Student Ombud

Welcome to the Student Ombud Office

The Student Ombud provides a free and confidential service for students ranging from advice on how situations should be handled to formal investigations of complaints.

Your Student Ombud is Franco Parella who is appointed to ensure all students receive fair and equitable treatment whilst enrolled at the University of South Australia.

The role of the Student Ombud is to ensure that all students receive fair and equitable treatment within the University of South Australia. Although an employee of the University, the Student Ombud operates independently and considers all sides of a dispute in an impartial and objective way.  It is usually best to think of the Student Ombud as a last resort who can be approached when all else has failed within the University. However  in cases of unlawful discrimination  and harassment, you may approach the Ombud office directly.  

The Student Ombud is there to provide advice and, if appropriate, independently investigate your complaint to determine whether you have been treated fairly and that all the correct policies and procedures have been followed. If you require assistance to find and/or understand  the relevant procedures you may contact the Student Ombud Office for advice. Remember all discussions with this office are confidential unless otherwise negotiated.

The Student Ombud offers you a service which 

  • is free

  • is confidential

  • provides you with an opportunity to discuss your grievance or complaint with someone who is not involved in the situation

  • will give you advice about how to proceed

  • may investigate and resolve your problem.

UniSA has always had a strong commitment to equity and diversity. The Student Ombud facilitates the effective handling of complaints of unlawful discrimination and harassment involving students.  You may contact the Student Ombud Office  or an Equity Contact person, or a Counsellor if you require advice or assistance in these matters.  Equity contacts are on every campus and are trained to offer you advice in instances of perceived harassment and discrimination.

The Student Ombud is also involved in reviewing policies and procedures. If a complaint identifies a deficiency in UniSA processes the Student Ombud will act to rectify this, especially when this may prevent other students from experiencing the same problem. The Student Ombud enjoys a good relationship with the Student Advisory Officers and works closely with all staff of the University. 

1. Appointment

The Council of the University of South Australia has endorsed the appointment of an academic staff member as Student Ombud with day to day responsibility to the Provost & Chief Academic Officer. To ensure independence the Student Ombud is provided direct access to the University Council.

From time to time the Provost & Chief Academic Officer may appoint a Deputy Student Ombud in an acting capacity at times when the Student Ombud is on recreation or other leave. The Deputy Student Ombud will have the same authority and responsibilities as the Student Ombud.

2. Authority to Enquire

The Student Ombud has the authority to conduct enquiries relating to complaints by students against decisions or conduct of staff, committees (other than decisions of the student appeals committee), Board or any unit or group either within the University or acting under the authority or auspices of the University.

The services of the Student Ombud will be available to all students of the University regardless of location and mode of study.

Unless it is a matter of unlawful discrimination or sexual harassment the Student Ombud will not normally investigate a complaint until all internal grievance procedures have been exhausted.

On receipt of a complaint, the Student Ombud shall have authority to enquire into that complaint.

On receipt of a complaint, the Student Ombud shall decide, by enquiry if necessary, whether or not the complaint falls within the role and functions of the Student Ombud.

If during an investigation being carried out by the Student Ombud it becomes known that the complaint is the subject matter of a hearing or appeal under a University Act Statute or By-law, the Student Ombud shall proceed no further with investigating the complaint until the hearing or appeal has been concluded.

The Student Ombud shall be given access to all University records and documents relating to the complaint.

3. Conduct of Enquiry

The Student Ombud shall decide the form and procedures to be adopted in investigating a complaint. All persons involved shall be given reasonable opportunity to explain their views and encouraged to reach agreement.

If the complaint is not settled by informal consultation and discussion and the complainant wishes to proceed the Student Ombud may proceed with the enquiry by methods such as:

  • Providing a written copy of the complainant’s statements to the person(s) against whom the complaint has been made: or
  • At the request of either the complainant or the person(s) complained against, or in any case where the Student Ombud deems it desirable, convening a conference to discuss the complaint.

If the Student Ombud believes that a situation arising from a complaint requires action to avoid further problems, the Student Ombud will make recommendations to any authority or person.

If in the opinion of the Student Ombud a complaint warrants no further action, or no further action can be taken, the Student Ombud may decline to proceed further.

4. Report of Investigation

If the Student Ombud has been unable to reach a decision regarding a complaint, or the personnel involved refuse to accept the recommendation of the Student Ombud, then the Ombud will seek resolution through the Head of School, Manager of Unit or Pro Vice Chancellor.  If referring the matter to the Vice Chancellor for determination the Student Ombud will make available all details of the complaint, investigation findings, and actions undertaken in attempting resolution.

5. The Student Ombud may bring to the attention of the Vice Chancellor any matter:

(i) arising from an enquiry; or

(ii) relating to processes, procedures, rules or policies of the University.

6. Outcome of Investigation

Once a recommendation has been made by the Student Ombud and accepted by the relevant University authority, then the Ombud shall have no further responsibility for actions taken as a result of that recommendation.  The Student Ombud may not be called upon to appear before any University boards of discipline, appeals committee, grievance committees or any inquiry.

7. Report to Council

At the end of each year the Student Ombud shall provide Council with a report for the previous twelve months. The report shall be statistical in character and shall contain no reference to named individuals.  

The Student Ombud can be approached with issues relating to all aspects of university experience, keeping in mind that the Student Ombud Office should normally be approached only after you have pursued the other avenues available to you to solve your problem. Please refer to University Policies and Procedures. You may contact the Student Ombud Office for advice if you are unsure what the relevant policies and procedures are, and how they relate to your concerns.

The Student Ombud has been involved with a range of issues relating to:

  • Academic credit
  • Appeal Processes
  • Breaches of confidence
  • Communication
  • Conduct of staff or students
  • Course delivery
  • Course description
  • Disabilities
  • Enrolment
  • Examinations
  • Fees
  • Freedom of information
  • Graduation
  • Policies and Procedures
  • Program organisation
  • Provision of services
  • Scholarships
  • Student administration
  • Student contribution amounts
  • Teaching
  • Unlawful discrimination and harassment

Exhaust all established procedures to resolve your complaint

Normally you would pursue all avenues available to you within the University before approaching the Student Ombud Office.  Except in instances of unlawful discrimination and harassment, the Student Ombud should be a last resort within UniSA.

The University has a number of policies and procedures for dealing with the different kinds of problems or issues you may face in the course of your study.  

Generally speaking you are encouraged to try to solve any problem you have at the local level by approaching the person concerned or the person who you believe can help you.

If this fails you should approach or write to the person in charge - this may be the Manager, the Program Director or the Head of School.  You should try to keep a record of your attempts to resolve the issue.

If you have done all you can and are still dissatisfied with the outcome you may seek help from the Student Ombud.

If your issue is about unlawful discrimination or harassment, then you may approach the Student Ombud directly or ask for advice from an Equity Contact.

If you are unsure whether your complaint has reached the stage for the Student Ombud, contact the office for advice.  You may also refer to the Student Feedback and Complaints website for further information.

Making Contact with the Student Ombud Office

You may contact the Student Ombud to make an appointment.  For on-campus students this will generally be a face-to-face meeting and this can be arranged to take place on any campus. The preferred site is at the City West Campus where the Student Ombud Office is located. For all off-campus students a discussion may need to be by telephone or email. Every attempt is made to provide students with easy access to the Student Ombud.

If your situation is an emergency we will endeavour to re-arrange schedules to see you immediately or at the earliest possible time. We also appreciate that some students may not be able to meet during normal business hours and alternative arrangements can be made.

Your first meeting with the Student Ombud

Your first meeting with the Student Ombud will generally follow these steps:

  • Initially the Student Ombud will need to establish if your complaint falls within the role of the Student Ombud and whether he believes there is any basis for your complaint.  
  • You will be asked to complete an 'Authority to Investigate a Complaint' form provided by the Student Ombud Office

This document gives the Student Ombud the authority to investigate your complaint and provides some background information for the Office such as contact details and a brief description of the problem for which you are seeking assistance.

  • You will need to provide all relevant information for the Student Ombud

At a meeting with the Student Ombud you will be asked to discuss the history of the complaint in detail. During this discussion the Student Ombud may take some written notes of the information you provide as this may assist with the investigation. Any documentation you provide will be photocopied and placed in a confidential file.

  • You have to decide what you want the Student Ombud to do for you - what is your preferred outcome?

The Student Ombud will try to confirm with you what you believe is necessary to resolve the complaint. Before approaching the Office you may wish to consider what you really want the Student Ombud to do and what outcome you would prefer. If you are unsure about this the Student Ombud will help to clarify the options for you. Remember however that the Ombud is not a student advocate, but must remain impartial.

Once the above is completed and  the Student Ombud believes you have a legitimate complaint, he will commence  investigation. During the investigation the Office will try to keep you informed but you are welcome to contact the Office at any time for a progress report. You also need to make contact if any new information arises which relates to your complaint.

The Student Ombud attempts to resolve complaints fairly and informally wherever possible. The Student Ombud does not act as an advocate for either side in a dispute and does not attribute blame. There is no ‘innocent’ or ‘guilty’ party and a ‘win-win’ position is the ideal, desired outcome.

During the investigation, principles of natural justice are observed and the Student Ombud will usually have discussions with all parties involved. This ensures that all views are heard and all facts are known to assist in finding a fair and balanced outcome.

What to bring to the Office

On your first visit it is not necessary to bring anything with you. However, if you have documentary evidence of your complaint or description of the events this may be useful for the investigation. Generally, copies of documentation will be made and these will be kept in a confidential file.

Resolution of the complaint

The Student Ombud will access all appropriate individuals and documents in an endeavour to resolve complaints fairly using the pinciples of natural justice. There is no guarantee that the complaint will be resolved in the way you wish. This is because circumstances of each case differ and that the University policies and procedures must be followed. The Student Ombud does not take sides or act as an advocate for either side in a dispute.

When an outcome is achieved you will be contacted by this Office, usually in writing.

Identified problems with policies and procedures

An important role of the Ombud is to identify problems in the University's policies and procedures which may come to light through the investigation of your complaint. When this occurs the Student Ombud will make recommendations to those responsible to prevent re-occurrence.

The investigation of your complaint will sometimes result in changes which will benefit other students even if your own particular situation appears to have an unsuccessful resolution. Even if you consider your own problem cannot be rectified you may still wish to contact the Student Ombud to ensure that a particular practice or procedure does not continue.

When is a complaint not a complaint?

If you are unsure please contact the Student Ombud Office. In general terms a complaint will not be taken up if the Student Ombud is of the opinion that: The complaint is frivolous, trivial or not in good faith

  • The complainant (student making the complaint) has an insufficient interest in the matter
  • The conduct complained of occurred at too remote a time to justify investigation
  • In relation to the conduct complained of, there is available to the complainant an alternative and satisfactory means of redress
  • The conduct complained of is not of a character that concerns the University within its functions, responsibilities and powers as defined in the University of South Australia Act, Statutes, By-Laws and policies.