Complaint Management for Students and Members of the Public
The Complaint Management Procedure for Students and Members of the Public establishes the University’s approach to managing the timely and fair resolution of Complaints raised by students and members of the public.
To provide a consistent framework that promotes the timely and fair resolution of Complaints raised by students and members of the public.
A Complaint for the purpose of this Procedure is a University related concern or area of dissatisfaction or a complaint about the conduct of University staff, raised by a student or member of the public that is not otherwise covered by the University’s existing review / appeal options, or complaint or reporting procedures.
The University has separate and established review / appeal options and reporting procedures for matters including but not limited to those relating to:
- the academic standing of a student such as exclusion, progress and grades;
- a refund of student fees;
- alleged student breaches of an expected standard of student conduct (i.e. the Student Code of Conduct);
- possible Research Misconduct by staff or Research students;
- alleged breaches of the University’s animal ethics obligations;
- alleged breaches of the University’s child protection obligations; and
- the reporting of suspected wrongdoing in public administration (i.e. Public Interest Disclosures to facilitate the reporting of serious wrongdoing arising from corrupt conduct; maladministration; serious and substantial waste in the public sector; or failure to exercise functions in accordance with any provisions of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW) (‘GIPA Act’)).
Appendix 1 of this Procedure illustrates the framework for handling and resolving concerns raised by students and members of the public including Complaints raised under this Procedure.
The University aims to provide a high quality teaching, research and learning experience.
The University recognises that Complaints may arise from time to time that need to be dealt with and appropriately managed.
The University aims to provide an environment where:
(a) it is acceptable to lodge a Complaint;
(b) the person lodging a genuine Complaint knows that they will not suffer any detriment because they make a Complaint;
(c) the Complaint will be given due consideration by, and will receive a response from, the University; and
(d) the Relevant Person to a Complaint will be provided with an opportunity to respond to the Complaint and will be given due consideration by, and will receive a response from, the University.
3.2 Who can complain?
The following individuals can make a Complaint under this Procedure:
(b) members of the public with an objectively significant personal or financial interest in a matter within the University’s responsibility or those significantly affected by a University decision; or
(c) a representative authorised in writing by a person referred to above.
The University will provide reasonable assistance to Complainants or Relevant Persons who are in any way disadvantaged by intellectual or physical disability, education, language ability or any other impairment that affects their ability to exercise their right to be heard.
3.3 The subject matter of a Complaint
A University related concern or area of dissatisfaction raised by a student or member of the public that is not otherwise covered by the University’s existing review / appeal options or reporting procedures, is a Complaint for the purpose of this Procedure.
A complaint about the conduct of University staff that is not otherwise covered by the University’s existing policies, procedures, review/appeal options or complaint or reporting procedures, is a Complaint for the purposes of this Procedure.
A Complaint may be made about conduct that results in unfair or unreasonable treatment or the inadequate delivery or quality of a University product or service to the Complainant, encompassing:
(a) all aspects of a student’s experience at the University;
(b) University Activities;
(c) Student Organisations;
(d) University Premises; and
(e) University owned or managed accommodation, Colleges or homestays managed by the University.
3.4 Time limit to bring a Formal Complaint
If a Formal Complaint is brought more than 12 months after the event complained of, the Complainant will need to show cause to the Registrar or nominee as to why the Complaint should be considered after this delay.
3.5 Anonymous Complaints
The University does not generally respond to Anonymous Complaints under this Procedure but may do so depending upon the nature of the Complaint (i.e. being serious or systemic) and there being sufficient information to reasonably progress the Complaint or there being a statutory requirement for investigation.
3.6 Frivolous or Vexatious Complaints
Complaints may be rejected by the University at any time, if, in the University’s opinion, the Complaint is Frivolous or Vexatious. If a Complaint is dismissed on the grounds that it is Frivolous or Vexatious, the University decision is final.
3.7 Multiple issues and concurrent internal processes
Where a Complaint contains multiple issues, the University will determine the most appropriate process(es) for dealing with the Complaint. The University will inform the Complainant which process(es) it has decided to apply in handling the Complaint and provide reasons.
If, throughout the course of handling the Complaint, it becomes apparent that a different process(es) is more appropriate or applicable, the University may cease the current process and refer the matter to the more appropriate or applicable process(es). Before taking this course of action, the University will inform the Complainant (including its reasons for considering the alternative process(es) as more appropriate or applicable).
Where a Complaint involves multiple issues and internal processes, the individual processes or investigations may be:
(a) handled simultaneously;
(b) joined if the matters are appropriately connected;
(c) pursued in an order of priority conducive to a timely and effective resolution; or
(d) otherwise dealt with to enable an efficient and effective Complaint management process.
[Note: Example 1: It is determined that an aspect of a student’s Complaint is to be progressed via an alternative process; yet other aspects of the Complaint remain appropriately dealt with under this Procedure. The aspects of the Complaint to be handled under this Procedure may be handled simultaneous to; prioritised and handled prior to; or deferred and handled after the completion of the alternate process].
3.8 Withdrawal of Complaints
A Complainant may withdraw their Complaint at any stage of the Complaint process. Any withdrawal must be by the Complainant in writing, although the University may accept a withdrawal verbally in extenuating circumstances. In most circumstances, the University will deem the Complaint resolved, however, the University may determine the Complaint serious enough for an investigation to continue or referral to an external agency.
3.9 Indicative timeframes for Complaint resolution
The time it takes for a Complaint to be considered and resolved can vary due to the nature of the Complaint and the availability of relevant information and the individuals concerned.
Staff who receive a Complaint are encouraged wherever possible to resolve the Complaint as quickly and informally as possible.
The majority of Complaints will be resolved by informal resolution with the person most directly concerned. Complaints resolved in this way tend to be resolved earlier than otherwise possible.
Staff who investigate a Formal Complaint should aim to meet the following requirements:
- any Complaint process will commence within 10 working days of the lodgement of the Formal Complaint and any supporting information;
- all reasonable measures will be taken to finalise the Complaint process (including any Investigations required to be conducted as part of this process) as soon as practicable; and
- the Complainant will be provided with a written statement of the outcome of the Complaint, including details and reasons for the decision.
The expected timeframe for completing any Investigation should always be reasonable but realistic, taking into account resources and a variety of other factors such as University holidays. Investigators are expected to keep the Complainant informed of expected timeframes. If there is any change to the timeframe because of any delays, the Investigator will inform the Complainant and explain the reasons for the delay.
3.10 Expectations of participants
The University expects Complainants, Staff and Relevant Persons to behave in a reasonable and courteous manner at all times. While Complainants may at times feel frustrated or stressed about their problem or concern, rude or aggressive or other Unreasonable Behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Any Unreasonable Behaviour will be dealt with in accordance with the NSW Ombudsman’s Managing Unreasonable Behaviour Practice Manual.
Appendix 2a (for Student Complaints) and Appendix 2b (for Members of the Public Complaints) of this Procedure provide a mapping of the process with reference to the available supporting resources and participants.
Address the issue with the person concerned
The University encourages Complainants to try to resolve their Complaint quickly and informally with the member of Staff or Relevant Person who is most directly concerned in order to clarify any misunderstanding or error.
There are times when the Complainant may feel uncomfortable about approaching the member of Staff or Relevant Person most directly concerned, particularly if the Complaint is serious or involves that particular member of Staff or Relevant Person. In such a situation the Complainant may directly escalate their Complaint to a Formal Complaint.
If the Complainant is anxious about raising the issue with the person directly, and still wishes to proceed with an informal complaint, they should raise the Complaint with the relevant area supervisor or another senior member in the organisational unit or directly engage a University Facilitator for a supported informal resolution of the Complaint.
Make an informal Complaint
Any Complainant may raise an informal issue at any time, either face to face, by telephone, by email or in writing with the member of Staff or Relevant Person who is most directly concerned.
The Complainant should give full details about their problem or concern when they first raise it and advise their preferred way of resolving it. This will help the member of Staff or Relevant Person to ensure the problem or concern is dealt with under the correct process.
Complainants are also encouraged to tell the member of Staff or Relevant Person about any underlying personal or other issues that may have contributed to or exacerbated the Complaint. This will help the member of Staff or Relevant Person to try to approach the problem or concern in a more holistic way including, in the case of a Complaint from a student, referral to other forms of support as appropriate.The purpose of the Informal Resolution process is to:
[Note: the majority of issues will not progress beyond this point]In attempting to resolve the Complaint informally, the Relevant Person may:
INFORMAL RESOLUTION WITH SUPPORT
Engage a Facilitator
If a Complainant is dissatisfied with the outcome of previous attempts to resolve the Complaint, a Complainant may seek a supported Informal Resolution.The Facilitators who can help with Complaint resolution at this informal level are:
Before commencing Formal Resolution
Formal Resolution may be commenced after the Complainant has unsuccessfully attempted Informal Resolution of the Complaint or may be commenced where the Complainant is uncomfortable about having their complaint dealt with informally, particularly if the Complaint is serious or involves that particular member of Staff or Relevant Person.
If the Complaint has not been resolved informally and further resolution is sought, the Complainant may lodge a Formal Complaint using the Formal Complaint Form.
Lodging a Formal Complaint
|In order to commence a Formal Complaint, a Complainant must submit a Formal Complaint Form to the Registrar or nominee which includes the following information:
A student Complainant may engage a Facilitator (i.e. a Student Advocate) to assist with the preparation and submission of the Formal Complaint Form if required.
A Complainant who is a member of the public may engage a Facilitator (i.e. the University staff member appointed by the Registrar, or nominee) to assist in the submission of the Formal Complaint Form if required.
Appointment of a Decision-Maker
|The Registrar or nominee will appoint a Decision-Maker to consider and assess the Formal Complaint. A Decision-Maker includes but is not limited to:
Decision-Maker to first assess the Formal Complaint
|Upon receipt of a Formal Complaint, the Decision-Maker will provide an initial assessment. The Decision-Maker will consider in particular, whether the matter or aspects of it:
[Note: In particular, where a Formal Complaint may allege staff misconduct or serious misconduct as defined in the Enterprise Agreements or any other matter appropriately dealt with by an alternative process (i.e. including, but not limited to, those alternate procedures listed in Section 2); this Procedure may cease and the matter be progressed in accordance with the applicable process outlined in the Enterprise Agreements, University Policy, Procedure or Rule or any other source including referral to external agencies such as the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) or the police].
Appointment of an Investigator
|When satisfied that the Formal Complaint is to be progressed under this Procedure, the Decision-Maker will appoint an Investigator. An Investigator includes but is not limited to:
|Within 10 working days of receipt of the Formal Complaint Form, the Investigator will:
The Investigator will conduct an Investigation of the Formal Complaint.The Facilitator for a student (i.e. a Student Advocate) may:
|At the completion of the Investigation, the Investigator will prepare an Investigation Report that includes:
The Investigator will provide a completed Investigation Report to the Decision-Maker and provide clarification to the parties regarding the Investigation process as required.
Decision-Maker determines the outcome of the Formal
The Decision-Maker must review the Investigation Report produced by the Investigator.
The range of actions that the Decision-Maker may take in response to the outcome of the investigation will depend on the nature of the Complaint, the findings and recommendations made by the Investigator and any other actions available arising from Enterprise Agreements, University Policy, Procedure or Rule, contracts and any other instruments which may bind the University.
|If a student Complainant is dissatisfied with an aspect of the University’s Complaint handling process, they may refer their Complaint to an external agency, as outlined below.|
Member of the Public
If a Complainant who is a member of the public is dissatisfied with an aspect of the University’s Complaint handling process, they may refer their Complaint to an external agency, as outlined below.
REFERRAL TO AN EXTERNAL AGENCY
A Complainant may, at any stage, refer their Complaint to an external agency. Where this occurs, the University may decide to suspend or cease any internal process pending external investigation.If a Complainant is dissatisfied with the outcome of their Complaint, or the University’s handling of it, there are some external sources of advice or review including the following agencies:
A Complainant should promptly inform the University of any referrals made to external bodies in respect of a Complaint and engage respectfully with University staff and adhere to relevant procedures if requesting University information.The Facilitator for a student (i.e. a Student Advocate) may:
The Facilitator (i.e. the University staff member appointed by the Registrar or nominee) for a member of the public may, where the Complainant wishes to escalate the issue to an external agency, assist the Complainant, as appropriate, with information provision and associated contact details.
5 RECORD KEEPING AND FEEDBACK
5.1 Complaints Centre
Formal Complaints are recorded in a central database known as the Complaints Centre.
The Complaints Centre:
- records, where appropriate, a Formal Complaint and the determination;
- has a register of staff designated to receive Complaints and their level of expertise;
- has a database of qualified and experienced investigators; and
- tracks the progress of a Formal Complaint.
In particular, it records:
(a) number of Formal Complaints;
(b) compliance with performance/timeliness standards;
(c) issues raised in Formal Complaints;
(d) source of a Formal Complaint;
(e) method of handling a Formal Complaint;
(f) remedy or redress actually instituted; and
(g) recommendations and/or strategies to prevent or limit recurrences.
The University will regularly analyse data recorded in the Complaints Centre and identify trends, causes and performance statistics, particularly relating to timeliness, outcomes and rectification.
The Investigator must enter details of a Formal Complaint into the Complaints Centre within a reasonable timeframe, in accordance with this Procedure. The Decision-Maker will confirm that a Formal Complaint has been properly assessed.
5.2 Reporting and feedback
A summary of de-identified statistical information about Formal Complaints will be included in the University’s Annual Report.
The University will also conduct surveys of staff and students to obtain feedback about Complaint handling.
The Registrar or nominee will make the outcome of any independent inquiry (or aspects thereof) available to relevant areas including the University staff best positioned to assess and action any relevant findings and recommendations.
Terms defined in the University Glossary have the same meaning as set out in this Procedure. The following definitions apply for the purpose of this Procedure:
“Anonymous” where the Complainant withholds their name and does not wish to be identified in any way.
“College” means any:
- college of the University;
- residential premises of the University;
- residential premises primarily intended to be used as student residences (including Macquarie University Village or any similar premises) whether they are owned, operated or managed by the University.
“Complaint” for the purposes of this Procedure, means any type of concern or area of dissatisfaction raised by a student or member of the public that is not otherwise covered by the University’s existing review / appeal options or reporting procedures; and may encompass decisions of the University, any products or services offered by the University or the conduct of University staff.
“Complainant”means the student or member of the public who has made the Complaint.
“Decision-Maker”means those individuals listed in the “Formal Resolution” section of this Procedure.
“Facilitator” means the person who may assist a Complainant in the handling and resolution of their Complaint. The Facilitators for different types of Complainants are listed in the “Informal Resolution with Support” section of this Procedure.
“Formal Complaint” means a Complaint lodged on the Formal Complaints Form.
“Frivolous or Vexatious Complaint”means a Complaint that, regardless of its merits, is:
- obsessive, persistent, harassing, prolific, repetitious;
- insistent upon pursuing unmeritorious Complaints and/or unrealistic outcomes beyond all reason;
- insistent upon pursuing meritorious Complaints in an unreasonable manner;
- raised solely to harass, annoy or irritate another;
- made in bad faith; or
- demanding redress which lacks any serious purpose or value.
“Investigation” means an investigation contemplated by this Procedure.
“Investigator” means those individuals listed in the “Formal Resolution” section of this Procedure.
“Registrar” means the registrar of the University.
“Relevant Person”means the person about whom a Complaint is made.
“Staff” or “University Staff” means any staff member of the University and includes officers, employees and contractors of the University and the appointees to conjoint, adjunct, emeritus, honorary, clinical and visiting academic positions of the University.
“Student” means a student of the University and includes:
- a person who has been admitted as a student of the University but who has not yet enrolled in any program or unit of study or research; and
- a person who is enrolled in a program or unit of study or research provided by the University; and
- a person who is enrolled in a program or unit of study or research at or offered by an educational institution affiliated with the University which is approved as an award program or a unit of study or research by the University; and
- a person who has completed a program or unit of study or research at the University but has not yet been awarded the applicable academic award; and
- a person who became admitted or enrolled as a student of the University because of misleading or dishonest conduct by any person; and
- a person who is awarded an academic or non-academic award by the University because of misleading or dishonest conduct by any person; and
- any person who has been suspended from a program or unit of study or research at the University; and
- a person who is on leave of absence from or who has deferred enrolment in a program or unit of study or research offered by the University or by an affiliated educational institution which is approved as an award program or unit of study or research by the University; and
- any person who undertakes any examination or other academic assessment task which is part of a program or unit of study or research provided, supervised or assessed by the University, and includes a former Student.
“Student Advocate” means a Student Advocacy and Support Officer with Campus Wellbeing.
“Student Organisation”means any incorporated or unincorporated association or group of persons the majority of whom are students which is affiliated with or otherwise associated with the University.
“University” means Macquarie University and where the context permits includes any one or more of the following:
- its controlled entities;
- any institution affiliated with Macquarie University or any of its controlled entities;
- any College; and
- any educational institution located on the premises of the University.
“University Activities” means the activities of the University and the University Community including:
- teaching, study and research at the University;
- the conduct of any academic exercise;
- recreational, commercial, disciplinary or ceremonial activities of the University or the University Community;
- any clinical, professional or practical work, research, workshops, camps or field or vocational placements and any other activities arranged, sponsored, controlled or supervised by the University whether or not it is part of a program or unit of study at the University;
- the provision by the University of services to the general community;
- the use or enjoyment of any University property or University Premises by any person authorised by the University; and
- the management or administration of the University.
“University Community” means the:
- members of the University’s Council and Staff of the University;
- Student Organisations;
- tenants and licensees of University Premises and their officers and staff; and
- persons conducting authorised business on University Premises.
“University Premises” means any:
- premises owned, operated, supervised, occupied or controlled by the University including premises of which the University is the landlord;
- premises on which University Activities take place; and
- College premises.
“Unreasonable Behaviour” means behaviour that includes one or more of the following:
- unreasonable persistence;
- unreasonable demands;
- unreasonable lack of co-operation;
- unreasonable arguments;
- unreasonable behaviour including:
- displaying confronting behaviour (eg rudeness, aggression);
- threats or harassment;
- sending rude or confronting or threatening letters;
- making threats of self-harm;
- making threats of harm to others;
- displaying manipulative or overly ingratiating behaviour.
“Vice-Chancellor”means the Vice-Chancellor of the University.
7 RELEVANT LEGISLATION
8 KEY RELATED DOCUMENTS
Appendix 1: Framework for handling and resolving concerns raised by students and members of the public including Complaints raised under this Procedure
Appendix 2a: Mapping of the process for Students
Appendix 2b: Mapping of the process for Members of the Public
Managing Complaints at Macquarie – Training Video and Supporting Resources
Formal Complaint Form
|9.1||Contact Officer||Student Grievance and Discipline Manager|
|9.2||Implementation Officer||Head of Governance Services|
|9.3||Approval Authority / Authorities||Vice-Chancellor|
|9.4||Date Approved||9 March 2015|
|9.5||Date of Commencement||27 July 2015|
|9.6||Date for Review||27 July 2016|
|9.7||Documents Superseded by this Procedure||Grievance Management Policy approved 15 February 2011 in relation to students only. That Policy is still relevant for staff complaints.|
Student Grievance Handling Procedure approved 28 March 2013
|9.8||Amendment History||22 March 2019 – Update to Relevant Legislation: National Code 2018 replacing National Code 2007|
11 December 2018 – Amendment to remove reference to Macquarie University Student Ombudsman approved by Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic).
19 July 2018 - Updated references for DVC(A) and Registrar to Registrar
8 November 2017 – Updated references for Registrar to Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) and Registrar, and amended references for Deputy Registrar to reference the Director, Academic Services, or Head of Governance Services as listed ‘Decision-Maker’ and/or ‘Investigator’
3 August 2017 amendments to extend scope to include complaints about staff conduct and include a revised definition of staff. Updated Implementation Officer from Deputy Registrar to Head of Governance Services. Updated Appendices 1 / 2a / 2b (to further emphasise that informal resolution can be skipped if complaint is serious).