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1. Introduction

The University recognises that encouraging positive working relationships between individuals will have a positive impact on staff and student wellbeing and performance.

The University wishes to support staff and students in working together to resolve issues or concerns at a local level which will ensure minimum disruption to the learning experience and delivery of the University’s priorities and objectives. It is clear that the earlier an issue or concern can be settled, the better it will be for all concerned and the use of an intermediary may serve as an effective means of achieving early resolution.

These guidelines can be used to help resolve issues or concerns raised by students about University staff, University processes or other students. It is recommended that these guidelines be employed as early as possible and that it can act as a means of resolution in response to an issue or concern raised through or as part of Student Complaints Procedure, but does not replace Stage 1 of the Procedure, or the Conduct Regulations (where the complaint is against another student).  Adopting these guidelines does not preclude the use of the Student Complaints Procedure for complaints against staff, or the University’s right to invoke the Conduct Regulations for complaints against students.

In addition, staff and students may be referred to relevant support services (e.g. counselling) at any stage of the procedure, if appropriate.

2. Resolving an Issue or Concern

The use of an intermediary can be defined as a voluntary method of resolution that brings those in disagreement together with an objective third party, in an attempt to find a solution on an informal basis that is acceptable to all concerned.

The process is most effective when individuals enter into it voluntarily, and where it enables the participants to identify their own solutions and negotiate equally to reach agreement.  Throughout the process intermediaries are impartial to the issue or concern being raised and seek to help all parties equally, they do not express opinions or make judgements about who is right or wrong.

3. Appointing an Intermediary

Where an issue or concern has arisen between a member of staff and a student, or a student against another student, the School or Directorate can in agreement with both parties appoint an intermediary to help both parties identify and agree a resolution.

Where a member of staff in a School/Directorate becomes aware of an issue or concern, or is approached by an individual about an issue or concern that may lead to the instigation of either the Student Complaints Procedure or the Conduct Regulations they should consider whether an intermediary may be appointed to help resolve the issue or concern. Advice on the appropriateness of adopting this approach can be sought from the Head of Student and Academic Affairs, or member of staff from the department. Where this is considered appropriate, an intermediary should be identified and appointed from within the relevant area with the agreement of all parties involved. Where it is decided that an intermediary can be used, the final decision on whether an individual wishes to take part in the process remains their right, as does the right to withdraw from the process at any time.

4. Where an Intermediary is not Appropriate

There may be circumstances where mediation would not be appropriate, examples of which may include the following:

  1. Where the issues relate to the University’s statutory obligations or duty of care.
  2. Where there is a risk to safety or well being.
  3. Where formal action has already been instigated.
  4. Where there has been a breach of the University’s Conduct Regulations.

5. Suggested Protocol

When an intermediary has been appointed, the following protocol is suggested:

  1. The Intermediary shall arrange separate meetings with the parties involved, normally within five working days of the request having been received.
  2. The initial one to one meetings shall allow the parties to speak to the Intermediary independently and to provide them with the opportunity to relate their experience.
  3. Where possible, all parties shall be invited to attend a joint face to face meeting, where, with the support of the Intermediary acting as a facilitator, all parties shall work towards a mutually satisfactory outcome.

6. The Meetings

When the meetings are convened they should be designed to ensure that everyone:

  1. Understands the issues.
  2. Is asked to consider the key issues identified by the Intermediary at the initial meeting so that they are better prepared for the joint meeting.
  3. Understands and has confidence in the resolution process and the Mediator.
  4. Begins to look for solutions about the issue or concern in which they have become involved.

7. Completion

It is anticipated that at the end of the discussions, an agreement will be reached which will not only resolve the immediate dispute, but will also lead to improved working relationships between the parties making it less likely for a reoccurrence of disputes in the future.

8. Follow Up

Where agreement has been reached, the Intermediary should contact all parties within one month and, if necessary, arrange another meeting to ensure that the agreement has resolved the dispute.  Where the dispute has not been resolved it may be necessary to instigate the relevant formal procedure.