RMIT Ombuds policy

Intent

1. To strengthen RMIT’s systems for ensuring fairness and academic integrity in all areas of operations and provide an independent and confidential review of RMIT decisions, outcomes, and findings.

Scope

2. This policy applies to:

  • Staff currently employed by RMIT or ex-staff who ceased employment with the University within 12 months of seeking review
  • Students currently enrolled within the University (including those RMIT students studying with partners or on campuses outside Australia) or who have graduated or discontinued enrolment within 12 months of seeking review
  • Decisions/outcomes or findings made by RMIT which result in an outcome to the prejudice of the member of staff/student and where the member of staff/student reasonably claims that he/she was not afforded procedural fairness and/or due process was not followed
  • The member of staff/student must have exhausted all other relevant internal avenues of redress
  • Anonymous requests for review will not be accepted.

Exclusions

3. This policy does not apply to decisions/outcomes or findings made by:

  • RMIT Council
  • Academic Board
  • Appeals against assessment decisions (except where a breach or failure of process is alleged)
  • External Agencies
  • Misconduct Investigation Committees/Investigators (as per cl 49.6 of the RMIT Academic and Professional Staff Union Collective Agreement 2010).

It does not apply to staff employed by RMIT partners or controlled entities.

Objectives

4. To enable staff and students who allege a breach of procedural fairness or due process of University policy and procedure and who have exhausted all other relevant internal avenues, to raise their concerns with an independent reviewer, in confidence.

5. To support and encourage an organisational culture where student and staff members’ rights to raise concerns are recognised and supported.

6. To provide recommendations to RMIT (through the Vice-Chancellor) on any action the University needs to take to protect or improve procedural fairness and due process and if relevant recommend that the original decision/finding/outcome be set aside and that the process be reinitiated, or that a decision be reviewed and remedial action considered.

Policy provisions

7. The Ombuds will operate under the following principles:

7.1 Observation of the principles of fairness, academic integrity and natural justice

7.2 Staff and students will not suffer disadvantage or be subjected to victimisation as a result of assisting an Ombuds enquiry or seeking review through the Ombuds

7.3 All parties involved in the resolution of the review are required to ensure the identities of the parties involved and the substance of the review remain confidential. Disclosure of information will be limited to those reasonably required for the review or investigation and resolution of the matter.

7.4 The Ombuds will focus on policy/system/process improvement through recommendations to the University

7.5 Full cooperation will be given for a review conducted by the Ombuds.

8. Governance, Accountability and Reporting

8.1 The Ombuds reports to University Council, through the Chancellor, by submitting an Annual Report based on requests for review received throughout the reporting period. A copy is also provided to the Vice-Chancellor for information.

8.2 The Ombuds will prepare a report for the Vice-Chancellor, or in cases involving the Vice-Chancellor, to the Chancellor, where he or she deems a request for review to be critical in terms of the need for an urgent resolution and/or where there are significant implications for individuals and/or RMIT

8.3 The report specified in 8.2 above shall outline:

    • The nature of the review
    • The steps taken to conclude the review
    • Reasons the review is critical
    • Recommended action for resolution of the review, and
    • Recommended action to avoid further like instances.

9. Powers of the Ombuds:

9.1 The Ombuds has the power to investigate or review evidence of alleged breaches of policy or procedure

9.2 Following the review, the Ombuds will provide a report and may make recommendations regarding procedural fairness and process improvement to the relevant senior manager (copied to the relevant member of the Senior Executive). The Ombuds may request through the University Secretary a report on actions taken as a result of his or her recommendations.

9.3 The Ombuds has the power to discontinue his/her investigation or review activity if an external resolution avenue is initiated.

9.4 The functions of the Ombuds exclude:

9.4.1 Representation of students or staff in formal complaints procedures

9.4.2 Provision of legal advice or legal representation

9.4.3 Assistance with non-university issues, decisions or reviews

9.4.4 Advocacy for students or staff members involved in disputes

9.4.5 Alteration of decisions/outcomes/findings.

9.5 All parties to a review are expected to act in good faith. The Ombuds will not investigate or review frivolous, vexatious or malicious complaints and the submission of same may lead to disciplinary action under relevant staff/student conduct instruments.

10. Review Resolution:

10.1 The rules of natural justice (procedural and substantive fairness) will be followed in the conduct and reporting of reviews.

10.2 The Ombuds may only disclose details of requests for review with the approval of the party seeking review. In the absence of such approval, the Ombuds may decline to investigate

10.3 Records of requests for review will be kept in accordance with legislative requirements.

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