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Code of Practice on Close Personal Relationships

 

  • This document details the policy at Cardiff University on close personal relationships between staff and students and between staff and staff.  
  • This policy applies to all categories of staff and students and applies to any conflict of interest resulting from close personal relationships.
  • It is particularly pertinent to relationships between students and supervisors/examiners and others involved in degree examinations.

 

Policy

In order to foster and maintain the highest standards of professionalism, intellectual integrity and social responsibility, all members of the University community should adhere to a code of conduct which shuns the improper use of financial, personal or professional relationships to influence professional judgements, decisions or interactions between staff or between staff and students.

In any relationship between staff and students or between staff and staff where there is likely to be a potential or actual conflict of interest, the abuse of a position of trust or dependency is a matter of concern not only for those involved but also for the School or Division and the University.  Such an issue could arise, for example, where a financial, family or sexual relationship exists or existed between a member of staff and a student or between two or more members of staff in comparable positions of mutual dependency.  The problem would stem from the potential for injustice or abuse that such a relationship could create within the framework of university life.

The following non-exhaustive list describes some of the situations  which are vulnerable to such abuse: 

  • Selection for entry to a university course;
  • Assessment;
  • Selection for prizes or scholarships;
  • Project or dissertation supervision;
  • Disciplinary matters;
  • Grievance matters;
  • Staff appointments;
  • Staff promotions;
  • Supervision/management of staff;
  • Determining access to resources;
  • Financial transactions;
  • Access to confidential information.

 

Relationships between Staff and Students

Everyone who is employed in any capacity by the University is in a position of authority over Cardiff University students and must not abuse that authority in any way to initiate or develop a close personal relationship with a student.  It is an obligation on all members of staff and employees to ensure that their behaviour is beyond reproach.

The following represents a set of guidelines for staff in their conduct with students:

  • Ensure that behaviour and practices are professional and are compatible with the reputation of the University;
  • Try to ensure that all contact with students is carried out in a professional setting;
  • Avoid inviting students to his/her home unless accompanied by other members of staff or members of family;
  • Avoid any suggestions that academic work, personal guidance or feedback might be conducted in a social setting;
  • If any form of friendship develops where the member of staff and a student are involved one to one in any social setting outside the University, the member of staff must declare that fact to the Head of School/Division.

In the event that a close personal relationship does develop between a person employed by the University and a Cardiff University student, it is always incumbent on the member of staff to ensure that the essential standards of academic integrity and impartiality are maintained.  Where both an academic and personal relationship exists, the member of staff must inform his/her Head of School/Division, so that alternative arrangements can be made.

 

Relationships between Staff and Staff

In the event that a close personal relationship develops between members of staff, it is incumbent on those concerned to ensure that the essential standards of professionalism and impartiality are maintained.  Where such a personal relationship exists, the members of staff must inform their Head(s) of School/Division, so that considerations can be made to avoid situations, which may prejudice professionalism and integrity.

 

Procedure

Senate Assessment Regulations include certain requirements in respect of the Declaration of Personal Interest.

Members of staff are required to inform their Head of School/Division of any personal interest relating to a student at the earliest opportunity.  Where a member of staff has informed the Head of School/Division of a personal interest relating to a student, the Head of School/Division, having consulted the Superintendent of Examinations, shall as he/she deems appropriate:

  1. put in place arrangements to ensure that the member of staff is not responsible for the setting of examination question papers to be taken by the student or the marking of any of the student's assessments, and shall advise the Superintendent of Examinations of the measures taken;
  2. inform the Chair of the Examining Board of the member of staff's interest relating to the student and that he/she should be required to withdraw from the meeting of the Examining Board when the student's case is discussed;
  3. instruct the Chair of the Examining Board to ensure that a declaration of interest, and withdrawal of the member of staff from the Examining Board, shall be recorded in the Minutes of the meeting of the Examining Board.

The procedures set out below follow the spirit and logic of the University's policy with regard to assessment into the broader arena of relationships.

In particular it should be noted that a personal, sexual, financial or family relationship between a member of staff and a student has significant potential to create a conflict of interest where the staff member is in any way accountable for the supervision, teaching, assessment or progress of that student directly or indirectly.  In many cases only individual staff members will be aware of the potential for conflict and it is therefore incumbent upon them, should such circumstances arise, to report the matter in writing to their Head of School/Division immediately they become aware that such a conflict of interest has occurred or may occur.

Any student or staff member who has reason to believe that they have been disadvantaged as a consequence of a conflict of interest or breach of trust arising from a personal, family or financial relationship should inform their Head of School/Division as soon as conveniently possible.

Once notified, prior to taking further action, the Head of School/Division should discreetly investigate the circumstances on the basis of consultation with the complainant and issue advice in accordance with which action should be taken as a result of this notification.  This action should be taken without undue delay.  The advice given by the Head of School/Division should, where appropriate, suggest action under the University's appeals, complaints, grievance or disciplinary procedures where he/she judges this to be appropriate.

The foregoing paragraphs in no way should inhibit any student or member of staff from instituting formal procedures under the University's appeals or complaints procedures where they believe that such a course of action would be legitimate. 

Neither staff nor students should accept abuse or harassment from any other member of staff or student.  Harassment is unacceptable to the University and may warrant action through the University’s procedure on Harassment and Improper Behaviour.  Anyone who believes that they are being harassed should seek help or advice: students from the Dean of Students' Office, staff from the Personnel Division.  All such advice is given in complete confidence.

The University's policy on harassment detailed in the Administrative Handbook and the Guide to Working for Cardiff University, should be followed and in particular it should be noted that University staff carry the responsibility to ensure that their actions do not compromise their integrity as academic assessors.  In the course of their University duties, it is incumbent upon staff to maintain appropriate standards.

 

Inducements

The University's financial regulations contain rules and guidance relating to inducements relevant to business transactions.  These must be followed in all circumstances.

Staff must not accept a gift, secret commission or a benefit of significant value* from a student, colleague or person or organisation outside the University where the giver is, or is related to, or associated with, a student or potential student who is or may be within the sphere of academic influence of the staff member concerned.  (* significant value is defined as greater than £15-£20.)

Where cultural differences mean that to refuse a small gift would cause serious offence, the gift may be accepted on behalf of the School/Division and passed on to the Head of School/Division who should devise a fair means of distribution.

No member of staff or student shall elicit the improper influence or interest of any person to obtain any form of advantage in the conduct of their employment or position as a student.

 

Conclusion

All members of the University community have a duty to avoid situations which could in any way create a conflict of interest for themselves or others and should such conflicts of interest arise or have the potential for being seen to have arisen, they should be reported immediately in writing to their Head of School/Division.

Heads of School/Division shall maintain a file of all reports made to them under this Code, and should where the issues affect staff and staff relationships report these in writing to the Director of Personnel of Cardiff University or where they affect staff/student relationships report them in writing to the Director of Registry of Cardiff University.  This information will be treated in confidence.

For the avoidance of doubt, should a Head of School/Division become involved in a close personal relationship he/she should report this to the Vice-Chancellor.  Should the Vice-Chancellor become involved in a close personal relationship he/she should report this to the Chair of Council. 

The guidance contained in this Code of Practice is not exhaustive, and all concerned, students, staff and Heads of School/Division should use their judgement to extend the principles described above to cover any other circumstances.