November 03, 2011

UK Office of the Independent Adjudicator Gathering Input on Campus Ombuds

The independent body that handles student complaints against universities in England and Wales, has opened an inquiry into conflict resolution systems. The "Pathway 3 Consultation" seeks input from across the higher education sector and includes consideration of campus Ombuds programs.

Rob Behrens, OIA Independent Adjudicator and Chief Executive explained the motivation for the consultation. “Complaints by students about universities are rising fast and make the pursuit of more effective strategies to promote the early resolution of complaints and better all-round case handling important short and medium-term objectives.” he said. “We are therefore consulting the sector on appropriate strategies to address these challenges.”

The issues to be addressed in the OIA survey include:
  • The creation of campus ombudsmen, and associated support networks;
  • The development of mediation on campus;
  • The creation of a good practice framework for complaints and appeals processes including the incorporation of effective time-frames for handling,
  • The development of an OIA ‘kite-mark’ accreditation;
  • The introduction of a revised funding mechanism for the OIA Scheme which contains a case-fee element.
The OIA acknowledges that there is wide variation of Ombuds practice on campuses, but concludes that informality, independence, and the use of mediation and other ADR techniques are critical features. OIA will be conducting a series of round-table around the UK this fall and will conclude its inquiry on December 16, 2011. (OIAHE Pathway 3 Consultation.)

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