October 02, 2008

British Panel Recommends Higher Education Ombuds Programs

The Improving Dispute Resolution Project, sponsored by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, has issued a 60-page draft report, titled “Taking a Fresh Look at Disputes in Higher Education.” The report examines how colleges and universities can prevent and respond to conflict involving students, faculties, and staffs. The panel found that most campuses have a fragmented approach to conflict resolution that make it “difficult to keep track of institution-wide patterns in the handling of disputes and improve practice.” The report specifically recommends the type of Ombuds programs found on American campuses:
A campus ombudsman or ombuds ‘office’ could help raise awareness throughout the institution, work with the community at all levels, tactful, respected, quietly inculcating habits of fairness and reasonableness, knowledgeable about all sorts of ground-rules, from the HEI’s legal obligations to its procedures, the way academic politics work, the things that matter to student. An ombudsman might be trusted enough to be approached at an early stage of a conflict, be able to make sensible suggestions about the quickest way to a resolution and get everyone involved to try them, propose mediation here, an apology there, or referral to a committee which can revise the existing procedures; he or she could suggest using the complaints or grievance procedures if there is no quicker way, but make sure they are followed properly.

(Taking a Fresh Look at Disputes in Higher Education; Chronicle of Higher Education.)

Related posts: University Ombuds Still Rare in UK Due to New Judicial Process; UK Researcher Advocates Legislative Support for Ombuds Programs; Britain's University Watchdog Calls for American-Style Ombuds.

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