April 03, 2014

ENOHE Publishes 2013 Conference Report

The European Network of Ombudsmen in Higher Education has published summaries of the presentations at it 2013 conference.  The papers presented reflected a diversity of experience.  Yet all authors agreed on the importance of a multi-skilled approach, and of the value of creativity, imagination and resilience.

Here are some of the highlights

Policy context
  • From a Canadian perspective, Kristen Robillard, Ombudsperson at Universit√© Condordia University and Natalie Sharpe, Director of the Student OmbudService, University of Alberta, spoke of a marketisation strategy as a result of which public universities ‘weary of fighting for government funding, are succumbing to the pressures of a neo-liberal agenda that education is for sale on a global scale’.
  • Sally Varnham, Patty Kamvounias, Bronwyn Olliffe, Anita Stuhmke and Maxine Evers from the University of Technology, Sydney, and the University of Sydney, presented a comprehensive account of the policy context for ombudsmen in Australian higher education.
  • The Conference discussed in his absence a paper by Argimiro Rojo Salgado, University Ombudsman and Professor of Political Science at the University of Vigo, Galicia, Spain.
  • Josef Leidenfrost, of the Office of the Austrian Ombudsman, noted “We advise students who come to us with a broad range of concerns and assist them in solving problems. We are also available to offer advice to institutions of higher education on how improvements can be made in everyday university life.” 21 The Office of the Austrian Ombudsman
  • Lies Poesiat, Ombudsman for students and staff at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam (VU) summarised the mandates of her office in initiating an investigation and ruling on a grievance.
  • In the United States, according to Jim Wohl, Ombuds Officer, University of Connecticut, ‘the competition among campus constituencies and university missions breeds many complicated interest- based conflicts that are not well suited for the formalised grievance procedures often found in academic institutions.’
  • Jenna Brown, Ombuds at the University of Denver, USA, emphasised the particularity of the mandates of individual campus ombudsmen in the USA: American universities are relatively self-organizing.
  • Jorge Carmona Tinoco, University Ombudsperson at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, explained that his Office had been established in 1985, and attended to a population of more than 300,000 students, and 30,000 academics.
User engagement
  • The impact of marketisation – and the associated rise of student entitlement – on student engagement by universities was also taken up by Cliff Picton, Ombudsman at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia.
Skills sets
  • Reflecting on 18 years of Conflict Management at the University of Georgia, USA, Lin Inlow paid tribute to the ‘visionary’ adoption in 1995 of a system-wide policy initiative that mandated the introduction of conflict management systems at each of the 34 institutions within Georgia State University.
  • Ewa Gmurzynskya reflected on the early experiences of the creation of an Ombuds Office at the University of Warsaw, the largest university in Poland with 65,000 students.
  • Spencer Boudreau, Ombudsperson at McGill University, Montreal, and Nancy Chamberland, at Universit√© Laval, both from Quebec, Canada, gave a concrete account of the dilemmas faced by ombudsmen where crisis occurs in the context of marketisation of higher education.
  • In part answer to this, Kristen Robillard and Natalie Sharpe described the creation of the Standards of Practice for members of the Association of Canadian College and University Ombudspersons.
  • Carolyn Hirst, Susanna Reece and Craig Cathcart of Queen Margaret University, Scotland, were among contributors who looked at the developing skills set for Ombudsmen.
(ENOHE 2013 Conf Report.)

Related posts: ENOHE Publishes Proceedings of Joint Conference with ACCUO; ENOHE Newsletter Marks Decennial; Save the Date for 2014 ENOHE Conference; ENOHE Debuts Website and Membership Plan; European Network of Ombudsmen in Higher Education Calls for Papers; ENOHE Posts Agenda for 2014 Conference.

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