Powers of the Student Ombudsman
What follows comes from a simplified interpretation of the Regulation on the Student Ombudsman of the University of Porto. It should be seen as a first approach to this Regulation and, therefore, cannot replace everything it contains.
What can the Student ombudsman do?
- Provide an environment suitable for a quiet, informal, independent, impartial and confidential discussion of the issues submitted by students.
Examples of situations that are not overcome with resources normally available to the student, which may predict the involvement of the Ombudsman:
- administrative (situations arising from applications, enrolment, tuition, equivalences, limitation periods);
- pedagogical (situations included in the teaching/learning process that can generate serious disruptions between the student and teachers, non-teaching staff or other students);
- social (situations originating in scholarships, accommodation, canteen).
- Mediate between the warring parties and give clues for solving problems;
- Examine the complaints and grievances submitted by the students and make recommendations to the respective recipients for the repeal, reform or conversion of offenses against the rights of students and improvement of services;
- Help clarify policies and procedures practiced in the U.Porto, particularly in the field of the educational activity and school social work and, in this context, recommend the necessary changes;
- Issue an opinion on any matters within its sphere of action, on its own initiative or at the request of the Rector, the General Board, the heads of the Organic units or Autonomous Services or of the Student Unions;
- Contribute to the preparation and updating of student disciplinary regulations and code of conduct for students;
- Prepare an annual report with a summary of its activity, safeguarding full confidentiality of complaints received, to be published after approval of the General Board.
What can’t the Student Ombudsman do?
- Decide whether someone is guilty or innocent;
- Decide on the penalty to be applied;
- Participate in formal legal proceedings;
- Be a witness of the University or of the student;
- Give legal advice;
- Reverse or amend the acts of the statutory bodies concerned, or even stop the course of any deadlines, including those of complaints, administrative appeal or exercising of any other rights;
- Interfere with concrete results of school evaluation or acts relating to disciplinary processes in progress in which students participate as plaintiffs or defendants.
When to seek the Ombudsman?
For the majority of problem situations, students should never forget that the best and closer resources to solve them can be found in their faculty: teachers, course director, department head, monitoring course committee, support offices and others.
In those situations for which no solution has been found with local resources, situations that represent a discreet, patient, formal mediation, but always independent, impartial and confidential, the student can seek the help of the Ombudsman preferably before a complete break occurs between the warring parties.
- Difficulty in the relationship with teachers or other employees, other students or faculty services;
- Need to clarify rights, procedures or policies;
- Security or ethical issues;
- Lack of courtesy or fear of any kind;
- Limitation on academic freedom.