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Category Academic
Type Policy
Approved by Senate, 30 September 2015
Date Policy Took Effect 30 September 2015
Last approved revision 
Sponsor Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)
Responsible officer Manager, Policy and Compliance


  1. To provide a communication framework that enables the University to effectively communicate essential and useful information to its students, including defining appropriate communication channels and describing the types of communication each of the channels can be used for.
  2. To define the responsibilities and authorities for the sending of communications to students.
  3. To define the responsibilities of students in respect to formal communications from the University.
  4. To describe best practice in the drafting and retention of communications to students.

Organisational scope



The University's primary student management system including a web-enabled portal that allows appropriately authorised access.


1. Communication Channels and Categories

  1. Primary communication channels are usually the most appropriate and/or reliable means for contacting students:
    • Email (excluding eVision-generated emails)
    • eVision communications (portal tasks, messages and eVision-generated emails)
    • Blackboard, Moodle and other approved learning management systems
    • The University of Otago website
  2. Secondary communication channels may be appropriate for some messages:
    • Telephone
    • Text (mobile phone short message service)
    • Social media (official University and Department Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, etc.)
    • Printed material
    • Noticeboards
    • Digital signage
    • Student app
    • Emergency Broadcast System
  3. Communication categories are as follows:
    1. Learning and teaching communications (mainly from academic departments).
    2. Communications relating to administrative processes and support services; e.g. enrolment, and final examination results, health and disability support information (mainly from central services such as Student Experience and Student and Academic Services).
    3. Serious incident communications; e.g. relating to a natural disaster or to a critical incident involving an individual student or students.
    4. Service communications to individuals; i.e. where a support service needs to contact an individual student.
    5. General communications on matters of interest to the student body, not related to their academic study and possibly with a social element.

2. Student Communication Framework

  1. The table below is intended to assist staff through indicating appropriate communication channels for each communication category.
  2.   (i) Learning & Teaching (ii) Administration & Support (iii) Serious Incident (iv) Service Communications to Individuals (v) General Interest
    Email X X X X  
    eVision message  X    
    Blackboard/Moodle etc. X   X   
    University website  X X   X
    Telephone  X X X  
    Text X X X X  
    University social media
    (e.g. Facebook/Twitter)
      X X   X
    Department social media
    (e.g. Facebook/Twitter)
    X     X
    Printed material X X    X
    Noticeboards X     X
    Digital signage X X X   X
    Student app   X   
    Emergency Broadcast System   X   
  3. Any specific communication should be made through an appropriate channel or channels, but need not necessarily be made through all appropriate channels as shown in 2(a) above.
  4. In choosing appropriate communication channels, primary channels (bolded in the table above), which students are expected to monitor regularly, should be used for essential communications, and should normally be considered first for other communications.
  5. Notwithstanding clause 2(c), very significant communications may be made via a printed letter to a student's provided physical address.  This may also be supported by emailing a scanned copy of the letter to the student's University-provided email address.
  6. Consideration should be given to the fact that some communications will be classified as records and will need to be retained under record-keeping requirements, as per the University's Information and Records Management Policy.
  7. Email communications should be directed to University-provided student email addresses.  However, where, as regards a certain matter, a student has:
    1. initiated an email exchange from a non-student email address; or
    2. provided a non-student email address for a specific purpose (e.g. a scholarship application); or
    3. replied to a University email from a non-student email address,
    it is acceptable to use that email address in relation to that matter.  Personal and academic information relating to a student being liaised with should never be provided to a non-student email address unless the student in question has otherwise verified their identity.
  8. eVision-based communications that are not 'time-critical'/urgent will not necessarily be communicated immediately and may be conveyed through appropriate eVision reminder messages.
  9. Social media should be used sparingly for communications relating to a student's academic experience, in light of students use of that media in the personal and social side of their lives, and the University's legislative responsibilities for record keeping (there is difficulty associated with retaining information in that format for any length of time).
  10. AskOtago is able to undertake communication to students on behalf of a Department or a Division, especially where a large body of students is involved.
  11. 3. Drafting and Retention of Communications to Students

    Subject to the constraints of the communication channel used, all University communications to students should:

    1. be clear, courteous, accurate, appropriate, timely and jargon-free;
    2. contain the date;
    3. contain the author's name and position title and/or the details of the responsible department;
    4. contain the contact details of the person to whom enquiries about the communication should be directed, if it is not the author;
    5. be consistent with University policies and procedures;
    6. be appropriately retained in accordance with the University's Information and Records Management Policy.

    4. Departmental Responsibilities and Authority

    1. Academic departments are responsible for:
      1. learning and teaching communications with their students;
      2. operational communications related to their students' working environment and the departmental administration of their courses, including communication of arrangements on days affected by adverse weather conditions (e.g. snow).
    2. Shared Services are responsible for:
      1. communicating with students, individually and in groups, on processes and information relating to the centralised academic administration of the student experience (e.g. enrolment).
      2. the provision of approval for the sending of eVision generated communications.
      3. the provision of approval for the sending of communications via AskOtago.
    3. Student and Academic Services are responsible for:
      1. authorising general information communications to be conveyed to students through the Student app or other email communication;
      2. serious incident communications involving individual students.
    4. Communications staff, acting as the Emergency Communications Team, are responsible for communications during a State of Campus Emergency, with the exception of announcements from the Vice-Chancellor or delegate, as per the Emergency Communications Plan.
    5. Staff members and units delivering specific services are responsible for:
      1. communicating with students, individually and in groups, on processes and information relating to their specific service;
      2. communicating on an individual basis with students who are engaged with their service.

    5. Student Responsibilities

    1. Students are required to check primary channels of communication regularly (at least weekly and preferably on each week day during teaching and examination periods) and to respond in a timely manner where necessary.
    2. Students should ensure they forward their student email to their personal email if that is their preference.
    3. Students are responsible for ensuring that only they have access to secure communication accounts associated with them and provided by the University; this includes their student email, student portal and Blackboard accounts.
    4. Students requesting personal or academic information by email should preferably do so via their student email address, as this shall be deemed to verify their identity.
    5. If a student responds to a staff email from an email address other than a University-assigned address, or provides an alternative email address for a specific purpose, they are required to reasonably monitor that email address for related University communications in addition to monitoring their student email address as per clause 5(a) above.
    6. The University does not accept responsibility for communications not being received by students where such communications are sent:
      1. via primary channels of communication; or
      2. to a student-provided alternative email address; or
      3. as a physical letter to a student's stated current address.
    7. Students are required to maintain accurate and up-to-date contact details in eVision, including their current physical address and next of kin/emergency contact details.

Related policies, procedures and forms

Contact for further information

If you have any queries regarding the content of these guidelines or need further clarification, please contact:

The Manager
Policy and Compliance

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