About the Early Resolution Pilots Initiative
In line with the content of Pathway 3, we are looking for Pilots to address Early Resolution in the widest operational sense. These could include, but are not limited to:
- the focus of Student Services on Early Resolution;
- student conciliators;
- students’ union initiatives;
- collaborative projects between different universities and/or between universities and students’ unions;
- any aspect of informal settlement.
We need the Pilot schemes to run from January 2013 for approximately six months, with an interim report in March 2013.
The role of the OIA will be to act as a co-ordinator and to exchange information about the progress of the Pilots. It will also construct indicative Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) reflecting the broad strategic aims of Early Resolution against which to measure the Pilots. The operational imperatives of the Pilot will be set out by the institutions involved.
Ultimately it will be up to the universities and students’ unions to judge the success of their own Pilots’ but the OIA will:
- devote a page on its website for information exchange and advice;
- convene an end-of-Pilot review meeting.
The OIA has no additional financial resource to support the Pilots.
The OIA will use reported outcomes from the Pilots as information to contribute to work on the Good Practice Framework, described in the Pathway 3 Report.
Here is a brief overview of the projects some universities are piloting:
Aston University and Aston Students' Union
At Aston University the Hub in the University and the Advice & Representation Centre (ARC) in the Students’ Union work together to the benefit of the students. Each service offers its own area of expertise and they both ensure that students are directed to the one most appropriate to their needs. The ARC is smaller and independent, providing an invaluable service to students who are in dispute with the University or who need representation and personal support at internal hearings such as examination boards, academic appeals or at disciplinary meetings. The Hub has a wider remit and offers advice on areas such as immigration and help with hardship funds as well as assistance with academic issues that do not need the Union’s independent input. There are a few areas where students can choose to use either service, such as for housing matters. The joined-up approach aims to ensure that students are offered a consistent experience regardless of their needs, with transparent processes and clear lines of communication. The services also share information on what doesn’t work and they act to improve consensually.
Canterbury Christ Church University
Canterbury Christ Church University plans to build on the success of the current use of mediation in the later stages of the complaints procedure by revising the student procedures and the role mediation plays in them. The intention is to develop the procedures in two ways:
- To widen the scope for the use mediation, especially in the early stage of the procedures, and with a focus on student-student disputes; to look into making greater use of student mediators, especially in the early stages.
- Redevelop the procedures and the procedural framework to see if early resolution can be promoted based on the principles of mediation as part of the formal process (where appropriate).
The plan is to work in partnership with the Students’ Union and the student mediators.
University of South Wales
The University of Glamorgan introduced procedures involving a small team of Student Conciliators at Stage 2 of the complaints process in 2009/10. Students and staff are encouraged to resolve issues informally but if this is not successful the faculty/department involved appoints an investigating officer (Stage 1). If no solution is found, the student can move on to Stage 2, which involves the appointment of a Student Conciliator, who speaks to the student first, reviews the Stage 1 procedures and interviews any staff or other students involved. They then put forward a proposed solution.
Conciliators are trained internally and are supported by the Academic Registry. They meet to discuss issues which have arisen and also consider any changes to regulations and procedures which may need to be introduced as part of the annual review. The procedures and regulations have been modified gradually over the last three years.
University of Sheffield
Student Services is piloting a scheme for the Early Resolution of Student Complaints during semester 2, in conjunction with the Students’ Union. Under the scheme a student who has concerns/issues, for example about the delivery and quality of services or teaching, can request a one-meeting facilitated discussion as part of the informal stage of the Student Complaints Procedure, to try and resolve matters at an early stage. The Student Complaints and Appeals Office (SCA) is coordinating the project and will put the student in touch with a trained volunteer student conciliator, having first established whether or not the issues involved might be better addressed under other existing University procedures.
Academic Registrars Council (ARC)
ARC is linking the OIA’s pilot scheme with its own work to establish how early resolution can best fit into its good practice procedures for complaints and appeals. A particular focus will be on the best stages to introduce early resolution and on whether certain types of early resolution are best suited to specific types of case.
The key feature of the Kingston pilot is to offer training in complaint handling skills and mediation techniques to those staff likely to be the primary points of contact for students with a complaint or an appeal. The training will accommodate various levels of skills development, from initial one-to-one conversations with the complainant and the member of staff, to facilitating joint meetings between the parties to try to achieve a consensual – and hopefully amicable – resolution.
Evidence suggests there is a disturbing level of ignorance surrounding the options for informal dispute resolution, and the lack of information or knowledge makes parties apprehensive and reluctant to engage with the process. The focus of the training in this pilot will be on raising awareness of the importance of ensuring that students feel fully ‘heard and understood’ when they first raise a concern or complaint. Should the early interventions not achieve a resolution, this training will further enable staff to provide full information about informal procedures and, in appropriate cases, help them guide students through the mediation process.
University of Huddersfield
The University of Huddersfield is introducing a Student Conciliator programme to help resolve issues at school/department and informal level. Currently students are advised to seek support from the Students’ Union Advice Centre or their course representative but the University has recognised that sometimes the student does not feel they can approach the course rep. The Student Conciliator will discuss the complaint with the complainant and the relevant staff in the school/department concerned. Their role is to consider possible solutions and try to agree these with both sides. This is not mediation and is simply helping both sides come to a solution. If a Student Conciliator thinks the complainant and relevant staff could benefit from mediation, with the student's permission the case will be referred for mediation. Normally mediation is only offered at the formal stage of the complaints procedure.
Each School will have at least one Student Conciliator and some two or three. Four staff have been trained in Registry. A discussion list will be set up so Student Conciliators can communicate with each other and with Registry to seek to resolve an issue or to share good practice.
If you are interested in participating or if you have any questions, please contact us at email@example.com.