Student or third party complaints policy process

Purpose

This process supports the Complaints resolution policy. Its purpose is to ensure a consistent, coordinated and supportive approach to achieve timely and fair resolution of concerns and complaints. The Complaints resolution policy sets out principles for the conduct of all parties to a complaint resolution process.

Scope

This process applies to students (including higher degree by research candidates) and third parties who wish to raise a concern or make a formal complaint about a service or action of the University or the behaviour of members of its community. Staff who wish to make a complaint should follow the relevant staff complaints process: see the Complaints resolution policy.

Process steps

1. Complaint handlers

1.1. Each university area will identify to the Academic Registrar at least one role that will receive and resolve complaints. These roles are referred to as ‘complaint handlers’. The area will also identify the complaint handler’s manager.

2. Submission of a Tier One concern – informal resolution directly with the service provider/decision maker at the local level

2.1. As soon as practicable, the person who has the concern raises it directly with the person/office responsible for provision of the service or action.

2.2. The local area determines who will manage the matter and communicate with the person who raised the concern.

2.3. The responsible staff member evaluates the nature of the concern and the appropriate approach:

2.3.1. If the concern can be managed at the local level, Tier One, the responsible staff member evaluates it to determine a resolution.

2.3.2. If the matter is related to sexual harassment, sexual assault or other unlawful or harmful behaviour such as bullying, discrimination or vilification, it must immediately be referred to the Safer Community Unit who will advise how the matter will be managed, and will contact the complainant to offer advice and support.

2.3.3. If the matter is determined to be too complex for Tier one resolution and isn’t related to behaviour that needs to be referred to the Safer Community Unit, it’s escalated as a formal complaint.

    a) Within two working days after the complainant raised the concern, the responsible staff member advises them how to submit a formal complaint via the RMIT Connect portal. They can either do this themselves or a third party can do it on their behalf with their consent.

    b) Once the complaint is submitted, the triage staff allocate it for Tier Two or Tier Three resolution.

2.4. The responsible staff member determines a resolution of the concern within two working days after the day the concern is raised or as soon as practically possible if the concern requires Safer Community Unit involvement.

2.4.1. If no corrective action will be taken, the responsible staff member explains this to the complainant

2.4.2. If corrective action will be taken, the responsible staff member advises the complainant what action will be taken, by whom and by when.

2.5. Responses to complainants:

2.5.1. should offer relevant assistance to the complainant, such as referring them to university support services

2.5.2. must include information on how to submit a formal complaint if they’re dissatisfied with the outcome of the informal process

2.5.3. should be retained in case they’re needed – for example, if the matter is escalated as a complaint.

3. Submission of a Tier Two complaint – local formal resolution via the complaint handler

3.1. Tier Two complaints are complaints that:

3.1.1. have gone through Tier One but the complainant is dissatisfied with the outcome, or;

3.1.2. have been evaluated at Tier One to be more appropriate for Tier Two management, or;

3.1.3. the complainant believes their matter constitutes a formal complaint.

3.2. Complaints are submitted via the RMIT Connect portal:

3.2.1. by the complainant, or

3.2.2. by a staff member on behalf of a complainant if they have the capacity to do so, and the complainant consents to this.

3.2.3. The RUSU student rights team are available to help student complainants prepare and submit a complaint.

3.3. Where complaints are submitted in hard copy or by email, the complaint handler enters them into the RMIT Connect portal: and attaches the document(s) and/or email.

3.4. Complaints must provide the following details:

3.4.1. a comprehensive description of the complaint,

3.4.2. the outcome being sought, and

3.4.3. any evidence supporting the complainant’s claims.

3.5. Triage staff assess the complaint to determine the appropriate resolution level (i.e., Tier One, Two or Three), and refer it to the appropriate complaint handler.

3.5.1.If triage staff need more information to make an accurate referral, they will contact the complainant to request this on the same day as the complaint was submitted, or no later than the next working day where the complaint was submitted late in the day.

3.5.2.In this case, triage staff place the complaint on hold until the complainant responds.

3.6. If the complaint alleges unlawful or harmful behaviour (including but not limited to harassment, sexual harassment, bullying, discrimination or vilification), triage staff will also refer the complaint to the Safer Community Unit, which will contact the complainant to offer advice and support.

3.6.1. In these cases, the Complaints team in Student Governance, in consultation with the complainant and the Safer Community Unit, will determine how the complaint will be managed.

3.7. The complaint handler provides an outcome normally within 15 working days (or 20 working days in the case of complex or high risk matters) of the day when the complainant provided all information necessary to handle the complaint.

3.7.1. Where the complaint requires urgent actions to avoid disadvantaging the complainant, the complaint handler may expedite these actions before issuing the full outcome of the complaint.

3.8. Where the complainant is dissatisfied with the outcome of the Tier Two process, they may seek a review of their complaint and outcome via the Tier Three process.

4. Tier Three – formal resolution by Student Governance

4.1. Tier Three complaints are complaints that:

4.1.1. have gone through Tier Two but the complainant is dissatisfied with the outcome, or

4.1.2. have been evaluated at Tier Two to be more appropriate for Tier Three management, or

4.1.3. allege unlawful or harmful behaviour, or

4.1.4. suggest institutional risk or risk to a number of people.

4.2. Tier Three complaints are managed by the Complaints team in Student Governance in the Academic Registrar’s Group, or, in the case of learning and teaching or program quality issues that were unable to be resolved via Tiers One and Two, and the College has not previously been involved in the complaint, the College.

4.3. The Student Governance (or College) complaints team provides an outcome:

4.3.1. normally within 20 working days of the day when the complainant provided all information necessary to handle the complaint, or

4.3.2. if the complaint is unusually complex, a longer period.

4.4. Where the complaint requires urgent actions to avoid disadvantaging the complainant, the complaints team may expedite these actions before issuing the full outcome of the complaint.

4.5. A complainant may request a review of the Tier Three outcome of a complaint where they present evidence or a compelling argument that meets the grounds for further review in the Review of the outcome or decision of a student complaint section of the Complaints resolution policy: see the Reviews of a complaint outcome section below.

4.6. Where a complainant is dissatisfied with the outcome of the Tier Three process and any review under the previous clause, they may seek a further review of their complaint and outcome by the RMIT Ombuds: see the Role of the RMIT Ombuds section of the RMIT Connect portal.

5. Investigation, resolution and responding to complaints

5.1. This refers to complaints at Tiers Two and Three.

5.2. The complaint handler to whom the complaint is referred is responsible for:

5.2.1. acknowledging receipt of the complaint and confirming they will be the main contact person for the management of the complaint

5.2.2. facilitating investigation and resolution (This may include obtaining further evidence from the complainant or others and gaining advice from other staff and areas of the University as required.),

5.2.3. liaison with the complainant to determine the appropriate method of resolution (which may include mediation or conciliation),

5.2.4. redirecting the complainant to attempt local resolution (Tier One or Tier Two) where this hasn’t been attempted and the complaint is assessed as appropriate for this type of resolution,

5.2.5. communicating outcomes to the complainant, and

5.2.6. maintaining accurate records of the entire process on the RMIT Connect portal.

5.3. Where it’s necessary to meet the complainant and/or respondent:

5.3.1. The complaint handler keeps a record of the meeting and enters this in the appropriate notes field of the RMIT Connect complaints service record.

5.3.2. Complainants and respondents are entitled to bring a support person and/or advocate to the meeting.

5.3.3. If a complainant or respondent is under the age of 18 they must be accompanied at the meeting by an adult who is responsible for their interaction with the University.

5.3.4. Where a complaint outcome can’t be provided within the timeframes identified in the process the complaint handler provides the complainant with updates at least weekly on the progress of the investigation and when an outcome is expected.

5.4. Complaint outcomes are communicated in writing and include:

5.4.1. each of the relevant points raised by the complainant and the evidence they provided,

5.4.2. the decision and reasons for the outcome, and

5.4.3. advice that the complainant can seek a review of the decision within 20 working days of the notification of the outcome, including the grounds for review and the information about how to submit the review.

5.5. Complaint outcomes are recorded in the RMIT Connect complaints service record.

6. Reviews of the complaint outcome

6.1. Complainants can request a review of the outcome following the instructions included in the outcome notification.

6.2. Complainants are expected to include all relevant information with their complaint and with any application for review.

6.3. Review referrals are as follows.

6.3.1. Tier One concern outcomes are referred to the Tier Two level for review.

6.3.2. Tier Two complaint outcomes are referred to the Tier Three level for review.

    a) Complaints related to learning and teaching or program quality should seek a review by the College.

6.3.3. Tier Three complaint outcomes are referred to another manager for review where the complainant requests a review and provides evidence or a compelling argument that meets the grounds in the Review of the outcome or decision of a student complaint section of the RMIT Connect portal.

6.3.4. Complainants who are dissatisfied with a Tier Three complaint outcome also have the option of applying to the RMIT Ombuds for review: see the Role of the RMIT Ombuds section of the RMIT Connect portal.

6.3.5. After all internal review outcomes have been exhausted the University considers the matter closed and complainants are advised that they can seek an external review by the Victorian Ombudsman.

6.3.6. Where all internal review processes have been exhausted as outlined in the Reviews section, the University will normally only reconsider a complaint if the complainant produces significant new information that wasn’t available at the time of the original complaint or subsequent internal reviews.

6.4. Reviews are conducted by a manager at the same level as the original complaint handler or higher, who hasn’t previously been involved in the complaint.

6.5. Reviewers are responsible for:

    6.5.1. assessing whether the application meets grounds for review

    6.5.2. conducting the review

    6.5.3. liaison with the complainant

    6.5.4. communicating outcomes to the complainant.

    6.5.5. maintaining accurate records of the entire process on the RMIT Connect complaints service record.

6.6. If the application for review doesn’t meet the grounds for review, the reviewer:

6.6.1. communicates this to the complainant in writing within five working days from the day the review request was received, stating the reasons the application is unsuccessful

6.6.2. forwards a copy of this notice to the original complaint handler for retention and

6.6.3. updates the RMIT Connect complaints service record.

6.7. If the application for review does meet the grounds for review, the reviewer:

6.7.1. conducts the review, checking whether the policy and process were followed and whether the outcome was reasonable. Reasonableness questions include:

    a) Did the complaint handler consider and respond to all relevant evidence provided by the complainant?

    b) Is there evidence that the complaint handler considered information that wasn’t relevant to the matter or that the outcome was influenced by bias or ill-will?

    c) Did the complaint handler give the complainant reasons for the outcome?

    d) Was the complaint handled in a timely manner, and if there were delays caused by the University, did the delay have a negative impact on the complainant?

    e) Is the outcome consistent with the relevant policies, principles and professional standards of the University?

    f) Are other possible outcomes more reasonable given the complainant’s individual circumstances?

6.7.2. communicates the outcome to the complainant in writing within 20 working days of the day the review request was received.

6.8. Review outcomes are communicated in writing and include:

6.8.1. each of the relevant points raised by the complainant and the evidence they provided

6.8.2. the decision and reasons for the outcome, and

6.8.3. advice that the complainant can seek an additional review of the decision within 20 working days of the notification of the outcome, including the grounds for review and information about how to submit a further review request.

6.9. If, however, the complaint relates to learning and teaching or program quality the review request should be addressed to the College.

7. Unreasonable complainant conduct

7.1. Unreasonable complainant conduct is behaviour by a complainant which, because of its nature or frequency, raises substantial health, safety or resource issues for the parties to a complaint. The parties to a complaint include the complainant(s), the subject(s) of the complaint, the complaint handler(s) and the University.

7.2. Unreasonable complainant conduct can occur in face-to-face interactions, telephone or digital communications (including on social networking websites), in a public location or in written correspondence, or a combination of these.

7.3. Where a complaint handler believes there’s evidence that establishes unreasonable complaint conduct it should be referred to the Academic Registrar. Where the Academic Registrar is satisfied that it constitutes unreasonable complainant conduct they may dismiss the complaint and/or take other action as deemed appropriate, which may include referring the matter to the Student Conduct Board.

8. Management of anonymous complaints

8.1. There are two kinds of anonymous complaints:

8.1.1. Where a person doesn’t disclose their identity when submitting a complaint (by phone or in writing to the University); and

8.1.2. Where a student or third party identifies themselves when submitting a complaint, but asks to have their identity withheld in the resolution of the complaint.

8.2. Entirely anonymous complaints will normally only be investigated where they raise a serious matter and there is sufficient information in the complaint to enable an investigation to occur.

8.2.1. Serious matters can include serious misconduct or corruption by a member of the University community, or possible risk to safety, property or the University’s reputation.

8.2.2. Where a complaint alleges an incident that government legislation requires the University to report, the matter will be reported, even if the complaint doesn’t provide enough information for the University to conduct an investigation.

8.3. Where a complainant identifies themselves but asks to have their identity withheld, the complaint handler will determine whether it is possible to resolve the complaint in accordance with the principles of fairness and natural justice without revealing the identity of the complainant.

9. Management of complaints that have been addressed previously

9.1.Where all internal review processes have been exhausted as outlined in the Reviews section, the University will normally only reconsider a complaint if the complainant produces significant new information that was not available at the time of the original complaint or subsequent internal reviews.

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