State universities

Our office has jurisdiction over all public universities in NSW, excluding Australian Catholic University, the University of Notre Dame, the Australian National University or the NSW campuses of universities based in other states or countries.

What you can complain to us about

You can complain to us about maladministration on the part of a university. As with all complaints, we are more likely to investigate matters that highlight systemic problems or where the consequences of a university’s actions have had a significant impact on a person or group of people.

This includes examining the fairness and transparency around decisions relating to the exclusion or suspension of students, including international students.

If you decide to lodge a complaint with us, remember that the Ombudsman cannot order the university to do something or to change a decision. Our role is to make recommendations that promote fairness, integrity and practical reforms.

We also have an important role in relation to systems within universities for dealing with public interest disclosures made by employees.

What you cannot complain to us about

It is not our role to question academic judgements, particularly in relation to the award of grades and marks or the admission to or rejection from academic courses or programs. We only consider investigating such complaints where there is an added element of wrong conduct, such as a failure to manage relevant conflict of interests or evidence of bias in an academic decision or in any subsequent appeal process.

All universities have their own complaint handling policies and procedures and most universities have a centralised complaints unit. We expect students (or other complainants) to have followed the available internal complaint processes of the relevant university before complaining to us.

Types of conduct you can complain about

  • If you believe a university (or a university officer) has acted dishonestly, unfairly or unreasonably towards you, and you have been unable to resolve the matter within the university
  • If you believe a university’s policies or procedures are flawed or unfair
  • If you have experienced what you believe to be unreasonable delays, or if a university has made a decision that they should have provided reasons for (but did not)
  • If you believe you have made a public interest disclosure within the meaning of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1993 and the university has not handled it correctly
  • If there is other good evidence of maladministration on the part of a university
  • If you have been advised by a university at the conclusion of an appeals process that you can make a complaint to the Ombudsman.

Information for universities

The Ombudsman is not an advocate for complainants. We act impartially and independently of both the organisations we investigate and the complainants whose grievances we investigate.

We have developed guidelines to assist university complaint handlers and we have held a number of successful university complaint handling forums to discuss topical issues arising out of university complaints.

Our staff are always available to provide advice and guidance to universities on how their policies, procedures and complaint handling processes can be improved.

Complaint handling at universities: best practice guidelines

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