Student Dispute Resolution Policy
1. Policy Statement
The University recognises that encouraging positive working relationships between individuals will have a positive impact on staff and student well being and performance. When disputes arise, they can have a detrimental and long lasting impact on those involved. This policy aims at providing an expeditious informal resolution in these situations.
The University wishes to support staff and students in working together to resolve disputes 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 a dispute can be settled, the better it will be for all concerned, and mediation and other alternative dispute resolution techniques are an effective means of achieving early resolution.
This Policy can be used by students who are in dispute with University staff or other students as an objective, impartial part of the Student Complaints Procedure to resolve a dispute, but does not replace the informal stage of the Procedure. Using this Policy 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 (eg counselling) at any stage of the procedure, if appropriate.
2. Resolving a Dispute
Mediation can be defined as a voluntary method of dispute 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 mediators are impartial to the dispute and seek to help all parties equally, they do not express opinions or make judgements about who is right or wrong.
Where a dispute has arisen between a member of staff and a student, or a student against another student, either party can approach a University Mediator through the Community Affairs Office.
Where a member of staff in a School becomes aware of a dispute, or is approached by an individual about a dispute that may lead to the instigation of either the Student Complaints Procedure or the Conduct Regulations (where the complaint is against another student) he or she, in consultation with the Director of Academic and Student Affairs should consider whether the Dispute Resolution Process may be adopted. Where this is considered appropriate, contact should be made with a University Mediator to discuss whether mediation may be possible. Where it is decided that mediation 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 Mediation is not Appropriate
There may be circumstances where mediation would not be appropriate, examples of which may include the following:
- Where the issues relate to the University’s statutory obligations or duty of care.
- Where there is a risk to safety or well being.
- Where formal action has already been instigated.
- Where there has been a breach of the University’s Conduct Regulations.
When a student or member of staff has contacted a University Mediator, the following procedure shall apply:
- The Mediator shall arrange separate meetings with the parties involved, normally within five working days of the request having been received.
- The initial one to one meetings shall allow the parties to speak to the Mediator independently and to provide them with the opportunity to relate their experience.
- Where possible, all parties shall be invited to attend a joint face to face meeting, where, with the support of the Mediator acting as a facilitator, all parties shall work towards a mutually satisfactory outcome.
- Where possible, the Mediator shall assist the parties to draw up a confidential agreement unless it is agreed by everyone that it shall be shared with the University (where for example, the agreement may include a request for action by the University).
6. The Meetings
When the meetings are convened they shall be designed to ensure that everyone:
- Understands the issues.
- Is asked to consider the key issues identified by the Mediator at the initial meeting so that they are better prepared for the joint meeting.
- Understands and has confidence in the mediation process and the Mediator.
- Begins to look for solutions about the dispute in which they have become involved.
All parties shall be required to sign a pre-mediation agreement, in which they undertake to use their best endeavours to arrive at an agreement. Information given or documents produced as a result of any mediation must not be used in any further University proceedings. The exceptions to this rule are where there is evidence of a serious breach of University Regulations or where there is evidence of serious risk to health and safety. In these cases the process will be terminated. In the event of any legal proceedings, all documentation will become discoverable.
It is anticipated that at the end of the Dispute Resolution process 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 Mediator will 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 through mediation it may be necessary to instigate the relevant formal procedure.