Reducing the caseload
In recent years, more students have been seen to take a consumerist approach to higher education, and challenge decisions that have been made. Staff across the University can play a part in seeking to minimise the number of cases through the following:
Do not admit students who are not properly qualified or prepared to undertake study or research.
Any student admitted to undertake research at the University will understandably have a reasonable expectation of completing successfully. To do otherwise is likely to result in disproportionate time and energy being spent on supporting the student and on subsequent appeals/complaints. Staff should contact their local admission officers or teams for further information on admissions. Admission appeals are handled under procedures separate to Regulation XIX.
Problems have occurred where expectations have not matched reality. This doesn't necessarily mean the University if failing: sometimes students have unrealistic expectations. So, how can we ensure that expectations are realistic?
- Make sure recruitment activities and promotional material do not over-sell provision but reflect accurately the nature of what is provided. All published material - prospectus, handbooks, codes of practice, supervisory statements etc form part of the contract with the student.
- Comprehensive and timely induction and transitional support activities are vital in making students aware of what they can expect.
Do what has been promised
For example, in the provision of facilities, following correct procedures and meeting timescales. To do otherwise might be a breach of contract.
Deliver in accordance with current standards
Be aware of and consistent with the latest institutional practices and standards; follow fair and correct procedures in, for example, monitoring and reporting on the progress of students, ensuring their attendance, providing feedback on work etc.
Always look to observe the requirements of natural justice e.g. avoiding the perception of bias, and be aware of equality and anti-discrimination issues.
Deal with underperforming students
It is most important that students are informed promptly and clearly when their progress is not satisfactory. If no improvement ensues, follow due procedure but do not let failing students continue.
Sometimes it can be the case that some students require support in their work or adjustment to the type of work that is required at the University. The University has a variety of support services and resources available for student’s to utilise (see the Crucial Guide)
Take complaints and appeals seriously
The closer to the source the issue can be addressed, the more likely it is that a resolution will be found, saving both staff and students a great deal of time, effort and anxiety. Resolve cases informally wherever possible and look to utilise alternative means of addressing concerns e.g. Mediation.
When considering a case, keep to the deadlines stipulated in the relevant Regulation. If the timeframes cannot be adhered to, be proactive in keeping the student updated on the progression of their case. It would also be useful to provide an approximate date for when an outcome letter might be expected.
Treat students with respect by:
- Providing clear and accurate information in relation to course arrangements, including assessment and feedback.
- Providing students with full explanations of decisions taken and being willing to engage in dialogue with them to increase their understanding.
- Promptly acknowledging when things have gone wrong and seeking to rectify and/or apologise for errors.
- Avoiding inappropriate language, derogatory remarks or jokes that might cause offence.
Keep records - and remember the Data Protection Act and Freedom of Information Act
- Keeping records is essential - the ability of the University to respond successfully to appeals and complaints is seriously compromised if there is a lack of records.
- Make sure decisions about a student's progress are well-documented.
- Make sure all material retained as part of a record is dated.
- Make sure the date and substance of phone calls or meetings are recorded.
- Ensure all email correspondence is conducted in appropriate language and tone - avoid colloquial language or adopting an over-familiar tone when corresponding with colleagues about a student.
- Don't make sloppy or injudicious notes.
- Nothing is confidential. Marking something 'Confidential' is no safeguard against disclosure.
Natural Justice in Conduct and Discipline
Natural Justice imposes a duty to act fairly. In practice this means that: the student should have full information of the case against them, adequate warning of a hearing should be given so that the student has time to prepare, both sides should hear the other's case in its entirety and clear reasons for decisions taken must be given. Those making the decision must be unbiased and decisions taken demonstrably reasonable and not irrational.