ENOHE 2014 Annual Conference Warsaw, Poland
15-17 May 2014
Empowering Ombudsmen, Selling the Ombudsman Message
Representatives from 16 countries participated in this year’s Eleventh Annual Conference of the European Network for Ombudsmen in Higher Education (ENOHE) in Warsaw from 15-17 May 2014. The conference theme was “Higher Education and Empowerment”. According to the proven ENOHE conference format there was a powerful combination of plenary lectures from experts and practitioners, together with workshops as the focus for interactive discussions.
Among the key issues were ombudsmen as change agents for empowerment in higher education, the benefits of dispute resolution in higher education settings, how to deal with both vulnerable students on the one hand, and challenging clients on the other, and the mechanisms to find, choose and appoint ombudsmen in a wide variety of settings. The main organizers of the conference were the Center for Dispute and Conflict Resolution of the University of Warsaw, the English and Welsh Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIAHE) and the Austrian Student Ombudsman (ASM).
In opening the Conference, both the Pro-Rector of Warsaw University, Professor Tadeusz Tomaszewski, and the Undersecretary of State for Science and Higher Education, Professor Daria Lipińska-Nałęcz, argued that conflict resolution mechanisms in general and the figure of an ombudsman in particular are important instruments in contemporary universities, especially in mass disciplines and in large higher education institutions. They hoped that the different models from sister countries as presented during the conference would influence more Polish higher education institutions to set up such offices. The Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Poland, Professor Irena Lipowicz who spoke to the participants during the second part of the conference, supported the idea of complex dispute resolution in academic settings and creation of such institutions as academic ombudsmen and mediators.
‘Empowerment, public trust and the ombudsman’ was the theme of Rob Behrens (Independent Adjudicator and Chief Executive of the OIA, the national student ombudsman service in England and Wales) in the opening plenary. He emphasized the central importance of honesty, competence, and the development of professional practice in securing the trust of users of ombudsman services. Doug Yarn from the Georgia State University College of Law in Atlanta, USA, gave a provocative insight, drawing on anthropological aspects of organizational conflict management, thus providing the conference participants with new and unexpected insights into their daily work.
The task of Doris Kiendl-Wendner, former Vice Rector and now chair of the Institute of International Management at the University of Applied Sciences Joanneum in Graz, Styria, Austria, at the end of the conference was to summarize how to ‘sell’ the ombudsman’s message and articulate its value. Besides decision makers at universities and quality assurance agents she explained the importance of developing a dialogue with policy makers, ministers on a national and a European level on why ombudsmen add value to higher education.
Just as at every ENOHE conference the meeting in Warsaw attracted several first-timers. This year they came from Estonia, Norway, Denmark and Israel. These new colleagues intervened to give valuable new insights into concepts and activities from their respective countries.
The annual ENOHE business meeting discussed membership issues and future ENOHE activities, including the possibility of joint EU funded projects and furthermore the attendance of respective ombudsmen at network conferences in North and South America next year.
At the end of the conference the conference participants approved the “Warsaw Resolution” whose main points are the stipulation of the importance of creating higher education ombudsmen in countries where they do not yet exist and in safeguarding the rights of students and other members of university communities. It is planned to introduce these clauses and sentiments in the closing documents of next year’s Bologna Ministerial Conference in Yerevan, Armenia.
- ENOHE is the European network of ombudsmen in higher education (with several associates from the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Australia) whose goals are to share approaches to common problems in higher education, to expand knowledge and compare working methods, to enhance skills and develop competences and to learn from each other.
- A conference documentation will be published later this year. In the meantime, several of the presentations and/or speeches are available via the conference homepage http://www.enohe.net/enohe-2014/
- For further information please contact Charlotte Wootton at email@example.com.
To see the Warsaw Resolution please click here: