Student unions

IMG_2533The Student Union can support individual students involved in disputes but it can also encourage the institution to review what has happened and make systemic improvements if those are  needed.  It can not only help its members find answers; it can encourage them to become active partners with the institution in improving dispute-resolution.

National Union of Students has practical advice, including:
How to set up a students’ union if your institution does not have one

  • Does your website provide advice and links to support for students in difficulties or considering making complaints?
  • Have you compared other students’ union websites and thought about the best way to design your own to meet this need?
  •  Does your website provide ‘prevention’ advice, for example, for students preparing for examinations. Example:
  •  Does your website provide students with links to University procedures for dealing with student complaints?
  •  Do you check regularly that searches on the University or College website take students straight to what they want to know?

OIA decisions often include recommendations or observations about systemic lessons to be learned. Do you check these regularly and ensure that your institution is not making similar mistakes affecting students?

Is there a university or college committee with students’ union or other student representation which regularly discusses lessons to be learned from student complaints at your institution?

Roles for student union officers

Student union officers and students who accompany a student at a meeting or a formal hearing as a friend or representative should download

IDRAS Tips for meetings with students

You can always ask for an adjournment if you think the student you are supporting needs time:

  • to read documents which have not been provided in advance
  • to recover composure if he or she is getting upset
  • to discuss with you privately what to do or say next or to take advice by phone

The institution should provide a private room for you to do this.

You should ask politely for the ‘other side’ to leave the room at the same time. It is a break of the rules of fairness for either party to have an opportunity for time with the adjudicators when the other party is not present.

You should take notes of what is said and type them up immediately afterwards into a record which should be signed and dated.

  •   The institution should normally be sent a copy
  • Ask for the student you are supporting to be sent a copy of the record of the meeting or hearing kept by the other party and any record kept by the institution’s management.
  • If there is disagreement about the correctness of these records, the dissenting party may ask for corrections or insist that the alternative account is kept with the account whose accuracy is disputed.