About the Early Resolution Pilots Initiative
In line with the content of Pathway 3, the OIA launched its Early Resolution Pilots Initiative in January 2013. Universities and Students’ Unions were invited to trial initiatives in their institutions to address early resolution in the widest operational sense. These could include, but were 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.
The role of the OIA has been to act as a co-ordinator and to exchange information about the progress of the Pilots. The operational imperatives of the Pilot have been set out by the institutions involved and ultimately it will be up to them to judge the success of their own Pilots.
The OIA has arranged a follow-up meeting at the end of January 2014 to give participants the opportunity to share progress reports and exchange ideas.
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:
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.
Aston University and Aston Students' Union
Aston University and Aston University Students’ Union are exploring approaches arising from closer working between the Hub in the University and the Advice & Representation Centre (ARC) in the Students’ Union.
Canterbury Christ Church University
Canterbury Christ Church University is looking at revising their procedures to promote early resolution. The promotion of mediation for student-student disputes (making use of students as mediators) is being taken forward by the Students' Union and the Mediation Clinic as a project, with the University acting as an observer. It is hoped this will promote student ownership.
Edge Hill University Students' Union
Edge Hill Students' Union opened its Advice Centre nine months ago and for the early resolution pilot initiative will look at the impact this service is having on student complaint and appeals at the early stages.
The Advice Centre has been working closely with one of the large faculties on its processes and has noticed a number of developments, notably that students are now advised to seek advice and are given the SU advice centre details.
University of Huddersfield
The University of Huddersfield has introduced a Student Conciliator programme to help resolve issues at school/department and informal level. This programme and combined EC process has won a THE award this year. Student complaints are under 20 and thus far only 2 have been referred to the OIA. There are now plans to expand the SCs to admin staff in Schools and Services and the training for this will take place towards the end of the Autumn term.
The appeals letter/surgeries have been relatively successful. The proportion of appeals upheld is higher than the University would like and so they have revamped all training on the regulations and this is currently being put on the University’s virtual learning environment. Academic and support staff with varying responsibilities will do the training between September and December. This has been agreed by the PVC and in December management reports will be sent to the PVC and appropriate Dean to confirm who has/not completed the training.
The University has also commissioned a Registry app to gameify the regulations and this is under way for the start of the new academic year available on iPhone and Android mobile phones. This will be made available to staff and students alike.
Kingston University launched a project early in 2013 focussing on providing training in complaint handling in order to promote early resolution and supported by 4 other institutions: Middlesex, St Mary's, University West London, University West England. It was also agreed that Kingston would offer free mediation to any institutions who wanted to be involved.
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. OIA was invited to the first training event, which included staff from the University of the West of England and the University of West London as well as from Kingston.
Since the launch, Kingston has offered further workshops in complaint handling to St Mary's, Middlesex, colleagues at Kingston and has a workshop planned for the Open University. As a result of feedback from the workshops it considers that early resolution needs to be properly resourced in order to make a significant impact. For example, there should be champions who will deal with student issues at a very early stage in order to avoid the conflict becoming entrenched.
The institutions involved in the pilot, along with the OIA and QAA, attended a conference on 6th September to consider steps forward in embedding early resolution. The institutions reported on developments in their projects.
University of Sheffield
The University of Sheffield Student Services pilot for the Early Resolution of Student Complaints (PERC) was run during semester 2 of the academic session 2012-13. Under the scheme a student who has concerns/issues, for example about the delivery and quality of services or teaching, can request a meeting with a volunteer student conciliator as part of the informal stage of the Student Complaints Procedure, to try and resolve matters at an early stage. So far 9 cases have been taken through conciliation, none of which have gone on to become a formal complaint. The feedback from both students and student conciliators has been very positive.
The Pilot has now been extended to run during the whole of the academic session 2013-14. Further information can be found at http://www.shef.ac.uk/ssd/sca/perc.
University of South Wales
The University of South Wales is building on the work of Student Conciliators at Stage 2 of the complaints process.