or their nominee will consider the relevant documentation and evidence and may, at their discretion, consult the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Director or equivalent who made the decision. The Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor or the Vice-Chancellor or their nominee may also interview any parties to the complaint.
      6. If they determine that the complaint process has been conducted in accordance with these procedures and the outcome is appropriate, the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor or the Vice-Chancellor or their nominee may dismiss the appeal. Subject to subsections (8) and (9), the decision of the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor or the Vice-Chancellor or their nominee under this section is final.
      7. The Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor or the Vice-Chancellor or their nominee will notify their appeal decision in writing to the parties as soon as practicable.
      8. When they notify the parties of the appeal decision, the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor or the Vice-Chancellor or their nominee 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, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority’s grievance procedures available to international students under The Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice, and to domestic students under The Education (Pastoral Care of Domestic Tertiary Students) Interim Code of Practice 2019, and the iStudent Complaints financial or contractual dispute resolution service available to international students as relevant.
      9. The Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor or the Vice-Chancellor or their nominee will inform any staff member who is 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. Confidentiality
      All processes and decisions under these procedures are confidential to the parties and staff directly involved.

    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
    • be advised in writing of all decisions made in relation to the complaint
    • appeal the outcome
    • in the case of staff members, avail themselves 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.