Process, Rights and Responsibilities

Concerns Process

What is the process for raising a concern?

  • Raising a concern informally with the UC Grievance Coordinator (UCGC) means you can be heard and discuss what your options are. This will be confidential and no further action is taken unless you ok it. The person/issue you are discussing will not be told of your concern.
  • If you want the matter taken further, investigated and resolved, it will need to be put in writing. If you are raising a concern/complaint about a person then they have a right to be told, a right to respond and a right to be heard, just as you do.

I don’t want to make a formal complaint I just want to talk to someone about a concern. What do I do?

You can raise a concern informally by choosing to have a chat with the Student Advocate at the UCSA; the UC Grievance Coordinator and/or any number of other support people throughout the University.

Can I just let the University know about a concern without going through any formal processes?

Yes. You can speak with the UCSA Student Advocate who with your permission can speak with the University; you can speak with the UC Grievance Coordinator, or you can speak to anyone in the University you feel comfortable raising the concern with.

What are the options for raising a concern?

  • You can simply talk to someone – either the person who made the decision you are unhappy with or who is causing you concern, or, you can seek advice and support.
  • You can put your concern in writing. You will need to tell us who you are and how we can contact you; what the concern is and who if anyone it involves; and what outcome you are seeking.

What grounds are needed to raise a concern?

There are no set grounds for raising a concern. If you are unhappy about a decision that has been made; a staff member is causing you to feel uncomfortable or upset; you would like to see a change happen because you feel adversely impacted by a decision made by a staff member or the University; or alternatively if you feel that something is really good and you want to bring it to someone’s attention – you can raise it.

Who do I send my concern to?

You should send your concern to the UC Grievance Coordinator.

Is my concern confidential?

Absolutely. Only the people involved in the investigation or the allegation will know about it and then only the parts that they need to know.

Why do I need to put my concern in writing?

In general, if you want the University to take action on your behalf or investigate an issue to find a resolution, then it will need to be put into writing.

Is there a form that I have to fill out?

No there isn’t. There is, however, certain information that you will need to supply.

Do I need to supply evidence if I raise a concern?

If you raise a concern or make a complaint in writing then you should provide any information or evidence you have to support your concern/complaint.

What evidence or supporting documents are required?

Evidence or supporting documentation can take many forms and there is no set format or amount. Examples of evidence may include:

  • Emails
  • Progress reports
  • Supporting letters from witnesses or members of your family or community
  • Medical certificates
  • Police statements
  • Death notices
  • Social media postings
  • A documented timeline of events and conversations that took place.

What is considered sufficient evidence or grounds for an academic appeal?

Historically, for an appeal to be successful, the student would generally need to provide evidence of:

  • A breach of legislation
  • A breach of University Regulation or Statute
  • A failure on the part of the University to follow prescribed University process, and/or
  • Supplementary pertinent information that is now available, that was not available to the original decision maker at the time the decision was made

What if I don’t have any tangible evidence but I still want to raise a concern? Is this possible?

You can, however, the University will be limited in how they can respond depending on the nature of the concern.

Will I have to meet with the person I want to complain about?

  • No. You do not have to meet with them unless you want to.
  • If you do want to meet with the person, you can nominate who else you would like to be present.

Do I need to attend appeal committee meetings?

The University would prefer that you are present at any appeal meeting so that they can ask you for further detail if required or to better understand any evidence you may have supplied. However, attendance is not compulsory.

Who else will be in meetings?

This will depend on who you decide to bring with you (e.g. a support person and/or advocate) and the nature of the issue that the meeting is about.

How formal are meetings/appeal committee meetings?

  • We would like to keep any meetings as informal as possible and resolve any issues with as little distress to all people concerned as possible.
  • If a concern or complaint cannot be resolved informally or is of a serious nature, then depending on what it is about, other staff may need to be involved such as a Human Resources Advisor, a Manager of a service unit, or Pro Vice-Chancellor. Meetings will be documented and any outcomes will be confirmed in writing.
  • Academic Appeals Committee and Council Appeals Committee meetings are quite formal and structured and there will be a panel of people involved. The meetings are minuted and written decisions are provided.

Are final decisions reached in the meetings or appeals?

  • If at all possible during a meeting we would like to find a resolution that is fair and acceptable to all concerned.
  • If you are at an appeals meeting - yes. However, these decisions will be confirmed in writing to you afterwards and you will be advised if you have any other avenues for further appeal.
  • If the final decision rests with you, you will be given time after the meeting to consider your response or what further action you would like to take if any. 

Academic

If you are appealing an academic decision, in most cases, the person who made that decision will be asked to review it, or it may be the Dean. If you are appealing a decision made by the Dean, then the appeal would be looked at by a senior staff member/s.

Non-Academic

If a concern or complaint has been lodged against a decision that is non-academic in nature, the individual who made that decision will be asked to review it, or it may be the Manager of the service unit where that person is employed. If you are appealing a decision by a Manager, then the appeal would be looked at by the Director of that service unit.

Staff Conduct

Complaints involving the conduct of a staff member are firstly considered by the University’s Human Resources (HR) Advisors. An HR Advisor will speak to you about your concerns and advise you in writing about the process. Any staff member named in your written complaint receives a copy and will have an opportunity to respond.

Is there someone who can help me through this process?

There are many people who can help you. The list is on the contacts page.

Can I bring a friend/support person along to appeals/meetings?

 Yes. We encourage you to.

Who can be a support person?

A support person can be a friend, family member, partner, someone you trust in the community or a member of the UCSA. The support person could also be the UC Grievance Coordinator or a Support Services representative.

What does a support person do?

A support person is involved in a meeting to give you emotional support. They will generally not speak in a meeting unless either party specifically requests it.

What is an advocate?

An advocate is someone who will go to a meeting with you or for you. They are empowered by you to speak on your behalf. If you are at the meeting, the presence of an advocate does not prevent you from fully participating in the meeting.

Who can be an advocate?

An advocate can be anyone you choose. The UCSA employs a Student Advocate who will work on your behalf. Generally, University staff are discouraged from advocating on a student’s behalf as they would be put in a position of advocating against a colleague and/or their employer.

What if I don’t want to talk to someone who works for the University?

The UC Students’ Association is independent of the University but has a strong relationship with, and understanding of the University, so that they can assist you.

What if I don’t want to talk to someone who works for the UCSA?

The University has a dedicated staff member called the UC Grievance Coordinator whose role is to offer advice on University processes; assist you if you have a concern or complaint, and coordinate communication between you and the University whilst a decision or concern is being reviewed.

How long do I have to raise a concern?

You can raise a concern at any time, however, we would prefer you to raise it as soon as possible so that a solution can be found or changes can be made to ensure that you are not adversely affected and you can get on with your studies.

How long does it take to get a decision?

This will depend on the nature of the issue; the number of people/departments/service units involved and is sometimes affected by the other demands on decision-makers’ times (if the issue is raised during exam periods it may take a little longer). Some things can be resolved in a matter of hours and others may take weeks.

How long do I have to appeal a decision?

You are usually given a set timeframe such as 10 working days to lodge an appeal and this will be communicated to you in writing (the timeframe or requirements may differ according to the nature of what is being appealed. Refer to the appropriate University Regulations). The sooner you lodge an appeal after a decision has been made the better.

Will I be kept informed about what is going on at every step along the way?

Yes. You will be kept informed usually through the UC Grievance Coordinator and/or UCSA Student Advocate, depending on who you have asked to be involved. If you feel that you are not being kept informed sufficiently, you can contact the UCGC at any time and they can follow up for you.

What are possible solutions?

  • The original decision may be upheld.
  • The original decision may be overturned.
  • The decision may be escalated to someone more qualified to make a decision or who has a higher level of authority.

What happens to my concern once it has been resolved?

  • If you raised the concern informally then nothing further will happen unless you ask for it.
  • If you put the concern or complaint in writing then all information – including the complaint, any decision letters, correspondence and evidence - is kept in a secure, electronic database by the UC Grievance Coordinator, in accordance with NZ legislation for privacy and records retention and disposal. The concern or complaint database is not linked to your student record.

What is the University able to tell me about the outcome? Why?

  • The University will inform you of the steps taken to investigate or review your concern or complaint.
  • If there has been a resolution reached or a decision taken, you will be informed of this and why/how it was decided.
  • If there is a further avenue of appeal within the University you will be told about this.
  • If the matter raised involved the behaviour of a staff member then Human Resources will investigate and take action as appropriate under the current Employment Agreement. In these circumstances you will not be told what action was taken due to privacy reasons.

Does a concern/complaint go on my transcript or student record?

No.

Will the person I raise a concern about know it was me?

  • If you raise the concern informally then anything you say will be kept confidential.
  • If you put the concern in writing or make a formal complaint then the laws of natural justice necessitate that the person who is the subject of the complaint has a right of response to any allegation made about them.

I am worried that the person I want to raise a concern about might hold a grudge. What can I do about this?

Harassment, vilification, bullying, victimisation, abuse, intimidation, threats, or any other similar behaviour is unacceptable. If you experience any of these behaviours or have genuine concerns that this may happen, speak with a trusted member of the University, the UC Students' Association or the UC Grievance Coordinator as soon as possible.

Can a staff member discuss my concern with other members of the Department?

This is strongly discouraged and is not part of usual practice unless the other member of the department needs to be involved in the investigation; has more working knowledge of the issue; or is the decision maker.

I think I deserve a better grade than the one I got - can I appeal it?

You have the right to appeal any decision. However, for an appeal to be successful, you would generally need to provide evidence of:

  • A breach of legislation
  • A breach of University Regulation or Statute
  • A failure on the part of the University to follow prescribed University process, and/or
  • Supplementary pertinent information that is now available, that was not available to the original decision maker at the time the decision was made

I received two very different grades back from the examiners of my Master's thesis. I am unhappy with the final grade, can I appeal?

The University process as outlined in the Masters Thesis Work Policy and Guidelines is:

a) Where there is a discrepancy of one grade in the recommendations made by the two independent examiners, the higher grade will be awarded.
b) Where there is a discrepancy of two grades in the recommendations of the two independent examiners, the mid-point grade will be awarded.
c) Where there is a discrepancy of more than two grades between the independent recommendations of the two examiners an attempt will first be made to determine whether a consensus on a recommended final grade can be reached between the two examiners. If consensus cannot be reached, an adjudicator will be appointed. Where appointed the Adjudicator’s recommended grade will be that awarded to the thesis.

If you feel that this process was not followed or that there was bias influencing the outcome then you can appeal.

I am having trouble with my supervisor and I want to know what my options are. Can I change supervisors?

Yes, you can change supervisors. The first point of contact if you feel comfortable, is talking directly with your current supervisor. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this or the relationship is “beyond repair” then speak with the Dean of Postgraduate Research as soon as possible.

Will my former supervisor be able to influence my grade at all?

No. Thesis examiners are never your supervisor nor do they consult with your supervisor about your grade. Thesis examiners are generally chosen for their expertise in your field of study – one is from within the University and the other is usually external to the University. You will be notified who your examiners are prior to them being appointed and you have the right to object to the appointment of any examiner.

Rights and Responsibilities

  • All concerns and complaints are taken seriously and every effort is made to resolve them at an early stage.
  • All concerns raised informally will be kept in the strictest confidence and any further action will only be taken if you request it.
  • Any concerns or complaints that are put into writing, will only be communicated to those people directly involved in the investigation or allegation.
  • You can expect to be kept informed during the process.
  • You will be treated with courtesy at all times.
  • There will be a fair and timely investigation process in accordance with the principles of natural justice (natural justice means the right to have a decision made by an unbiased decision-maker who observes fair and impartial procedures).
  • You will be able to express your points of view without fear of recrimination.
  • You have the right to attend meetings with a support person/s (friend or family member) and/or advocate (see UCSA Support - Advocacy and Welfare).
  • You will be kept informed during all stages of the process.
  • You will be advised in writing of all decisions made in relation to the concern raised or decision appealed.
  • Treat all parties with courtesy at all times.
  • Respect the points of view of others.
  • Respect the rights of all parties to the complaint with respect to confidentiality.
  • Make your complaint in good faith and not include abusive, harassing and threatening language.
  • Provide full and accurate information.
  • Be patient - sometimes a review or investigation can take time, especially if it involves many people.
  • Not take any action that may prejudice the situation or be regarded as an act of recrimination against any other party.

Any student who has a concern about any decision made by a University staff member has the right to appeal that decision. Historically, in order for an appeal to be successful, the student would generally need to provide evidence of:

  • A breach of legislation
  • A breach of University Regulation or Statute
  • A failure on the part of the University to follow prescribed University process, and/or
  • Supplementary pertinent information subsequently supplied by the student, that was not available to the original decision maker at the time the decision was made
  • An appeal against an academic decision will first be sent back to the person who made the original decision and they will be asked to review that decision.
  • Any decision regarding an appeal will be given to you in writing and will outline the next appeal pathway (if one is available) and give you a timeframe for lodging that appeal.
  • When you come to New Zealand as an international student, you can expect to receive a high standard of education, and to feel safe and well cared for while you live and study here. This is part of the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students of which UC is a signatory.
  • If you have a complaint and have tried to resolve it through the UC Concerns Process but have not been able to, you can contact NZQA, a government organization. They can provide an independent assessment of your complaint and will either investigate your concerns or advise you what you can do next. You can submit your complaint query on the NZQA website, or send an email to gadrisk@nzqa.govt.nz. If you need more information, contact NZQA on 0800 697 296. If your concern is about a financial or contractual dispute, you can contact iStudent Complaints or 0800 00 66 75. This is a free, independent service for international students.