October 29, 2018

Queen's University Assessing Its Ombuds Office

An external reviewer will conduct a thorough review of the Office of the University Ombudsman at the public research university in Kingston, Ontario. Stephen Strople, retired secretary general of McGill University and higher education expert, will look at the Ombuds' effectiveness, profile among the campus community, the communication of services, and future direction. All campus stakeholders will be queried.  

The review will be comprehensive and reflect all aspects of a robust Ombuds program. 
Without limiting the general nature of the above, the review will examine the following:
  • The adequacy of the Terms of Reference and Procedural Guidelines established for the Office
  • The appropriateness of reporting and governance structures with respect to the Office, including the role and composition of the Ombudsman Advisory Committee and the reporting relationship to the Audit and Risk Committee of the Board of Trustee and the concomitant requirement to attend all meetings thereof, including recommendations on alternate structures with reference to practices elsewhere
  • The  compatibility and suitability of the range and placement of  responsibilities within the Office of the Ombudsman, including, in particular, the provision of secretarial support to the University Student Appeal Board, determination of the composition of USAB hearing panels and serving as the Safe Disclosure Officer for the University
  • The relationship of the Office of the Rector to the mandate of the Ombudsman with a view to ensuring that the appropriate lines of communication, protocols and other tools are in place to optimize the effectiveness of both Offices, working together, in fulfilling their duties and responsibilities
  • The sufficiency of budgetary resources, personnel and space assigned to the Office. In particular, a review of the adequacy of the physical location of the Office should be considered.
  • Review of the structure and composition of the Ombudsman Advisory Committee
  • An assessment of the effectiveness of the Office as demonstrated by stakeholder perception and established metrics and reporting
  • An assessment of the effectiveness of current quarterly reporting to the Committee and annual reporting to the community by the Office including:
  • Sufficiency of measures used to gauge awareness and effectiveness
  • Comparison to reporting by other Universities
  • Scan of reporting in the broader public sector and in the private sector
  • An assessment informed by stakeholder feedback regarding the attributes desired in and mandate for the next Ombudsman. Recommendations should address, at a minimum the following:
  • Ought the role be continuing or time-limited in nature?
  • Is a legal background necessary, or merely desirable?
  • Would an academic background be desirable?
  • Are there additional skills, qualifications or experiences that may be necessary or desirable in an Ombudsman?
  • Is the title “University Ombudsman” appropriate and, if not, what alternate title should be considered?
  • An assessment informed by a comparative review of the structure and functions of Ombuds offices at U15 universities of best practices that might be appropriate for adoption by Queen’s
The review will conclude November 9 and a report presented the Audit and Risk Committee of the Board at its December, 2018 meeting. (Queen's Gazette; Ombuds Office Review.)

Related post: Queen's University Considers Ombuds Program; Profile of New Ombuds at Queen's University.

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