Code of Ethical Conduct


AMENDMENTS: September 1998 Revised (SMG); December 1999 Council C-8/99; August 2004 (Director: Human Resources); May 2015 Revised (SMG); Revised 17 January 2020 (Executive Director: People, Talent & Culture).

Executive Director: People, Talent and Culture

CROSS REFERENCES: See Reporting breaches of the Code



The Code of Ethical Conduct for the University of South Australia establishes principles to be applied by all staff in their activities and behaviour.

All University staff 1 must be aware of and observe the relevant sections of the Code. The Code does not seek to identify common or statutory law requirements, and reference must be made to the University of South Australia Act 1990, University policies and procedures, and other sources for such guidance. Specific procedures for ethical conduct are documented in University Policies and Procedures (for example financial management, human resources, equal opportunity and research). Staff using these policies should understand the requirements and apply them in their relevant day-to-day activities.

The Code expresses, in broad terms, the requirements for staff to adhere to ethical standards without limiting their resourcefulness and independent thinking in the management of the University.

This document is in three parts:

Attached to the Code are:

Indicators of personal ethical behaviour
or a one page Indicators of personal ethical behaviour for your pinboard (Word doc)


The Code

Ethical standards Notes
We respect the laws of the land.  
We conduct ourselves with integrity: we are fair, honest and impartial in our dealings, and we treat others with dignity and respect. We give members of the University community the care and courtesy that we would wish to receive.


Note 1
We are aware of possible conflicts of interest: we avoid conflicts of interest when they are avoidable, and we declare conflicts of interest when they are unavoidable. We use the University's funds, equipment, buildings, information and other resources with care and responsibility and in the best interests of the University.


Note 2
We endeavour to further the interests of the University, its students, clients and associates: we are attentive to the interests of the broader community.


Note 3


We are aware of obligations to maintain confidentiality of information: we do not use this information for personal gain, nor to the detriment of the University or its stakeholders.


Note 4


We exercise due skill, care and diligence in performing our duties and acknowledge our responsibility to maintain currency of our knowledge, skills and technical competencies.


Note 5
We are fair and honest in our relationship with suppliers and purchasers of the University's goods and services: we avoid both the appearance and reality of being influenced by any party, or of being prejudiced or biased in our dealings with third parties and stakeholders.

We do not actively solicit any gifts, benefits or hospitality; nor do we accept gifts or benefits (including hospitality and entertainment) which could in any way compromise or be seen by the wider community to influence us in our official capacity. We declare the benefit of gifts or gratuities that occur in the normal course of business.

Note 6
We represent the University in the performance of our tasks and avoid all conduct which detracts from the University's reputation. Note 7


Application of the Code

It is important to recognise that in applying this Code, the personal characteristics of honesty, sincerity, impartiality and trustworthiness are key guiding attributes.

The effectiveness of the University's policies relies on all staff taking responsibility for their own behaviour and being committed to the standards inherent in this document. Staff are expected to be familiar with University policies and procedures relevant to this Code. Depending on the circumstances, it may be necessary to seek legal advice to guide the decision making processes where conflicts of interest or potential conflicts occur. Seeking such advice should follow the University's normal procedures.

Situations may arise in the conduct of financial activities where influence is attempted in order to achieve a particular outcome. Influence may be in the form of seeking to unfairly achieve an outcome by tactics such as inducement (gratuities/gifts/hospitality or other favours) or threats, including harassment. Should such situations be encountered, or should there be any doubt in regard to any situation, staff should draw such incidents to the attention of their relevant manager (i.e. Executive Dean, General Manager, Director or other senior manager of the relevant Portfolio, Research Institute, Academic or Central Unit) so that necessary action is taken.

Other circumstances may arise where a staff member may have private and/or pecuniary interests which may lead to an actual or potential conflict of interest in the financial management of University activities. The staff member should avoid entering or being personally involved in financial decision-making in a situation in which there is a conflict of interest, recognising also the need for disclosure of any interest or apparent interest to the relevant manager as mentioned beforehand.

All University staff will receive a copy of this Code and will exercise any power by virtue of their appointment or any additional powers delegated to them from time to time in accordance with and by reference to this Code.

Staff are encouraged to comment on and contribute to the further development of this Code by bringing their ideas to the attention of their manager who should refer it to the General Counsel and University Secretary. Likewise, staff may refer any queries to the General Counsel and University Secretary who will act as the first point of contact. Over time this will provide an indication of how the Code is being embedded within the University and whether any amendments are required.


Consequences of a breach of the Code

Many elements of the Code are aspirational in nature. They have been developed not only to satisfy existing legal requirements, but also to engender behaviour which exceeds the legal minimum. Staff should be familiar with the substance and spirit of the Code and should be aware that breaches may result in sanctions which may include counselling, disciplinary action, performance review, or civil or criminal action, depending on the nature of the breach.

The University has noted and supports the provisions of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2018. If you suspect or are aware of breaches of law involving fraud and corrupt conduct, you are strongly advised to report the matter.  For guidance on reporting please refer to Reporting breaches of the Code.

Explanatory notes to the Code of Ethics

Note 1

Staff should act with honesty, sincerity and integrity in their approach to their work for the University.

All staff should behave with integrity, honesty and fairness in all business, academic (including research), professional and personal relationships.

Staff should not knowingly or recklessly supply any information which is confidential, or make any statement which they know is misleading, false or deceptive to a colleague, client of the University, or the general public.

While University staff must observe the terms and conditions of their employment, staff cannot be required to be complicit in any illegal act. If advised, instructed or encouraged to engage in unlawful activity, they must decline, and report the matter to a line manager.

Note 2

Conflicts of interest
University staff should both be and appear to be free of any interest (financial or otherwise) which might be regarded as being in conflict or incompatible with their integrity and objectivity.

Independence is the cornerstone of objectivity. Both external and internal parties have a need for credibility of information and action in relation to University activities. University management at all substantive levels seeks credibility and accountability in information and in the activities of all of its staff. University management must be careful to apply an attitude of professionalism within the bounds of commercial confidentiality, and should remain independent in fact as well as independent in appearance.

Accordingly, University staff should recognise and avoid situations which may affect their integrity and objectivity by:

  • being cautious of undue benefits or preferential treatment received in the course of their employment. Such benefits may cloud their judgement or objectivity
  • ensuring University facilities or property, information or resources are used in the best interests of the University community
  • guarding against conflicts of interest arising from inappropriate financial involvement and personal relationships.

Note 3

The interests of the University and the broader community
The University comprises a diverse population of individuals with differing roles and functions, ethnic and cultural backgrounds and differential and sometimes complex relationships within the University community. For such a community to function fairly and effectively, due regard must be given to behaviour which recognises the dignity and privacy of individuals, enhances fair dealing and representation both in action and perception.

The effective functioning of the University community depends on the mutual respect required of individuals co-existing within that diverse community and with its broad clientele, together with the pursuit of an environment characterised by co-operation, collegiality, impartiality, equity, and financial responsibility.

Individuals must therefore be accountable for their actions both in a social and financial sense by:

  • clearly establishing their own personal standards and those of the staff for whom they are responsible and being aware of how these standards may conflict with tasks they ask others (or themselves are asked) to do.

This should be in consonance with the University's strategic intentions and the University of South Australia Act, recognising that the University has a responsibility both to its stakeholders and the broader community.

Note 4

University staff must protect the confidentiality of information acquired in the course of their work. No staff member should use or disclose any confidential information to a colleague, client of the University or any other party without specific authority or unless such use or disclosure is:

  • in the normal course of business within the University, or
  • there is a legal or professional duty to disclose the information.

Staff may acquire confidential information in the course of their employment. This may take the form of confidential information about staff, students, University business or other information intended to be confidential. It is important that this information should not be disclosed to third parties except when consent has been obtained from the University or with the consent of the other party, when there is a duty to disclose.

Staff members should discuss the matter fully with their immediate superior if they are in doubt as to whether there exists a right or duty to disclose confidential information. If the problem cannot be resolved by this action, they should consult an appropriate higher authority within the University, and/or the University's legal advisors.

University staff at all levels should ensure that staff members for whom they are responsible, are aware of the confidential nature of relevant information acquired by them in their work and should inform them of the need to maintain confidentiality of such information.

Staff members in receipt of confidential information should not use or appear to use such information to gain personal advantage for themselves or for a third party.

Note 5

Technical standards
University staff shall carry out their job responsibilities in accordance with relevant contractual arrangements and/or in accordance with the technical and professional standards relevant to that work. In this sense, University staff members owe a duty of skill and care to the University.

Note 6

Fair and honest dealing - objectivity
University staff must be fair and must not allow bias or prejudice to influence or override their objectivity in academic, research, administrative, business or management matters. Staff should maintain an impartial attitude, particularly in terms of the equity of individuals (including colleagues) or groups who may be vulnerable.

Objectivity is an important characteristic of University staff. If the work of a staff member is influenced by dishonesty, prejudice, conflict of interest or bias, or involves misuse of a University position for personal gain (financial or otherwise), then that staff member cannot meet the test of objectivity.

The 'reasonable person' test is appropriate in determining whether a staff member has behaved in an objective manner. In other words, whether a reasonable colleague, knowing all the facts and circumstances, would conclude that the staff member has acted properly and impartially.

Gifts, benefits and hospitality

  • Gifts, benefits or hospitality which are irregular and of nominal value, used for promotional purposes by the donor and seen as generally accepted commercial practice (such as a business lunch), may be accepted.
  • Gifts, benefits or hospitality which exceed a nominal amount, must be declared to the staff member's line manager and must not be accepted if in the view of the line manager the acceptance of the gift or gratuity would compromise objectivity and be seen by the wider community as likely to influence the staff member in their official capacity.
  • Gifts, benefits or hospitality offered as an inducement to place a staff member under an obligation to purchase goods or services cannot be accepted.
  • Staff must not accept gifts of money.

Note 7

Ethical behaviour
University staff should conduct themselves in a manner which is consistent with the University's strategic intentions, reputation, and functions for which it was created under the University of South Australia Act. Staff should refrain from any conduct which might bring discredit to the University.

It is important that colleagues, clients and the wider community, be satisfied that University staff are acting fairly, honestly and in good faith. You should not condone misleading, false or deceptive statements. The character of staff will be judged by their conduct, real or apparent.


Indicators of personal ethical behaviour

You must not allow dishonesty, personal prejudice or bias to influence you in the conduct of your employment.

You should not accept gifts, benefits or hospitality if their nature and value may be seen as compromising your objectivity and influencing you in your official capacity.

Your actions should be fair, honest, and truthful.

You should avoid actual or perceived conflicts of interest.

You should not condone the use of any statement which is misleading, false or deceptive.

You should conduct yourself with care and skill, and ensure your actions do not conflict with the requirements of integrity and objectivity or the University of South Australia Act.

You should not use confidential or other information for personal advantage or for the advantage of another.


If you would be ashamed if your conduct was reported in a University newsletter or a local newspaper read by friends and colleagues, you should question whether your behaviour is ethical.


1 University staff includes any individual engaged on either a continuing, fixed term or casual basis.