Since the Ontario ombudsman gained jurisdiction to investigate universities, 182 complaints have been made in this area, ranging from issues of student services to academic processes.
The ombudsman began taking complaints about universities in January of this year. Of these complaints, approximately 75 per cent of them have already been closed. Colleges are also under the oversight of the ombudsman and have been for 40 years.
Cases that the ombudsman has worked on have involved academic appeals, fees, employment issues, safety and security, and student services.
Ashley Bursey, Manager of Communications at the Office of the Ombudsman of Ontario, mentions that their goal is to “resolve complaints at the lowest level possible, usually through shuttle diplomacy or informal discussion with the organization in question.”
The ombudsman, a position currently held by Paul Dubé, is tasked with investigating complaints from the public about Ontario government services, while retaining an arm’s-length distance from the government.
The ombudsman works as a last resort option in solving university issues and advises all complaints to be dealt with by their university’s own procedures first.
Complaints can be made online through the ombudsman’s website. If the ombudsman notices a trend in a certain type of complaint, they are able to launch investigations — this has not yet happened with respect to universities.
Like most ombudsman offices around the world, the Ontario ombudsman is able to make recommendations, but their judgment is not binding.
Bursey mentions, “The track record of our office is that most of the ombudsman’s recommendations are accepted and implemented…. We do follow up on all recommendations that are accepted to ensure they are implemented.”