1 Before an Issue Becomes a Grievance
Students should, wherever possible, attempt to resolve concerns or difficulties directly with the person(s) concerned. Within the teaching bodies the Dean of students and student counsellors are available to assist students at this level. In the Office of the Dean, the Registrar is available to offer general advice.
2 What is a Grievance?
A grievance is a written statement of concern, or complaint, presented to a person in authority within SCD or one of its teaching bodies that requires an action or a response from the institution concerned. A grievance may relate to any situation or process affecting the student, whether academic or non-academic, and may be against a person or persons within any teaching body or SCD itself.
The person designated ‘Grievance Handler’ is normally the first person to contact.
- the person bringing the grievance is referred to as ‘the complainant’;
- the person(s) against whom the grievance is made is referred to as ‘the respondent(s)’.
A grievance is not part of the regular student feedback on course units and teaching, but rather a complaint about a personal situation, but a grievance is not to be used simply to express dissatisfaction. SCD will not normally act on anonymous complaints. Staff must, however, refer to the Dean all complaints, anonymous or otherwise, about abuse of vulnerable persons or other allegedly unlawful acts, and together they will inform the police as required by law.
SCD requires that records of grievances lodged and resolved within the teaching body to the satisfaction of the student be retained within the teaching body concerned for at least seven years, in case the complainant or any staff member should subsequently have reason to refer to the previous matter. At the same time, however, SCD regards a grievance resolved without referral to SCD itself as a matter that has not reached the level of a formal grievance on which SCD may be required to report to a Government authority. A record of any grievance lodged with SCD itself will be treated as a formal grievance and records will be retained for at least seven years.
3 General principles for staff in the Grievance Process
Staff assisting at any point in the grievance process should do everything in their power to ensure that the following principles are upheld:
- Confidentiality: All parties have a basic obligation to maintain confidentiality. Generally fairness requires that the respondent knows who has lodged a grievance.
- Procedural Fairness: Both the student complainant and the respondent must receive appropriate information, support, and assistance in resolving the grievance.
- Freedom from Unfair Repercussions or Victimization: SCD will take all necessary steps to ensure that victimization does not occur. Any staff member who is shown to have victimized a student will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action.
- Sensitivity: All grievances must be dealt with sensitively, and with care for all involved.
- Timeliness: Assessment of a grievances must begin within ten working days of lodgement in accord with the process set out in this policy and be finalized as quickly as possible: undue delay in responding to a grievance may provide grounds for further complaint. The aim is to achieve resolution of a complaint within four weeks of the complaint being lodged. Both complainant and respondent should be kept informed of the progress of the complaint and advised if resolution of the matter is likely to extend beyond four weeks, in writing if requested.
If the student remains unsatisfied following investigation by SCD itself and wishes to pursue the matter further, the Dean refers it to the External Grievance Officer (for domestic students) or refers the student to the Overseas Students Ombudsman (for overseas students).
At no point will either the complainant or the respondent be victimized or discriminated against. The student remains enrolled in his or her program whilst the grievance process is ongoing.
Lodgement of Grievance with the SCD
A grievance may be lodged initially with the SCD in the case of research students.
The SCD Grievance Handler:
- obtains an informal initial account of the presenting problem from the student;
- makes sure the student has access to the SCD’s Student Grievance Policy and Procedures;
- makes sure both the complainant and the respondent are aware that they may be supported/accompanied by a friend or family member throughout the process;
- provides the student with the Student Grievance Notification Form to fill out and receives the completed form, which the student may complete either independently or after seeking advice from the Student Advocacy Officer (as below);
- directs the student to the designated Student Advocacy Officer or, if that person is unacceptable to the student concerned, directs the student to the Dean, who will, in consultation with the student, provide an alternative Student Advocacy Officer from amongst the SCD Directors.
The Student Advocacy Officer meets with the student as soon as possible and ensures that the student:
- fully understands the overall process and his or her rights;
- feels reasonably comfortable discussing the matter in confidence with the Student Advocacy Officer;
- understands that the Student Advocacy Officer is not able knowingly to support falsehood;
- is able to articulate the particular issue of concern clearly;
- has assembled relevant information and evidence.
If necessary, the Student Advocacy Officer provides:
- advice on how to complete the Student Grievance Notification Form;
- any additional records or institutional information;
- referral to counselling or health services.
The Student Advocacy Officer arranges for the student to have ready contact and advice as needed throughout the process and accompanies the student to meetings if requested by the student. The presence of the Student Advocacy Officer does not preclude the presence, in addition, of a friend or family member. The Student Advocacy Officer refrains from discussing details with anyone but the student, unless the student requests otherwise, and is tasked solely with supporting the student to achieve a just outcome.
The Grievance Handler:
- provides a copy of the completed Student Grievance Notification Form to the Dean;
- facilitates discussion between the student and the respondent(s) with the aim of reaching an agreed outcome;
- reports the outcome to the
If the matter has not been resolved, the Dean:
- appoints a Grievance Committee of two or three persons with relevant experience, external to the part of SCD in which the grievance arose with no more than one employed in any part of SCD, to investigate and report on the matter as soon as possible but at least within four weeks;
- provides the Committee with relevant materials, including any further submission from the student;
- invites one person to chair and coordinate the report of the Committee;
- receives the report of the Committee;
- directs the Grievance Handler to communicate its contents to the student, including clear and comprehensive written advice about the outcome.
The Grievance Handler:
- provides clear and comprehensive written advice to the student about the outcome of the Committee’s report;
- completes the Grievance Response Form with the student and provides the student with a copy of the completed form;
- informs the Dean of the student’s response.
If, after either the facilitated discussion or the Grievance Committee process, the matter has been resolved to the student’s satisfaction, the Dean provides the student with a letter noting the conclusion of the grievance process and the outcome and directs the SCD Grievance Handler to store the Grievance Response Form with relevant records in the Office of the Dean for at least seven years. These records remain confidential, except that (i) any party to the grievance will be allowed supervised access upon request, and (ii) SCD may be required to report the matter to a Government agency.
If the matter remains unresolved by the process outlined above and the student wishes to pursue it further, the Dean either arranges for the External Grievance Officer to investigate and report on the matter within four weeks (for domestic students) or refers the student to the Overseas Student Ombudsman (for overseas students). In the former case, the Dean reports the outcome of the External Grievance Officer’s investigation to the student and to Council. In the latter case, the student receives a response from the Ombudsman. The Dean reports the process to Council, including the Ombudsman’s response if that has been made known to the SCD. In either case, the Dean ensures that the Grievance Notification and Response Forms and other records are stored in the Office of the Dean for at least seven years, with the same conditions of confidentiality as above.
5 Possible Outcomes
Depending on the point at which the process is concluded, possible outcomes might be:
- the student, having received advice and support, addresses the matter directly with the respondent and an agreement is reached;
- a mutually acceptable resolution, such as modification of the issue, is reached through mediation at one or other level;
- the findings of the External Grievance Officer or the Overseas Students Ombudsman are implemented at the direction of the Dean;
- the student receives an apology and any fault on the part of the teaching body or SCD is addressed appropriately;
- the teaching body or SCD reviews its procedures with the aim of avoiding similar problems in the future while maintaining appropriate standards;
- the student gains a better understanding of the issue and accepts the position of the teaching body or SCD.
6 Special Cases within the Grievance Regulations
Some grievances require modifications to the general grievance process in that they involve decisions of the Academic Board and its committees. These are:
- grievances regarding coursework assessment;
- postgraduate research candidate grievances regarding supervision, progress, candidature, and examination.
6.1 Grievances Regarding Coursework Assessment
In the first instance a student may appeal to the lecturer concerned against the result given in any item of assessment when:
- the student believes that some error in grading has been made; or
- the student has concerns about the grade awarded.
This dialogue may proceed either informally or with the facilitation of the Grievance Handler and advice of the Student Advocacy Officer, using the Student Grievance Notification Form, as the student prefers. In the case of ongoing disagreement, the Head is notified and appoints a second examiner, either from the staff of the teaching body concerned or, by agreement, from other SCD faculty. The Head considers both the original and the second result and reaches a decision, which is communicated to the student. If the student wishes to pursue the matter further, the student may lodge a formal grievance, if this has not already been initiated, and appeal formally to the board of studies of his or her teaching body through the Head, who forwards both the original and the second results for the board’s consideration. When the board has reached its decision and communicated it to the student, the Grievance Handler completes the Grievance Response Form with the student and forwards it to the Head. The board of studies of the teaching body may or may not include a member external to the teaching body.
A failed final grade in a course unit is the only ground on which an appeal can be made to the SCD Academic Board.
Where a student believes that the review procedures in the teaching body have not been properly followed with regard to an appeal against a failed final grade in a course unit, the student may appeal to the SCD Academic Board through the Head of the teaching body. The Head requests the intervention of the SCD Academic Board through the Dean and provides it with the completed Grievance Notification and Response Forms and other relevant documentation, including both the original and the second results. Documentation must include the student’s alleged evidence that proper review procedures have not been complied with by the teaching body.
The appeal must be submitted in writing to the Academic Board Chair within ten working days of receipt of the determinative outcome of the appeal to the teaching body.
The student remains enrolled whilst the grievance process is ongoing.
The decision of the Academic Board is final.
If the student does not accept the decision of Academic Board and wishes to pursue the matter further, the Dean will proceed as per the final paragraph in section 4.
6.2 Grievances Regarding Postgraduate Research Student Supervision, Progress, Candidature, and Examination
These grievances refer to:
- unsatisfactory supervision;
- disputes relating to satisfactory student progress;
- issues relating to candidature, including final extension; and
- the outcome of thesis examination.
6.2.1 Disputes Involving Supervision, Progress, or Final Extension
The student must make reasonable attempts to resolve the grievance through discussion with the supervisor(s) and the Director of Research, before entering into formal grievance procedures.
If the matter is resolved either informally or following the initial steps of the grievance process set out at 4.2, any changes to existing records must be considered and ratified by the Research Committee and, where relevant, reported by the Research Committee to Academic Board.
If there is no resolution and the student wishes to pursue the matter further, the student may lodge a formal grievance as set out at 4.2, if this has not already been initiated, and request the Dean to move to establish a Grievance Committee. In this case the Grievance Committee will be summoned to meet and make a recommendation within ten working days. It has three members: the Chair of Academic Board (Chair), a member of the Research Committee, and the Dean. The recommendation is notified to the student, the Research Committee, and Academic Board, which may either accept the Grievance Committee’s report or decide differently. The Dean notifies the student of the outcome. Whether the student accepts the decision of Academic Board or not, the SCD Grievance Handler completes the Grievance Response Form with the student and further actions are undertaken as set out at 4.2 above to address either situation.
The student remains enrolled whilst the grievance process is ongoing.
6.2.2 Disputes Involving the Outcome of Thesis Examination
The examination process for all four SCD research degrees is set out in the Research Degrees Regulations under item A.15 and repeated for the individual degrees at B.4.6, C.4.6, D.4.6, and E.4.6, respectively. In each case, if the Research Committee infers uncertainty from the examiners’ reports overall, there is provision for the appointment of an additional examiner or an oral or written examination to guide the Research Committee’s final recommendation and Academic Board’s decision regarding the final outcome.
If the student does not accept the determination of Academic Board and wishes to pursue it further, the student may lodge a grievance with the Dean using the SCD Student Grievance Notification Form. Assuming the role of Grievance Handler in this situation, the Dean refers the student to the Student Advocacy Officer for support and arranges for the matter to be referred to the External Grievance Officer or the Overseas Student Ombudsman and brought to a conclusion as set out at 4.2.