Raising concerns and why it’s always important that you speak up.
The University is committed to conducting its activities with honesty and integrity, and to the highest standards of ethical behaviour and professional conduct. Speaking up helps us to achieve this - and continually improve as a responsible organisation.
We believe the University is an organisation and community that people should feel proud to be a part of. However, within any organisation, there is always the possibility of inappropriate behaviours or unlawful practices and it is often individuals who are the first to observe them.
We want to foster an environment of openness and accountability where you not only feel able to, but are encouraged to raise genuine concerns in good faith, without fear that it might reflect badly on you or cause you any form of harm, and knowing that you will be taken seriously – even if it later transpires that you were mistaken.
Speaking up helps us improve.
The University will not tolerate anyone preventing or actively deterring individuals from speaking up, nor tolerate the mistreatment of anyone for appropriately raising a genuinely held concern.
The University’s Vision and Values states that we are a responsible and collaborative organisation. To support this, we have a number of policies and processes which provide you with ways to speak up about things of concern, including the University’s Whistleblowing Policy.
Who can speak up?
Anyone can speak up.
Whether you are a member of staff, a student, a member of Council or a University contractor – you can come forward. Members of the general public can raise concerns too, though these may not always fall within the scope of our policies.
When you find yourself with serious concerns because you have noticed something is adversely affecting you or someone else, it can often be daunting deciding what to do. You may feel uneasy about raising the matter, concerned about the consequences for you, colleagues or the University.
We believe raising concerns is a positive thing and you should feel empowered to speak up about inappropriate behaviour that you have observed or experienced.
Ultimately, dealing with such occurrences properly leads to a safer and more productive environment for everyone – and it’s much easier to achieve when everyone is looking out for one another.
What can I speak up about?
You can speak up about anything that conflicts with our values and policies – things that give you cause for concern, things that affect your working life.
By staying silent and not raising concerns, things can often get worse over time. So, if in doubt, please speak up.
And, remember it does not matter if you are mistaken – there may be a reasonable explanation for your concerns. If your worries are strong enough to trouble you, you should voice them. The University is committed to listening and exploring the matter, wherever possible.
I have concerns, I need to speak up – what do I do?
If you feel able, you should first speak informally with your line manager, supervisor, contract manager, tutor or whoever you would normally speak to at the University. They may be able to resolve the matter swiftly and efficiently, and put your mind at ease.
However, if you feel you cannot proceed that way – perhaps they are part of your concerns or you have already tried and you have not seen an improvement – then you should follow the procedures set out under the relevant policy.
The University has a number of ways to speak up, under various policies. To help ensure your concerns are handled by the right people, you should try to identify the most relevant policy.
You can read the University’s policies on the Policy Gateway
If you raise something not covered by our policies or they do not directly relate to the University, we will let you know why and do our best to signpost you to the most appropriate external organisation for support.
I have serious concerns about inappropriate behaviours or unlawful practices taking place within the University.
Speaking up about such matters is often referred to as Whistleblowing and generally falls within the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA).
The PIDA is designed to give protection to workers – including employees and agency workers – against any form of detrimental treatment as a consequence of reporting instances of suspected wrongdoing that are matters of public interest.
A Whistleblower is a person who, in good faith, comes forward with genuine, serious concerns of suspected wrongdoing or dangers witnessed within an organisation.
What does the University’s Whistleblowing Policy say?
The guidance on this webpage is consistent with the content of the policy.
Under our Whistleblowing Policy we have chosen to extend protections beyond the scope of PIDA. Whilst PIDA specifically covers workers, our policy makes provision for the following to raise serious concerns about inappropriate behaviours and unlawful practices within the University:
- members of staff
- agency workers
- members of Council
- those contracted to provide services to the University
- any persons with a genuine connection to the University
They can do so in good faith, with the confidence that they will not be subject to any harm as a consequence of coming forward.
What is covered by the Whistleblowing Policy?
We have chosen to extend the scope of matters that can be raised under our Whistleblowing Policy beyond those set out in PIDA. It applies to concerns that:
- a criminal offence that has been committed, is being committed or is likely to be committed
- a person who has failed, is failing or is likely to fail to comply with any legal obligation to which they are subject
- a miscarriage of justice that has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur
- the health or safety of any individual that has been, is being or is likely to be endangered
- the environment where this has been, is being or is likely to be damaged
- financial malpractice, impropriety or fraud
- academic or professional malpractice
- when information tending to show any matter falling within any one of the above has been, is being or is likely to be deliberately concealed
How do I make a report under the Whistleblowing Policy?
In the first instance you should, if you feel able, raise the matter informally with your normal point of contact at the University – your supervisor, contract manager, tutor etc. They may be able to resolve the matter swiftly and efficiently and put your mind at ease.
If you do not feel able to have that informal discussion, you should identify whether there is a specific policy or procedure that you should follow which relates to the subject of your concern (see above, I have concerns, I need to speak up – what do I do?).
However, if you do not feel comfortable expressing your concerns this way – or you have tried and do not feel they have been suitably addressed – you should raise your concerns by contacting the University’s Whistleblowing Officer in confidence.
The Director of Legal Services is the University’s Whistleblowing Officer and you may contact them, using the email button below. This address is accessible by the Whistleblowing Officer and a small number of colleagues in Legal Services only.
When raising a concern, please include as much relevant detail as possible. You should be candid and comprehensive in your report and seek to answer as a minimum the who, what, why and when of the situation you are concerned about. If you have any documentation in support of your concern, please also submit that.
Please note: If your concerns relate to the Whistleblowing Officer, then you should contact the Chief Operating Officer or the Chief Finance Officer instead. The process thereafter will be the same, but the Whistleblowing Officer will be replaced in the process of your report by the COO or CFO.
Can I give information anonymously or in confidence?
You can - but it is always best to raise your concerns openly. It makes it easier for us to take the matter forward. We will not disclose your identity without your consent except in circumstances where we are legally compelled to do so.
For example, where your information is about a minor or vulnerable adult who is at risk or where there may be a possible criminal offence, we may have to share information. In this case, we may have to share information with the police or another official body or we may be required to do so by a court. We will let you know if we must do this and that it will identify you to another party.
You could give us information anonymously. However, anonymous reports seldom contain sufficient detail, making it difficult to accurately assess and thoroughly investigate. If we cannot discuss your concern with you or ask for further information, we may not be able to fully address the matter. We will also be unable to give you feedback about any action we take.
We would strongly encourage you to come forward openly so that the matter can be addressed appropriately.
I’m not sure. Can I speak with someone informally and in confidence?
We want you to feel comfortable and confident that you are helping.
If you feel uncertain, hesitant or uneasy about coming forward – but have concerns about a possible wrongdoing under our Whistleblowing Policy – you can speak in confidence to the Whistleblowing Officer. You can email them to ask for an informal discussion before making a formal report.
Your conversation will not be recorded and will be completely confidential. During your meeting, you will be able to clarify any matters around the process of a report or investigation and what that might mean for you or others involved. You should not disclose the details of your concern at this point. The ultimate decision as to whether to come forward or not remains with you.
After your conversation, if you feel ready to speak up, you can make a report (see above, How do I make a report under the Whistleblowing Policy?).
What happens when I have reported my concerns to the Whistleblowing Officer?
When the Whistleblowing Officer receives a report of suspected wrongdoing, the matter will be assessed to determine whether such suspected wrongdoing falls within the scope of the Whistleblowing Policy or whether it ought to be handled under a separate policy or procedure.
It would be extremely helpful for you to include as much detail as possible in your initial communication. This helps to speed the process along. Additional information may also be required, and the Whistleblowing Officer may contact you for further input before concluding their assessment.
The Whistleblowing Policy applies to my concerns – what happens next?
If your concerns merit further scrutiny, the Whistleblowing Officer will arrange an Investigation. This is critical to ensure fair treatment of all involved and that appropriate action can be taken, based on accurate and impartial information.
The Whistleblowing Officer will appoint an Investigator – a person independent of the concerns raised.
You will be told who the proposed Investigator is and if you have any objections, you must speak to the Whistleblowing Officer within two days to explain why. Your objections will be carefully considered. The Whistleblowing Officer may wish to talk with you further, but the final decision regarding the Investigator will remain with the Whistleblowing Officer.
Will my details and what I have reported be shared?
The process is designed to protect your identity.
However, concealing your identity may not be possible - for example, if you are called upon to provide testimony at a disciplinary hearing. If it becomes necessary to disclose your identity, this will be discussed with you.
During the investigation, those identified as the subject of a concern will normally be informed of the allegations made against them. Your identity will not be disclosed to them, but they will receive the information that you have provided.
In the interests of fairness, they will be given an opportunity to respond, including any information and detail they believe supports their actions or behaviour.
Please note: Where criminal conduct is alleged or suspected, the Whistleblowing Officer may refer the matter to the police. The University may be guided by the police, and the internal investigation may cease. You will be notified if this happens.
How long will it all take?
The investigation will be carried out as swiftly and efficiently as possible and, in most circumstances, you will be kept informed at key points throughout the process.
However, sometimes certain complexities and sensitivities may limit sharing of some detail. For example, some information may be protected under Data Protection laws or may have been provided to us in confidence.
Rest assured, our intention is to ensure that you are not left in the dark and that you know, throughout the process, that things are progressing.
Will I need to do anything more?
You may be called upon to provide additional input during the investigation. Other people may be asked to participate, where they can provide additional, pertinent information.
Anyone helping with these enquiries are welcome to be accompanied by a work colleague or Trade Union representative. Students can be accompanied by a fellow student or Student’s Union representative.
However, everyone participating in the investigation – including companions – must treat the matter in strictest confidence. Not doing so can jeopardise the entire process and potentially hinder a suitable outcome.
What happens after the investigation?
When the Investigation has been concluded, the Investigator will submit their report – comprising their their findings and recommendations – to the Whistleblowing Officer. This confidential internal report will not be shared. The Whistleblowing Officer will decide the appropriate course of action.
If the Whistleblowing Officer believes that a report is vexatious, malicious or otherwise without merit, they may decide that no further action shall be taken. The Whistleblowing Officer may take advice from a designated lay member of Council – currently the Chair of Audit and Risk Committee.
What if I was wrong?
If the investigation has been concluded and the findings indicate that you were mistaken or there was a misunderstanding, we hope you would be pleased to know that no wrongdoing has occurred.
We also hope you would feel that your actions, had you been correct, could have stopped or prevented some wrongdoing and possible harm and was a positive thing to do.
You should not be concerned or deterred from coming forward again. Whenever a genuine concern has been expressed in good faith, regardless of the outcome, the subsequent process and investigation will always be considered worthwhile.