Student Grievances and Discipline Matters Project

Australian Learning and Teaching Council
Publication Type:
2009, pp. 1 - 194
Issue Date:
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Since the mid 1990s, participation in Australian higher education has increased markedly. According to statistics published by the Commonwealth, the total number of students enrolled in Australian higher education institutions in 1995 was 604,176. That figure increased to 1,029,846 in 2007, an increase of about 70.5%.1 There has been much speculation about whether there has been a marked increase in complaints (including litigation). While our research reveals a marked increase in overall numbers of complaints (including litigation), commensurate with increases in student numbers since 1995, it is another thing to say that the rise in complaints is out of proportion to increases in student numbers. Indeed, our research findings were inconclusive (Jackson, Fleming, Kamvounias, & Varnham, 2009, Ch 3.2.6). Since the establishment of the Australian Universities Quality Agency in 2000, universities have had to turn their attention to irnprovements in the provision of quality teaching and learning. However, unlike developments in the United Kingdom, little attention has been paid to establishing any code, set of principles or guidelines in relation to the handling of student grievances and discipline matters. The project team is of the view that quality learning and teaching in universities should encompass quality in internal mechanisms for handling student complaints and appeals. To that end, the project team undertook research in this area during 2007 and 2008 to identify and scope some of the problems that arise in the way universities handle complaints and appeals, and to suggest ways in which mechanisms might be improved.
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