26 June 2017
New study published by ENOHE chair Rob Behrens
BEING AN OMBUDSMAN IN HIGHER EDUCATION
by Rob Behrens
In this study of higher education ombudsmen, Rob Behrens reviews the lived experience of ombudsmen in 18 countries. Having had unique access to ENOHE archives and drawing on a network-wide survey, he has produced the comprehensive account of European practitioners.
Higher education ombudsmen operate from a wide variety of institutional contexts, from singleton operations within individual universities to national ombudsman schemes. They are bound by a strong adherence to the principles of independence, impartiality, confidentiality and informality, and by a broad consensus including giving advice to (mainly) students, disseminating information and being agents of change.
Where higher education ombudsmen disagree is over the interpretation of operational principles. Many use adjudication to resolve disputes, whereas many others reject adjudication and rely on the soft power of mediation to enable disputants to resolve their own conflicts. Additionally, there is strong disagreement about whether campus ombudsmen, operating from within universities can ever be properly independent from the universities they have oversight of.
Behrens analyses the ways in which ombudsmen assert their independence and discovers ombudsmen as robust, assertive and properly distant from university authorities or government structures. However, he reports on a small number of ombudsmen whose mandates have been insufficient to prevent interference and obstruction. He argues that higher educational ombudsmen need to develop the professional nature of their activity to ensure commonality of qualifications, competency, and continuing professional development.
ENOHE President, Dr Josef Leidenfrost, Austrian Student Ombudsman, commented:
“This is a landmark study which highlights the strength and flexibility
of higher education ombudsmen across the European Higher
Education Area and beyond.”
Rob Behrens added:
“It is important to understand the different ways in which Ombudsmen operate in different countries and university systems so that we can learn from each other and, ultimately, improve the services we provide. I hope my study will spark a constructive debate about these differences in operations."
3 May 2017
The final program for the forthcoming 13th ENOHE Conference is ready.
Take a look at the program - be inspired and send in your registration today!
Please note that last day for registration is 9th of June.
Hope to see many of you in Strasbourg!
3 May 2017
Rob Behrens Chair of ENOHE started in April 2017 as new Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
6 APRIL 2017
Rob Behrens begins his new role as Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman and Chair of the organisation today (Thursday 06 April 2017).
Rob has considerable experience of investigating allegations of public service failure and, as a result, bringing redress to service users. His previous roles include Complaints Commissioner at the Bar Standards Board and Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (Office of the Independent Adjudicator) in England and Wales.
Rob transformed the Office of the Independent Adjudicator into an outstanding ombudsman service by focusing on promoting best practice and providing a more efficient and effective service to complainants.
Following this he became Visiting Professor at the University College London Institute for Education and also Chair of the European Network of Ombudsmen in Higher Education. Rob was made a CBE for ‘services to higher education’ in the New Year’s Honours List, December 2015.
Leading modernisation and continuous improvement
Working in partnership with staff, the Chief Executive and the Board, Rob will lead the modernisation and continuous improvement of the organisation as demand for the service increases.
This includes preparing for Ombudsman reform, which aims to create a single, more accessible and modern Public Service Ombudsman (PSO), making it easier for people to have their complaints about public services resolved. A Draft Bill for the new Public Service Ombudsman has been published by Government.
Commenting on his new role as Ombudsman, Rob Behrens said:
It’s an honour to be able to lead such a dedicated workforce at a time of vital transformation. The public sector faces significant challenges over the next few years which is why an independent and impartial ombudsman service is more important than ever.
‘I will listen carefully to complainants, organisations we investigate and our staff to understand how we can improve the quality of our complaint handling and speed up the time it takes for people to get answers.
‘I will continue PHSO’s practice of sharing findings from our investigations to help drive improvements in government departments and the NHS in England so they can provide the best possible service to the public.’
The CEO of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, Amanda Campbell, added:
Rob has a strong track record of complaint handling which will be invaluable to the organisation. He is a great advocate for an independent service that makes impartial final decisions on complaints about public services. We are delighted to have someone of his calibre and expertise joining us.’
Bernard Jenkin, MP and Chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee in parliament, said:
Rob Behrens brings an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the role of the Ombudsman to this position. His past experience at the Office of the Independent Adjudicator in Higher Education will stand him in good stead as he takes on the diverse and complex post of Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. I look forward to working with the new Ombudsman to continue to drive change to public services.’
The Health and Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committees endorsed the appointment of Rob Behrens to be the new Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman following their pre-scrutiny hearing in parliament on 18 January 2017. The House of Commons approved the appointment on 24 January 2017.
8 April 2017
The registration for the 13th ENOHE conference is now open.
In preparation for the forthcoming conference in Strasbourg, you will find all the practical information here!
More information on the programme itself will be available here at the website in mid-April!
Hope to see many of you in Strasbourg!
23 February 2017
New article by ENOHE-member dr. Paul Herfs.
Ombudsing at Canadian Universities Through the Eyes of a Dutch Ombudsman
Paul Herfs visited ombudspersons at 12 Canadian universities all through the country. He started in Montréal, in central Canada and ended his trip in Victoria on Vancouver Island at the western edge of the country some 3700 kilometers away. The aim of the study trip was to gather best practices at the offices of Canadian ombudspersons.
Read the article published in the Journal of the California Caucus of College and University Ombuds.
16 February 2017
The Conference Planning Committee of ENOHE 2017 has the pleasure in calling for proposals for presentations. This including papers, workshops and participants at roundtables, to ensure that the Conference is as inclusive as possible.
Take a look at the CALL FOR PAPERS document.
The deadline for suggested proposals is Monday 20 March 2017 but earlier submissions are very welcome. Please send your proposals to firstname.lastname@example.org
15 February 2017
SAVE THE DATE!
13th ENOHE Annual Conference 2017
Wednesday June 28 - Friday June 30 2017
Higher Education Ombudsmen as Beacons
-Towards a fair and transparent European Higher Education Area
Main Topics to be dealt with:
- Current Challenges for Higher Education Ombudsmen
- "Ombudspersons" and Diversity on Campus
- Are Students Customers, Consumers or Co-learners? The Impact of Labelling
- Ombudsmen and Agenda Setting in Higher Education
- Ombudsmen as a Profession: Innovative Approaches
- Professional Development thru Crowd Intelligence
23 December 2016
Network meeting for the Scandinavian Network in Oslo 13th to 14th of October 2016
The annual network meeting for Scandinavian ombudsmen was held in Oslo on October 13th to 14th 2016. The meeting was hosted by the Ombud for Students at Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences.
The focus of the meeting was to share common challenges, concerns and victories, to learn from each other and share experiences.
20 participants from 13 universities and 3 countries participated this year. This was a new record.
The program was a mix of introduction speakers and group discussions. This gave us the opportunity to learn something new, get inspired and share our experiences and questions with each other.
Some of the discussion topics in the program were:
- Whistle blowing cases
- Challenges for international students
- Challenges for students with special needs
- How to get the most out of social media
- How and why write reports
- The situation of students' mental health in Norway
We also got to hear a mind boggling story of a former student who told us about her experiences when everything went wrong during an internship and how it affected her both professionally, financially and personally.
We ended the meeting by discussing the network's future and agreed that we wanted to continue the tradition of annual meetings. The next meeting will be held in Stockholm on the 12th to 13th of October 2017.
Thank you to all participants and speakers for two eventful and inspiring days in Oslo. We are already looking forward to next year!
ENOHE 2015 Conference Report - Now available
The 2015 Conference report "Thirty Years of Solitude? University Ombudsmen’s Pioneering Past, Confident Present, Challenging Future" is now available to download and view.
Thank you to Jean Grier, Jim Wohl and Josef Leidenfrost who edited this years edition.
Bratislava/Vienna: ENOHE meets ENRIO, and vice versa
During its Joint Meeting in Bratislava (Slovakia) and Vienna (Austria) on Oct 20 and 21, the Slovak Research and Development Agency and the Austrian Agency for Research Integrity, welcomed ENRIO, the European Network of Research Integrity Offices, ENERI, the European Network of Ethics and Research Integrity, and ENOHE, the European Network of Ombudsmen in Higher Education.
The main aim of the two days conference in the Slovak and Austrian capitals is the exchange of most recent results on the discussion of recommendations on academic integrity and the steering group meeting of the pan-European platform on ethics, transparency and integrity in education.
With representatives from 23 European countries, this meeting was an important event in the networking of respective agencies and authorities for safeguarding good scientific practice in the European research and higher education spaces as they are developing right now. Among the partner institutions of ENRIO also ENOHE, the European Network of Ombudsmen in Higher Education, has been invited to participate. Most recent and upcoming events within the ENOHE net are included in the report at the link below.
Among the future activities there is also the possibility of a joint undertaking during 2017 as far as ENOHE’s annual conference in Strasbourg, France is concerned. Also joint training and professionalization programs for the network’s respective memberships are envisaged. Germany’s member organization, the DFG ombudsman for good scientific practice, had actually hosted ENOHE’s annual conference in 2009 in Hamburg.
A joint publication has also been produced, The Curriculum “Good Scientific Practice”, edited by Gerlinde Sponholz and Josef Leidenfrost.
Spanish Ombudsmen: CEDU holds Annual Meeting 2016 in Cordoba
CEDU, the Spanish national network of higher education ombudsmen and ombudswomen, holds its 19th annual conference in Cordoba from 19-21 October 2016.
The main topics to be dealt with during the 3 day conference are “The contribution of university ombudsmen to better transparency and good governance within universities”, the juridical and psychosocial dimension of mediation through ombudsmen offices and the compatibility of work and family at universities. 69 of the 78 Spanish private and public universities have installed ombuds offices, 61 of them are members of the network.
Besides their annual meetings the Spanish network also holds midterm executive meetings. Its internationally active members are also participating in ENOHE’s executive committee (electronic) reunions and annual conferences. Spain has hosted two ENOHE annual conferences since 2003, both were held in Madrid, in 2004 and in 2011. The Spanish network is currently engaging in getting ombudsmen and ombuds networks from Mexico, Central and Latin American countries integrated into its activities and hence reaching out for future cooperation and intensified networking.
ENOHE Webinar - 29 September 2016
14:00 (British Summer Time)
The ENOHE Webinar 2016 is an opportunity to discuss and explore ideas with colleagues from across the ENOHE network.
Please register your interest here to join the live webinar discussion. Confirmation of your place will be sent nearer the time. You will be sent updates about the webinar using the details you provide.
23 August 2016
Annual Meeting for BeVeOm
The annual meeting for BeVeOm will take place at the University of Cologne on 26/27th September.
More information can be found on the BeVeOm website.
9 August 2016
‘Better an ombudsman today than a legal case tomorrow’
A View from the Netherlands
By: Marie Boglari; Office of the Ombudsman; University of Ottawa - Canada.
The university ombudsman still remains a quasi-unknown position in higher education institutions » - this is how Paul Herfs and Sytske Teppema, two university ombudsmen in the Netherlands, start their published study. In the Netherlands only ten universities have ombudsman offices (in different forms), and they do not all deal with the students’ problems, some only deal with the professors’ and the administrative personnel’s complaints.
The Dutch ombudsman duties and responsibilities are otherwise similar to those elsewhere : they fulfill the role of an independent mediator and they help in finding peaceful resolutions of conflicts. The authors themselves have been successful in this, for example they have helped a PhD-student to find a new thesis supervisor quickly, while the previous supervisor refused to continue working with the PhD-student shortly before the completion of the thesis. In another case the professors got a serious problem with their colleague leading the program, who was endangering the functioning of the field/department. The ombudsman intervened and succeeded in mediating between the parties and helped finding a solution acceptable to all parties. Besides this, the ombudsman’s mediation role is also proven useful during the professors’ contract negotiation, when the ombudsman helped to keep the negotiations in a reasonable timeframe, while keeping an eye on both parties’ interests.
According to the authors, there are two reasons why there is a greater need than ever for ombudsmen. First, because before the global financial crisis, the tradition in the Netherlands was that the Human Resources departments kept in mind the interests of the employers, but also of the employees, and in case of conflict they looked for compromises and solutions. Today, however, the tendency is that HR departments represent only the interests of the employer, against the employees. Second, only 10-15% of the Netherlands’ higher education personnel are union members; therefore it is not common to ask for help from a union in case of problems.
Herfs and Teppema also consider that it would be beneficial for the universities to employ an ombudsman, not only from a moral standpoint but for financial reasons, too. In 2007 a study was published in the Netherlands, which was based on 56 university and ministry conflicts, and searched an answer to the following question: How much does it cost the employer to solve one case? They came to the conclusion that one conflict can represent more than 231.000 euro in expenses for the employer, but it is true that they included in this the HR and legal department’s employers costs, too, the worker’s dismissal and compensation, the costs linked to the employee’s replacement, and the potential legal and judicial case fees.
Therefore, the ombudsman can spare huge amounts of money and time for the university, if he does not allow a case to escalate into a legal/judicial case. Moreover, it is also important to note that a legal case is never good for the university’s reputation, and it is always better if the parties can find a solution to their problem by themselves. This is why the authors argue that it can be beneficial for all universities and their personnel to have a university ombudsman.
9 June 2016
The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, has published it's OIA Annual Report for 2015. The report details:
*The changes in OIA membership following new legislation, the Consumer Rights Act 2015, that extended its remit to cover students at more than 500 additional higher education providers.
*These include further education colleges and sixth form colleges for their higher education students, alternative providers and providers of School Centred Initial Teacher Training.
*The OIA’s record of complaint handling over the year.Examples of the complaints student make to the OIA, and the recommendations the OIA makes when it finds complaints Justified or Partly Justified.
*Changes in the regulatory and legislative environment and what these mean for complaints handling in higher education.
You can download a copy of the report and the press release from the OIA website
09 May 2016
The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) in the UK has been running the secretariat for The European Network of Ombudsmen in Higher Education (ENOHE) since 2014. This was agreed as a two-year arrangement at the ENOHE Conference in Oxford in 2013 , and was extended for a further year at the ENOHE Conference in Innsbruck 2015.
ENOHE now needs to identify another organisation to take on the secretariat from the end of the calendar year 2016 .This pivotal role within ENOHE provides crucial support to the Steering Group and its work. The secretariat provides low-key administrative support through the processing of memberships, organising and facilitating Executive ZOOM Meetings, and coordinating the ENOHE annual European conference. The secretariat is also responsible for the ENOHE website and social media presence.
There is scope for the organisation hosting the secretariat to develop the role further, in partnership with the Executive committee.
If you are interested in taking over the secretariat and would like to know more information on what it involves, please email email@example.com.
15 April 2016
OIA Welcome Judy Clements & Rob Behrens
The Office of the Independent Adjudicator has extended a warm welcome to Judy Clements, who started her first day on Monday 11 April 2016.
The outgoing Independent Adjudicator, Rob Behrens will continue to collaborate with ENOHE as a Special Adviser and will still be an integral part of the steering group.
University of Oslo 2015 Annual Report
The University of Oslo's Studentombudet, Marianne Høva Rustberggard, has published her Annual Report for 2015.
21 January 2016
The Annual Report of the Austrian Student Ombudsman for the Academic Year 2014/15, has been submitted to the Federal Minister for Science, Research, and Economy and to the Austrian Parliament.
The report is published only in German but a summary can be found below.
30 December 2015
Independent Adjudicator and Chief Executive recognised in New Year's Honours
Rob Behrens, the student ombudsman for higher education in England and Wales, has been appointed a CBE in the New Year’s Honours announced today, 30 December. The honour is for services to higher education.
Rob Behrens has been the student ombudsman for higher education in England and Wales since 2008. He has led the development of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) in reviewing more than 15,000 student complaints and in working with higher education providers and students’ unions to promote early resolution and good practice in complaints handling.
Rob Behrens said: ‘The development of the OIA as the independent student ombudsman service for higher education has been an important feature of higher education in the last decade. I am delighted that my contribution to this collective endeavour has been recognised, and see it as a positive reflection on the work of the organisation.’
05 November 2015
OIA announce next Independent Adjudicator and Chief Executive
The OIA Board has announced the successor to Rob Behrens, who will leave the OIA in April, when his term of office expires. His replacement will be Judy Clements OBE. Judy is currently the Adjudicator for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the Valuation Office Agency and the Insolvency Service.
You can read more on the appointment by reading the press release on the OIA website.
20 October 2015
On 24 and 25 September this year, the third assembly of ombudspersons in higher education in Scandinavia was arranged. This year’s host was ombud for students Petra Holst of the Lund University Student Association. For the first time, the assembly was arranged as a conference. We were 19 participants in total, which was more than twice as many as last year: two from Denmark, four from Norway and thirteen from Sweden.
Lund University was founded in 1666 and has approximately 46 000 students and 7500 staff, spread around Lund, Malmö and Helsingborg. The conference was held in the beautiful city of Lund, to which the large body of students lends a unique character.
Ombud for students Petra Holst gave a welcoming address, and the head and deputy head of the Lund University Student Association provided us with an introduction to the organization of the local system for student co-determination. This was followed by parallel workshops addressing a range of different topics: ombuds’ offices that encounter opposition, how the ombud for students can maintain their impartiality, where should the line be drawn to separate the student ombudsperson’s activities from student politics and how the ombud scheme can be promoted, as well as discussions of specific cases. All participants were provided with information on the European Network of Ombudsmen in Higher Education (ENOHE).
Since its inception, we have referred to the network as ‘Nordic’. At the conference in Lund, we agreed that ‘Scandinavian’ would be a more suitable name, since the network includes no ombuds from Finland and Iceland. The conference languages are Swedish, Danish and Norwegian. It was also decided to establish a separate website.
The ombud for students at Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Science, Anita Tøien Johansen, will host next year’s conference, which will be held in Oslo on 13 and 14 October 2016.
In conclusion, host Petra Holst wishes to thank all participants for an extremely rewarding conference: ‘It was incredibly exciting to have the opportunity to join my Scandinavian colleagues for this event, and I look forward to continuing our discussions through our social networks.’
Lunds Universitets Studentkårer (LUS)
22 September 2015
You should l have received an email and a questionnaire asking you to help ENOHE and the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education in England and Wales (OIA) in a key piece of research about the diversity of practice among campus ombudsmen.
First responses have been excellent. We are very grateful for these. However, our research will be even more valuable if more colleagues are able to return the questionnaire.
As a result, if you have not already done so, please complete the questionnaire attached in the link below by Friday 2 October 2015. This will assist us enormously in our efforts to understand and map the strength and diversity of ombudsmen in higher education.
If you are aware of ombudsman colleagues who may not be part of the ENOHE network, we would be most grateful if you could please forward the questionnaire to them.
Please contact me if you have any further questions.
With best wishes for the new academic year, and many thanks,
Independent Adjudicator and Chief Executive
Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education
01 September 2015
The OIA have today welcomed around 500 new members to the scheme following the legislation from the Consumer Rights Act 2015. You can read more about it in the Press Release on the OIA website.
There has been coverage from the press as well which you can find below.
29 June 2015
Here is an overview of the ENOHE 2015 Conference held in Innsbruck in May. A full report will follow next year.
23 June 2015
A motion was passed on 30 May at the final plenary of the ENOHE Conference in Innsbruck - to read please click here
22 June 2015
Ombudsperson for students - University of Stavanger (UiS)
14 May 2015
ENOHE publishes the report of the ENOHE 2014 conference.
To read the report, please click here
12 March 2015
To read the paper, please click here
5 January 2015
To read the press release, please click here