Complaints resolution policy

Purpose

To ensure a consistent, coordinated and supportive approach that prioritises fair and reasonable complaint resolution across RMIT.

Scope

Complaints related to processes or decisions of an RMIT Group institution, or actions by staff or students of an RMIT Group Institution.

Exclusions

  • RMIT Training
  • RMIT partner institutions
  • Complaints about:
    • any decision under a policy or process for which the policy or process provides an appeal or review mechanism;
    • decisions by RMIT Council, Academic Board or external organisations;
    • complaints that are dealt with via the health and safety issue resolution process
  • Complaints of improper or corrupt conduct by an RMIT staff member
  • Complaints related to:
    • the conduct of research
    • human research ethics
    • animal ethics in teaching or research
    • genetically modified organisms in research

See Supporting resources for guidance on complaints processes for these matters.

Policy provisions

1. RMIT approach to complaint resolution

1.1. RMIT supports students and staff who raise concerns and complaints, and acknowledges the value of feedback for continuous improvement of the student and staff experience.

1.2. All parties to a complaint:

1.2.1. are expected to act in good faith, maintain a fundamental respect for each other and focus on resolution.

1.2.2. will not be unfairly disadvantaged or face discrimination as a result of engaging with the complaints process.

1.3. Complaints are responded to promptly and sensitively.

1.4. RMIT is committed to resolving complaints quickly, effectively and equitably within the resources available.

1.5. RMIT’s preferred approach to the resolution of complaints is, wherever possible, informal and non-adversarial and seeks outcomes that are fair and reasonable to all parties involved.

1.5.1. Those with a concern or complaint are encouraged to engage directly with those responsible for the matter they are concerned about or complaining about, who in turn are encouraged to work with the complainant to find a rapid resolution that is satisfactory to both parties.

1.5.2. RMIT recognises, however, that it is not always possible to resolve complaints informally.

1.5.3. Parties involved in complaint resolution will disclose any actual or potential conflict of interest at the start of the complaint resolution process.

1.5.4. Complaints are managed in accordance with principles of procedural fairness.

1.5.5. All complaints are considered on their merits, on the basis of evidence relevant to the complaint and any mitigating circumstances.

2. Submission of complaints

2.1. The University accepts complaints from individuals and groups.

2.2. Students, former students and third parties such as members of the public or visitors to RMIT campuses follow the Student or third party complaints policy process.

2.3. Staff of an Australian campus making complaints follow the Staff issue assessment and intervention policy process.

2.4. Staff of RMIT Vietnam making complaints follow the Staff complaints – RMIT Vietnam process [under development].

2.5. Staff of RMIT Europe making complaints follow the staff complaints – RMIT Europe process [under development].

2.6. Staff of RMIT Online making complaints follow the staff complaints – RMIT Online process [under development].

3. Support for complainants and respondents

3.1. RMIT supports the welfare of staff and students who are parties to a complaint: assistance is available through the Student Counselling Services or Employee Assistance Programs.

3.2. The Safer Community Unit will offer support, assistance and referral services to complainants who report sexual harassment, bullying, discrimination, vilification, victimisation or other unlawful behaviours, as described in the relevant student complaints or staff complaints process.

3.3. Before submitting a complaint, a student may choose to discuss their concern with the student complaints contact for the relevant area.

3.4. Parties to a complaint are permitted a support person at all meetings, and will be made aware of this right. The process will not however be unduly delayed if a person is unable to organise a support person. It may sometimes be necessary to convene meetings at short notice to mitigate risk.

3.5. Parties to a complaint who are students are permitted an advocate at all meetings, and will be made aware of this right. The process will not however be unduly delayed if a student is unable to organise an advocate. It may sometimes be necessary to convene meetings at short notice to mitigate risk.

4. Confidentiality

4.1. All parties to a complaint must respect the confidentiality of the complaint and must not discuss the complaint with anyone other than their support person or advocate while the complaint is being investigated and/or resolved.

4.2. Advocates and support persons are bound by the same confidentiality as parties to the complaint.

4.3. RMIT balances the right to confidentiality against the principles of procedural fairness and will not unnecessarily disclose the identity of the complainant or witnesses to the respondent where this may constitute a risk to safety.

4.4. The complainant and respondent are advised in writing of the findings of any investigation.

4.4.1. Actions imposed/introduced as a result of the complaint can be shared with the complainant and respondent, but this must be balanced against preserving the privacy of other staff members or students.

4.4.2. The RMIT group institution may instruct the complainant or respondent that information arising from investigation of the complaint must remain confidential to them and their advocate and/or support persons and cannot be discussed with or distributed to others without permission from the University.

5. Complaints handling framework

5.1. Complaints submitted are assessed to determine the most appropriate resolution process and the staff member who will manage resolution.

5.2. Complaints are managed at no cost to the complainant.

5.3. A complainant may withdraw their complaint at any time, but RMIT may decide to initiate/continue the investigation.

5.4. Where there are concerns about risk or safety, RMIT may take immediate action to remove or isolate students or staff from the campus or immediate workspace while an investigation is carried out.

5.5. The University has a three-tier process for handling student complaints detailed in Section 6.

5.5.1. Depending on the nature of the complaint, a fair and reasonable outcome at tier one is preferred.

5.6. Staff complaints are resolved by the most appropriate method as determined by the RMIT Group institution.

5.6.1. Where possible and appropriate the parties to staff complaints are encouraged to resolve complaints themselves or with the help of a supervisor or manager. A range of resources and assistance such as facilitation, conciliation and mediation are available for this.

5.6.2. Where necessary the RMIT Group institution will investigate staff complaints, and depending on the findings may impose outcomes on the parties.

5.7. Student complainants and student respondents may also request a review of complaint outcomes by another manager: see Section 9.

5.8. RMIT University staff and student complainants and respondents may seek review of complaint outcomes by the RMIT Ombuds: see Section 10.

5.9. The following types of complaints may be investigated at the discretion of the relevant executive staff member.

5.9.1. anonymous complaints, and

5.9.2. complaints that have been addressed previously.

6. Student complaints three tier resolution

6.1. Student complaints tier one: informal resolution

6.1.1. Students and former students may choose to resolve their concern directly with the person(s) involved in the matter or with authority to resolve the concern, using the University’s existing resources and processes.

6.2. Student complaints tier two: local resolution

6.2.1. A complaint submitted by a student or former student is assessed and referred to the relevant staff member or portfolio with responsibility for the matter and resolution at the local level, in accordance with the Student complaints process.

6.2.2. Details of staff trained to assist with the mediation of a complaint or concern are available on the RMIT student website.

6.2.3. Where a complainant has not attempted direct resolution (tier one), and the complaint is assessed as appropriate for direct resolution, the complainant may be advised to attempt this before tier 2 resolution is applied.

6.3. Student complaints tier three: university-level resolution

6.3.1. A student complaint may be referred to the appropriate complaints resolution area if it:

    a) is unable to be resolved at the local level, or

    b) is assessed as being more appropriately addressed through the Student complaints process at university level,

6.3.2. A student making a complaint may choose to take the matter no further at this stage – but see Section 7.

7. Resolution of specific types of complaint

7.1. Where a student complaint relates to learning and teaching or program quality, the matter is referred for investigation to the responsible manager.

7.2. Where a student complaint alleges breach of the RMIT Code of Conduct by a staff member, RMIT will identify a resolution process in consultation with the complainant. Depending on the seriousness of the alleged behaviour, a responsible officer at the local level may investigate the matter, or it may be investigated jointly by the relevant central complaint handling area and Human Resources, or primarily by Human Resources.

7.3. Complaints that allege staff misconduct will be assessed and may be used by RMIT to initiate staff disciplinary proceedings.

7.4. Complaints that allege student misconduct will be assessed and may be used by RMIT to initiate student conduct proceedings.

7.5. Some complaints may allege misconduct by a staff member or student of a type that RMIT is required to report to external authorities such as the police or other government agency; staff or students may also notify external agencies of conduct of which they have complained to RMIT.

7.5.1. Under these circumstances, RMIT will maintain its commitment to resolve allegations of misconduct and, where appropriate, initiate the relevant conduct process.

7.5.2. RMIT will, however, avoid by its own investigations compromising or undermining investigations by government agencies such as the police.

7.5.3. See the relevant conduct policy and processes for more detail.

8. Conduct of complainants and respondents

8.1. A staff member may be subject to disciplinary action if, as a party in relation to a complaint, there is evidence or information that they have:

8.1.1. deliberately issued false statements, or

8.1.2. refused to cooperate with a complaint process, or

8.1.3. dealt with a person in such a way as would discourage the person from submitting a complaint of sexual harassment or sexual abuse.

8.2. RMIT may close a complaint, where:

8.2.1. There is evidence complaints are malicious, vexatious, mischievous or frivolous. In such instances complaints may be dismissed and referred for consideration under RMIT’s policies for managing student conduct [under development] or staff conduct.

8.2.2. The complainant’s conduct is found to be unreasonable complainant conduct.

9. Review of the outcome or decision of a student complaint

9.1. A student complainant or student respondent may request a review of the outcome of a complaint where they:

9.1.1. present evidence of an error in the investigation and decision on a complaint,

9.1.2. present evidence that was not previously available and which would have been a significant factor in deciding the outcome of the complaint, or

9.1.3. provide a compelling argument that the original outcome of the complaint was unreasonable.

9.2. A manager at the same level as the original decision-maker, or higher, will be nominated to review the matter. The reviewing manager must not previously have been involved in the complaint.

9.2.1. Where a student complaint relates to learning and teaching or program quality, the review will be allocated to a manager in the relevant college or campus office.

10. The role of the RMIT Ombuds

10.1. A student or staff complainant or respondent may seek an internal review of a decision regarding their complaint from the RMIT Ombuds where they are:

10.1.1. dissatisfied with the complaint outcome; and

10.1.2. have evidence of an alleged breach of policy or process, or

10.1.3. have evidence of an alleged breach of procedural fairness.

10.2. The Ombuds follows the RMIT Ombuds process.

10.3. The Ombuds cannot consider reviews from staff of RMIT partners or controlled entities.

10.4. The Ombuds cannot consider reviews from students of RMIT Training.

10.5. The Ombuds cannot review:

10.5.1. findings of RMIT Council

10.5.2. findings of Academic Board

10.5.3. outcomes of appeals against assessment decisions (except where a breach or failure of process is alleged)

10.5.4. findings of external agencies

10.5.5. findings of a research misconduct inquiry under the research misconduct process

10.5.6. decisions made or findings of reviewers, unsatisfactory performance review committees, misconduct investigation committees, relevant senior officers or the Vice-Chancellor in accordance with the processes in clause 29 (Disciplinary Procedures) of the RMIT University Academic and Professional Staff Enterprise Bargaining Agreement 2014).

10.5.7. findings of the Student Conduct Board, Student Conduct Appeals Committee or a senior officer in accordance with the student conduct policy or regulation.

10.6. The Ombuds has the power to investigate and seek evidence for reviews concerning alleged breaches or policy, process or procedural fairness.

10.7. The Ombuds cannot review the merits of a complaint outcome or decision, but only whether the resolution has been consistent with policy and process, and has been procedurally fair.

10.8. Parties to a review must act in good faith. The Ombuds will not investigate frivolous, vexatious, mischievous or malicious complaints, and the submission of such may lead to disciplinary action.

10.9. If the complainant takes the complaint to an external forum (such as a court or tribunal), the Ombuds may discontinue the review.

10.10. The rules of procedural fairness are followed in the conduct and reporting of Ombuds reviews.

10.11. The Ombuds only discloses details of requests for review with the approval of the person seeking the review. In the absence of such approval, the Ombuds may decline to investigate.

10.12. The Ombuds cannot overturn a decision or outcome, but can make recommendations that RMIT review the decision.

10.13. On the basis of their review, the Ombuds will provide an assessment or report to the relevant senior manager, copied to the relevant member of the Senior Executive and other executives as appropriate. The assessment or report may make recommendations regarding policy compliance, procedural fairness and any process improvements required to achieve these.

10.14. The Ombuds reports to University Council, through the Chancellor.

10.15. If a party’s request for a review requires urgent resolution or has significant implications for the University, its staff or students, the Ombuds will prepare a report for the Vice-Chancellor or, in cases involving the Vice-Chancellor, the Chancellor.

11. Complaints processes and guidance materials

11.1. The Academic Registrar approves student or third party complaint processes and guidance materials.

11.2. The Director, Policy and Workplace Relations approves RMIT University staff complaint processes and guidance materials

11.3. The Director, Human Resources, RMIT Vietnam approves RMIT Vietnam staff complaint processes and guidance materials.

11.4. The Executive Director, RMIT Europe approves RMIT Europe staff complaint processes and guidance materials.

11.5. The Chief Executive Officer, RMIT Online approves RMIT Online staff complaint processes and guidance materials.

11.6. The University Secretary approves the RMIT Ombuds process.

11.7. The Registrar, RMIT Vietnam approves guidance materials for student complaints at RMIT Vietnam.

11.8. The Chief Executive Officer, RMIT Training approves complaint processes and guidance materials for staff and students of RMIT Training.

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