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Resolving problems and disputes

The University is committed to providing an environment conducive to scholarship through excellence in teaching, research and service. It aims to provide a stimulating environment for both students and staff. Nevertheless, during the course of your study, problems may arise. These may include a problem with your supervisor or with other post-graduate students in your area. These problems need not become a barrier to your study and research and, indeed, they can become a valuable part of the learning experience.

The University’s Ethical Behaviour Policy undertakes to provide an environment of “safety, respect and dignity” for all members of the University community and it expects that everyone will contribute to the creation of that environment.

If you experience problems it is best to deal with them early and with the person most directly concerned. You can do this yourself or you can seek advice and support if you are unsure of how to proceed. Most problems are able to be resolved informally once both people are aware of the issues and concerns, and the University strongly encourages informal resolution of concerns.

One of the reasons people are sometimes reluctant to raise a concern is that they think it will be perceived as a criticism or an attack. Adopting a problem-solving approach from the outset increases the chances that the other person will do the same. “This isn’t working for me and I’d like to discuss what ways there might be of changing things” or something similar is a good first approach.

If you wish, or if informal methods haven’t worked, you have the option of making a formal complaint under the Ethical Behaviour Policy. The full text of the policy is available at http://www.otago.ac.nz/administration/policies/otago003161.html.There are a number of people whom you might want to contact to discuss your concerns or to seek advice:
• Your supervisor
• Your Postgraduate Coordinator
• Your Head of Department
• The Dean or Manager, Graduate Research School
• The University Mediator – mediation@otago.ac.nz or phone 479 5679
•A member of the Ethical Behaviour Contact Network – see the posters or go to http://www.otago.ac.nz/mediation/

Any approach you make to the Dean, Manager, the Mediator or the Contact Network will be confidential and you may request a confidential discussion with your supervisor or the head of Department

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Academic Grievance Procedure

In addition to the Ethical Behaviour Policy, the University has adopted a Student Academic Grievance Procedure.

An academic grievance means any grievance which a student has against a staff member because of a claim that he or she has sustained academic disadvantage as a result of that staff member’s: error; failure to observe an established rule or guideline without reasonable cause; unfair treatment of the student; or supervision of a quality which falls below the standard that any reasonable supervisor would be expected to provide.

The objectives of the Student Academic Grievance Procedures are to minimise the chances of minor grievances escalating into major problems, to foster procedural consistency across Departments, Schools and Divisions, and to encourage good practice on the part of both students and staff.

Full details of the Academic Grievance Procedure are available at: http://www.otago.ac.nz/administration/policies/otago002982.html

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