June 28, 2018

Ontario's Ombudsman Recommends Wider Use of University Ombuds

In his latest annual report, Paul Dubé, says that complaints about universities to the Ontario Ombudsman have grown steadily since his office gained oversight of them in 2016 (268 cases in 2017-2018). He says that all of the university cases were resolved without formal investigation. Moreover, Mr. Dubé encourages more universities, as well as colleges of applied arts and technology, to have their own Ombuds. 

Heres a clip from the annual report:
As complaints are best resolved locally, our Office encourages all colleges and universities to establish an independent ombudsman as a best practice. Information and resources on creating such an office can be obtained through the Association of Canadian College and University Ombudspersons.
The number of Ontario post-secondary institutions that have an ombudsman has fluctuated in recent years, and their offices have varied in their structure, scope and independence. Still, interest among post-secondary stakeholders in the ombudsman role has recently increased. As of the writing of this report, among the province’s 21 publicly funded universities, we are aware of 9 that have an institutional ombudsman (that is, they are appointed by the university or jointly by the university and its student union), and 2 that have a student ombudsman (that is, appointed only by their university’s student union). Among the 24 colleges of applied arts and technology, we are aware of 4 that have an institutional ombudsman.
Where possible, our Office refers complaints to these offices, depending on their structure and independence, and the type of complaints they are able to handle. 
(Ontario Ombudsman 2017-18 Annual Report, p. 50.)

In 2014, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario adopted new public-sector accountability measures which broadened the Ontario Ombudsman’s powers to public higher education.  The Ontario Ombudsman at the time, André Marin had lobbied unabashedly for the expanded oversight and some considered his approach unseemly and threatening.  Concerns seem to have abated considerably with Paul Dubé's more collaborative and deferential approach.

Related posts: André Marin’s IOA Keynote Inspires ColumnistWill the Ontario Ombudsman's New Powers Impact University Ombuds?Ontario Ombudsman Says He May Second-Guess University OmbudsOntario's Ombudsman Touts Collaboration with University Ombuds.

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