University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) UKZN Ombud

University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) UKZN Ombud

The office of the University Ombud was established in July 2010, to provide the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) community with an independent, neutral dispute resolution resource that deals with complaints and concerns in a fair and equitable manner.

Statement of goals

To be independent and to demonstrate the highest standards of impartiality, objectivity, fairness and effectiveness in consideration and resolution of complaints and concerns.

To be effective by ensuring that handling of complaints are conducted thoroughly and as quickly as possible and that recommendations are well founded, capable of being implemented, and are followed through.

To be accessible to all who are entitled to make use of the Office.

To be fair in the treatment of all complainants without regard race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, age, religion, or any other consideration.

To create a working and learning environment where colleagues and students are treated with respect and dignity.

About the Ombud
A University Ombud is an independent dispute resolution official who is authorized by the University to confidentially receive complaints, concerns, or inquiries about alleged acts, omissions, improprieties, and/or broader systemic problems within the his or her jurisdiction and to listen, offer options, facilitate resolutions, informally investigate or otherwise examine these issues independently and impartially.

How the Ombud can assist

The University Ombud is a designated neutral who provides confidential, informal and impartial assistance for the informal resolution of concerns and conflicts to constituents of the University or College community. The office of the Ombud provides services to students, staff, faculty and University administrators.

The scope of matters that can be brought to the Ombud is covered under the Terms of Reference for the University of KwaZulu-Natal Ombud.  The list of examples of cases that the Office of the Ombud deals with is accessible here.

The Ombud may intervene or provide assistance in one of the following ways:

  • Evaluation of Options

The Ombud will listen carefully to the details of the complaint or concern, and assist a visitor in looking at the issue or concern from all perspectives, helping the individual to identify and develop a range of options to address the issue. In all interactions, the Ombud acts with strict confidentiality and impartiality. She/he does not advocate for any individual or administrative authority in a dispute; rather, she/he advocates for due process and procedural fairness and works to facilitate a solution that is acceptable to all parties.

  • Providing Information

The Ombud can also assist visitors to resolve their own grievances by providing appropriate guidance and clarification of internal dispute resolution procedures or any information on University policies that may be relevant to the issue at hand.

  • Referral

The Ombud may assist visitors by directing their concerns to other internal administrators or offices that may be better suited to deal with the problem.

  • Conflict Coaching

Coaching can help to strengthen an individual’s ability and confidence to resolve a particular dispute, prevent or minimize disputes, as well as manage conflicts in his or her work environment. Through guidance and counseling, employees and managers can explore options and help themselves to integrate their goals and objectives with those of the institution.

  • Informal fact-finding

Although the Ombud does not conduct formal investigations, an informal enquiry to establish the facts of a grievance may be done. In such cases the Ombud may contact Human Resources personnel, supervisors or other relevant administrators within the University. In all interactions with other parties, the Ombud acts with strict confidentiality.

  • Shuttle diplomacy

The Ombud may also use shuttle diplomacy between the visitor and a colleague or management to gather more information or to assist parties to engage properly until they reach a better understanding and an acceptable solution.  During shuttle diplomacy, the Ombud remains neutral and ensures that confidentiality is safeguarded.

  • Mediation

If a case is suitable for mediation, the Ombud may recommend mediation. Mediation is voluntary and both parties must agree for it to take place.

  • Upward feedback and Early warning system

The Ombud can give feedback and make recommendations for change or options for addressing issues to the University management. The Ombud is also a catalyst for change and as such a very important part of his/her function is to define systemic malfunctions within the University and to make recommendations for change in policies and practices to address such malfunctions.

  • Presentations and Training

The Ombud’s office offer awareness presentations at staff meetings and inductions. The office is also responsible for giving conflict management training to managers and members of the University community who are in leadership positions. To request a presentation please contact the Office.

What the Ombud does not do

  • Adjudicate on matters

The Ombud does not have authority to take disciplinary action, reverse or review University decisions, impose remedies or sanctions nor enforce or change University rules and policies.

  • Advocate for one party

The Ombud is a designated neutral, who does not advocate for any individual or the University, but impartially advocates for fairness, acts as a source of information and referral as well as assists in the resolution of concerns.

  • Receive Notice for the University

Communication to the Ombud’s office does not constitute notice to the University.

  • Keep official records

The Ombud’s office is an off-record facility which does not maintain or keep records of individual cases on behalf of the University or individuals.  The office only keeps non-confidential statistical data of cases without reference to particulars of individuals. The statistical report is to assist the Ombud in reporting trends of conflict and providing feedback to the University.

  • Enforce or review collective agreements.

Whilst the Ombud’s office may provide services to union members, such services may not include issues arising out of a collective bargaining agreement.

  • Conduct formal Investigations

Informality is critical to the operation of the Ombud’s Office. The Ombud does not conduct formal investigations of any kind.

  • Get involved in conflict of Interest matters

Impartiality is critically important to the Ombud’s office. The Ombud’s does not get involved in cases where there may be a real or perceived conflict of interest.

  • Participate in formal proceedings

The Ombud does not participate in any formal dispute resolution processes (internal ADR processes, grievances, disciplinary proceedings or performance related feedback). The Ombud does not deal with a matter where legal proceedings have commenced or are underway.

  • Testify in formal proceedings

All communications to the Ombud’s Office are off record and confidential. No one from the Ombud’s Office may be called to give evidence as a witness in any legal or formal proceedings to reveal such information.

Advantages of using the Ombud’s office

The Office of the Ombud does not replace existing internal processes; rather it serves as a facility where a visitor can:

• Discuss a problem off-the-record and in confidentiality outside normal University channels.

• Explore alternatives for resolving a problem and learn what resources are in the system.

• Increase his or her potential and confidence to deal with conflict.

• Receive coaching and guidance on how to present an issue or concern.

• Explore ways to get a problem to the surface without being at risk of retaliation.