UCL Student Mediator

contact: Dr Ruth Siddall, Student Mediator


1 Context

1.1 The role of UCL Student Mediator has its origins in the UCL Council’s White Paper 2011-21, which envisages the creation of the role of a UCL ‘student ombudsman’ with authority to mediate, act relatively informally and speedily, and propose practical solutions to resolve justifiable student complaints on a ‘without prejudice’ basis.

1.2 All enquiries to the Student Mediator will remain confidential, except in cases where there is judged to be significant threat to persons or property. The service provided by the Student Mediator complements UCL’s other student services and procedures.

1.3 The Student Mediator reports direct to the President and Provost of UCL.

2 Purpose of Role

2.1 The UCL Student Mediator is charged by the President and Provost of UCL with the responsibility for advising and assisting UCL students with the resolution of complaints, involving staff or other students or services of UCL and which the student has been unable to resolve through their academic department or faculty.

2.2 Acting with the full authority of the Provost in discharging this role, the Student Mediator gives advice normally before a student makes representation under UCL’s formal Student Complaints Procedure. The Registrar of UCL may, however, exceptionally request the Student Mediator to advise if the circumstances of the particular case suggest that mediation may still be useful in resolving the matter even when the Student Complaints Procedure has been activated; in such cases, consideration of the matter under the Student Complaints Procedure will be suspended, pending the Student Mediator’s input. The Student Mediator does not give advice following consideration of a complaint under the Student Complaints Procedure and the issue by the Registrar’s Office to the complainant of a Completion of Procedures letter (see also 2.4).

2.3 It is essential that the Student Mediator is independent, and seen to be independent, from any management or other institutional influence; and that s/he attempts to resolve student complaints objectively and impartially. The Student Mediator, except in respect of the formal supervisory arrangement outlined below (see 3.1), operates independently of UCL’s academic and administrative authorities.

2.4 The Student Mediator will not review formal decisions properly arrived at by the appropriate UCL body or UCL officer in accordance with the relevant UCL regulations, policy or procedure. However, in her/his capacity as chair of a panel set up to consider a case submitted under UCL’s Students Complaints Procedure (see 4.11), the Student Mediator may, with the other members of the panel, recommend such action etc to the Registrar.

2.5 The role of the Student Mediator is to act as a mediator to resolve matters informally rather than as an arbitrator.

2.6 The Student Mediator does not act as an advocate either for the student whose complaint is being considered, or for UCL. The role of the Student Mediator is to take into consideration the interests and concerns of all parties involved with a view to enabling a fair and equitable solution to be reached.

2.7 The Student Mediator is authorised to investigate student complaints with access to all relevant persons and documentation within UCL. The Student Mediator may take specific action relating to a student complaint subject to the following conditions of confidentiality:

  • all enquiries to the Student Mediator will remain confidential;
  • the Student Mediator will not report or disclose the names of those who use the service to anyone without their permission, except in cases where the Student Mediator judges there to be a significant threat to persons or property.

2.8 The Student Mediator does not have authority to take disciplinary action.

3 Main duties

3.1 To advise and assist UCL students with the resolution of complaints, involving staff or other students or services of UCL and which a student has not been able to resolve by other informal means.

3.2 In particular, to advise students alleging harassment or bullying and to take follow-up action in accordance with UCL’s policy on alleged harassment and bullying of students.

3.3 In considering any matter brought to the Student Mediator’s attention:

  • to establish that efforts to resolve the matter by other appropriate means have been made and have been unsuccessful or insufficient
  • to ascertain the facts of the matter
  • to inspect documentation and/or obtain legal advice as appropriate
  • to discuss and evaluate possible options for resolution of the matter

3.4 To facilitate communication by bringing parties together to resolve matters of concern.

3.5 Subject to the agreement of the parties concerned, to refer issues of concern to an appropriate UCL body for resolution.

3.6 Subject to the agreement of the parties concerned, to recommend to a Head of Department or to a senior officer in UCL’s Professional Services as appropriate the action that may be needed for the resolution of the matter raised.

3.7 To make recommendations, for consideration by the appropriate UCL officer and/or committee, for changes in UCL practices or procedures which the Student Mediator believes will help to avoid the recurrence of similar problems in future; and, in the process of developing such recommendations, to liaise and network with appropriate higher education colleagues outside UCL in order to identify good practice elsewhere in the sector which the Student Mediator considers may be potentially beneficial to the UCL student experience.

3.8 To advise UCL students and staff as appropriate on principles and behaviours conducive to the resolution of complaints.

3.9 To attend the Provost’s regular meetings with sabbatical officers of the UCL Union and to give advice, where relevant, to the Provost and the UCL Union officers concerned on matters arising at such meetings.

3.10 To submit an annual report to UCL Council via the Provost and, in doing so, (i) draw attention to any recurring difficulties or patterns of difficulty encountered by students and (ii) make recommendations for the resolution of such difficulties where appropriate.

3.11 To chair panels set up by the Registrar to consider cases submitted by students under UCL’s Student Complaints Procedure – provided that the Student Mediator has not been involved in consideration of any such case at an earlier stage.

3.12 To chair UCL’s Joint Staff-Student Committee – and, in that capacity, to be a member of (i) UCL’s Academic Committee and (ii) the Vice-Provost (Education)’s Student Experience Forum.

3.13 To keep up to date with issues surrounding the UCL student experience generally and be conversant with associated UCL policies and procedures.

4 Other or occasional duties

4.1 To contribute to the delivery of UCL teaching, according to the teaching qualifications of the post holder and by agreement with the Provost and the academic Head(s) of Department concerned.

4.2 The Student Mediator is an ex officio member of Academic Board.

December 2014