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Supervision: Importance of sharing information - PI091515

University of Lincoln

A PhD student at the University of Lincoln complained of bullying and harassment by a supervisor. The student was dissatisfied with the University’s initial investigation because the University characterised the issues raised as "miscommunication" and proposed remedies after the first investigation that left the student feeling vulnerable. His complaint was considered at two subsequent stages of the University’s Complaints Procedure but the University’s final decision was not to refer it to a formal complaint hearing.

We found that the University’s consideration of the complaint had not been reasonable as the supervisor’s responses to the issues the student raised were not passed on to the student or to the panel looking at the complaint. This was not a fair procedure and we considered it likely that it would have made it more difficult for the student to prepare a request for review. We also considered that the panel had not been in a position to make a decision on the review request as it did not have all the relevant information.

We found the case Justified on the basis that a fair process had not been followed. We did not consider the substantive grounds of the complaint about bullying. We recommended that the University offer the student, who had since left, the opportunity to resubmit a statement, outlining concerns about the outcome of the first investigation, for consideration at a hearing of the University’s Complaints Board, and that the University review its procedures. The University reviewed its procedures and made changes to its complaints process as a result of our Recommendations.