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Student Complaints Management Procedures

Purpose

Scope

Principles

Procedural statements

Procedural ownership and support

Definitions

Approval information

PDF version

References

Contact details

1. Purpose

1.1 These procedures outline how complaints should be managed to reasonable resolution by UTS under the Student Complaints Policy (the policy).

2. Scope

2.1 The scope outlined in the policy applies for these procedures.

3. Principles

3.1 The principles outlined in the policy apply for these procedures.

3.2 All UTS staff members may receive and attempt to resolve complaints from students about the teaching and learning environment, which may include, but are not limited to:

  • other UTS students
  • all staff as defined by these procedures
  • visitors to UTS
  • agents or other related parties who represent or act on behalf of UTS
  • a faculty or administrative unit
  • an aspect of the physical environment
  • academic or behavioural integrity issues, or
  • an administrative process.

3.3 All parties to a student complaint have rights and responsibilities when attempting to resolve a complaint reasonably.

Student complaints management rights and responsibilities table

At UTS … have a right to … in acting responsibly, must …
All staff
  • respectful treatment
  • support from a manager when taking care of complainants
  • treat all people with respect in line with university policy
  • assist people who wish to access the university’s complaints processes
  • respond to complaints in line with the policy and these procedures
  • provide feedback to the Governance Support Unit (GSU) about complaints management at the university
  • implement outcomes from complaints
Staff who manage or mediate complaints
  • respectful treatment
  • support from a manager when taking care of complaints
  • support from the SCRO when taking care of complaints
  • adhere to the policy and these procedures
Student Complaints Resolution Office (SCRO)
  • respectful treatment
  • adhere to the policy and these procedures
  • provide support, resources and advice to staff who take care of complaints
  • internally review complaints
  • provide advice and support to the university leadership team on individual complaints and complaints management generally

4. Procedural statements

Registering and acknowledging student complaints

4.1 Students may make a complaint to any staff member:

It is preferable for complainants to identify themselves rather than remain anonymous to enable resolution. The university will make a reasonable judgement about whether or not to investigate an anonymous complaint.

4.2 Details of the complaint and any supporting documentation should be provided to the Student Complaints Resolution Office (SCRO) via the student complaints form (UTS Student Portal). Students will receive an automated acknowledgement of the complaint.

4.3 SCRO will promptly:

  • record and maintain details of the complaint on an approved central database
  • ensure the status of the complaint is accurate within the database (‘acknowledged’ or ‘being assessed’)
  • notify appropriate staff when a complaint has been made by a student and begin assessment of the complaint within 10 working days of receipt of the complaint, and
  • conduct an initial assessment and either:
    • resolve the complaint, or
    • refer the complaint to the most appropriate staff member for further management and resolution.

4.4 SCRO will normally refer the complaint to the appropriate staff member in closest proximity to the event(s) giving rise to the complaint. Where the complaint is about a staff member (the respondent), the complaint will normally be notified to them unless there is a prevailing reason not to do so (for example, if that complaint relates to harassment, or there is concern for the wellbeing of the complainant or the respondent). Where a complaint cannot be forwarded directly to the respondent, the SCRO will contact their line manager or supervisor.

4.5 SCRO will provide the appropriate staff member with the complainant’s details (unless the complainant wishes to keep their details confidential or the complaint has been made anonymously), a copy of the complaint and supporting documentation.

4.6 Where the appropriate staff member is a member of the Senior Executive, the Senior Executive may request that the SCRO also refer the complaint to the University Secretary to facilitate the procedure and support the Senior Executive staff member.

Managing student complaints

4.7 When reviewing a complaint, the SCRO and/or the appropriate staff member is expected to consider:

  • the seriousness, complexity and urgency of the issue(s)
  • potential risks to the health and/or safety of the complainant or respondent
  • whether an external organisation is better placed to take care of the complaint
  • how best to offer a reasonable and timely resolution to the complaint, and
  • how best to ensure personal information of the complainant is not disclosed to any third party unnecessarily.

4.8 To progress a complaint to a resolution, the appropriate staff member may:

  • seek further information from the complainant, respondent or a third party
  • refer to relevant policies and procedures, and/or
  • conduct research to inform a reasonable and appropriate resolution in the circumstances of the complaint.

4.9 Students who meet university staff in person (or via video call or conferencing) to facilitate the resolution of their complaint will be given the opportunity to be accompanied and assisted by a support person.

4.10 A resolution must be reached by the policy’s stated timeline as outlined in statement 4.6. Types of reasonable resolution that may be offered include:

  • referring the complainant to UTS or external support or assistance programs
  • providing an apology
  • specific action requested by the complainant
  • recommending a change to university practice, procedure or policy
  • ceasing the activity about which the complaint has been made
  • changing a decision
  • providing an explanation that addresses the complainant’s concerns
  • providing the complainant with reasons why the complaint will not be taken further.

4.11 In some instances, no further action will be taken in response to a complaint. This situation may occur where:

  • the complaint is classified as an enquiry or a request for service and as such, is triaged for appropriate management
  • the complaint cannot be substantiated
  • inquiries or action were limited as the complaint was made anonymously
  • the student does not respond to requests for additional information in a reasonable timeframe (in these instances, the SCRO will write to the student advising them that the complaint will be closed in seven working days unless further information is forthcoming)
  • a reasonable resolution has been rejected by the complainant, and/or
  • the complainant displays unreasonable complainant conduct that interferes with the ability to offer a reasonable resolution.

4.12 Within 10 working days of the resolution, students will be informed of the outcome of their complaint and their rights for internal or external review.

4.13 Students will be advised of the outcome of any internal or external review. The university will take appropriate action in response to any recommendation resulting from a review process and advise the student accordingly.

4.14 A request by the complainant for advice or information in relation to the progress of a complaint should be accommodated where possible.

Internal reviews of decisions

4.15 Students may request a review of the outcome of a complaint in line with the policy and any timelines advised by the university.

4.16 Requests are made to SCRO and forwarded to an appropriate staff member (review officer).

4.17 All material relevant to the original complaint, including the results of any enquiries made and the initial response, must be considered as part of the review. The review officer will consider any additional material provided by the complainant in managing the review and may make additional inquiries as necessary.

4.18 The review officer or the SCRO (as appropriate) should advise the complainant in writing of:

  • the outcome of the review
  • the reasons for the proposed outcome
  • their right to seek further review by the Student Ombud in line with the policy
  • their right to seek review via an external third party (normally the NSW Ombudsman) and the contact details of the external third party.

4.19 Outcomes of an internal review decision include the following:

  • the results of the original complaint are upheld
  • the results of the original complaint are partially upheld and partially resolved in some other manner, or
  • the results of the original complaint are overturned and a new decision or outcome is determined.

4.20 The SCRO will advise UTS International (UTSI) of the outcome of an international student’s complaint following the internal review process.

External reviews

4.21 At the conclusion of an internal review process, including any review by the Student Ombud, the complainant will be provided with information about review or appeals rights and processes by any external agency.

4.22 Students should advise the SCRO if they decide to escalate their complaint to an external agency.

4.23 The SCRO will advise UTSI of the outcome of an international student’s complaint upon receipt of an outcome from an external review.

Records management

4.24 Staff members involved in complaint management or internal review must keep a record of the complaint in accordance with the policy.

4.25 Records of the complaint must be retained including:

  • information relating to the complaint, and supporting documents and evidence
  • any agreed resolution steps and processes (including those made via online messaging, communication or complaints management tools)
  • timelines
  • file notes of telephone conversations
  • rationale for decision-making (to protect the integrity of the process)
  • final outcomes and decisions
  • legal proceedings
  • external impacts or attention, and
  • any review or appeals processes and outcomes.

4.26 Information or documentation that contains the personal information of any third party must only be recorded or retained in line with the Privacy Policy.

Timeliness

4.27 All complaints must be finalised in as timely a manner as possible in line with the policy. The complainant should be notified of a timeframe in which they can expect a response and/or a resolution.

4.28 Where a complaint management process is anticipated to exceed 60 working days, the appropriate staff member must advise the complainant of the delay as soon as possible, in line with the requirements of the policy.

Continuous improvement

4.29 Staff members are expected to provide information to the university and the SCRO about opportunities to improve the systems, services, processes or facilities relevant to the area of the complaint.

Monitoring and reporting

4.30 SCRO is responsible for monitoring and reporting on complaints and escalating emerging or systemic issues. Regular reports will be made to the Senior Executive on trends, volume, resourcing and risks in line with the policy.

4.31 For international students, the above procedure is in line with Standard 10 in the National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018 (National Code).

5. Procedural ownership and support

5.1 Procedures owner: The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education and Students) in consultation with the Director, Governance Support Unit (GSU) is responsible for the approval, enforcement of and compliance with these procedures in line with the policy. The Director, GSU is also responsible for the approval of guidelines to support staff in implementing these procedures.

5.2 Procedures contact: The Senior Advisor, Student Complaints in the Student Complaints Resolution Office is responsible for implementing these procedures and coordinating the activities of the Student Complaints Resolution Office in GSU.

6. Definitions

The definitions outlined in the policy apply for these procedures. The following definitions are in addition to those definitions.

Review officer means:

  • the Senior Advisor, Student Complaints
  • a senior UTS staff member, or
  • an external third-party reviewer who has had no previous involvement with the complainant or the complaint.

Approval information

Procedures contact Senior Advisor, Student Complaints
Approval authority Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education and Students)
Review date 2023
File number UR19/1511
Superseded documents Handling Student Complaints Procedures for Managers 2004 (UR07/633)

Version history

Version Approved by Approval date Effective date Sections modified
1.0 Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education and Students) 24/06/2019 22/07/2019 New procedures
1.1 Director, Governance Support Unit (Delegation 3.14.1) 10/10/2019 28/11/2019 Additional clarification of policy requirements including for overseas (international) students.
1.2 Director, Governance Support Unit (Delegation 3.14.1) 20/10/2020 27/11/2020 Changes and corrections following a one-year post-implementation review.
1.3 Director, Governance Support Unit (Delegation 3.14.1) 25/07/2022 25/07/2022 Minor changes to clarify existing statements in response to the ESOS external compliance audit.

PDF version

Student Complaints Management Procedures (PDF 194KB)

References

Student complaints form (UTS Student Portal)

Student Complaints Policy

Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2021 (Cwlth)

National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018

NSW Ombudsman

Privacy Policy

Student Ombud

UTS International