Division of the General Counsel, Governance and Compliance

Raising concerns

Raising concerns

The University has a number of policies relating to the probity and good conduct of University business. Any concerns about suspected breaches of these policies and standards should be raised at the earliest possible stage, using the ‘Raising Concerns’ process. If you would like guidance as to whether a concern should be raised, please contact the University’s Information Manager, Karen Blackman, who will be able to provide advice.

Raising Concerns Process

Scope of the Raising Concerns process

1.1. The Raising Concerns process should be used to report serious concerns of a public interest – known as ‘qualifying disclosures’. A qualifying disclosure is one made by a person who reasonably suspects:

  • commission of a criminal offence;
  • failure to observe a legal obligation, or to comply with an instrument of governance including non-disclosure of a conflict of interest;
  • miscarriage of justice;
  • serious threat to health or safety;
  • damage to the environment;
  • bribery;
  • a breach of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (such as exploitation);
  • administrative malpractice (financial or non-financial);
  • obstruction or frustration of the exercise of academic freedom;
  • academic or professional malpractice (including, for instance, violation of intellectual property rights or failure of integrity in research);
  • improper conduct or unethical behaviour;
  • unauthorised disclosure of confidential information;
  • suppression or concealment of any of the above matters.

1.2. The Raising Concerns process can be used by staff and others delivering services to the University, either remunerated or not, as well as students. A person who raises a genuine serious concern relating to any of the above in good faith under this process is known as a ‘whistleblower’.

1.3. Concerns that do not fall within paragraph 1.1 should be raised using the relevant University procedure(s) instead.

Raising a Concern

2.1. All concerns falling within the Raising Concerns process should be submitted via the online reporting form or directly by email to the Information Manager.

2.2. Concerns will be considered by the Information Manager in the first instance to ensure that it is a qualifying disclosure and appropriate for the concern to continue to be dealt with via this process. If this is not the case, the Information Manager will signpost accordingly for the whistleblower.

2.3. Where a concern relates to the Chief Operating Officer, or a member of the University Executive Group or Council, the Raising Concerns process should still be followed, though it will be escalated differently by the Information Manager (see paragraph 3.3) and the Director of Planning and Performance will be appointed to investigate the report. Alternatively, the whistleblower can make a report directly to the Chair of Audit & Risk Committee (dc395@sussex.ac.uk).

Investigation and Outcome

3.1. In all cases where the concern is confirmed to be a qualifying disclosure, the Information Manager will acknowledge its receipt and keep a record of action taken. No further action is required by the whistleblower unless it is considered necessary as part of the investigation. The whistleblower may not necessarily receive further information about any investigation or the outcome.

3.2. If the concern relates to financial matters, it will be referred to the Director of Finance for investigation. For other concerns, the Information Manager will carry out an initial assessment of the concern and, if on preliminary examination, it is judged to be wholly without substance or merit, no further action will be taken.

3.3. If the concern requires investigation, the Information Manager will assess the nature of the concern to determine the appropriate route for escalation. All concerns other than financial matters, will be referred to the Chief Operating Officer for investigation. As outlined in paragraph 2.3, the Director of Planning and Performance may be appointed to investigate, depending on the subject of the concern.

3.4. The Chief Operating Officer, Director of Finance, or Director of Planning and Performance may also appoint another person to undertake the investigation on her/his behalf. For example, Internal Audit may be asked to investigate disclosures raised about an individual's financial conduct. Usually, if the concern relates to potential fraud, the Director of Finance will carry out an investigation according to the Fraud Response Plan.

3.5. Where there is an investigation, the person or persons identified as the subject of the disclosure will be informed of each allegation made against him/her and any evidence supporting it and will be allowed to comment before the investigation is concluded.

3.6. Upon the conclusion of an investigation, the investigator(s) will report the outcome to the Information Manager. The whistleblower may not necessarily be informed of the outcome.

3.7. The Information Manager will report to Audit & Risk Committee meetings regarding the outcome of any investigations, as well as any concerns that were exempt from investigation.

3.8. If the University concludes that a person has made malicious allegations, in bad faith or with a view to personal gain, that person will be subject to the University’s disciplinary processes.

If the whistleblower is not satisfied

4.1. While the University cannot always guarantee the outcome the whistleblower is seeking, the University will deal with the concern fairly and in an appropriate way.

4.2. If the whistleblower is not satisfied with the way in which his/her concern has been handled, they have a right to appeal the decision on the following grounds:

  • he/she believes the procedures have not been followed properly;
  • there is evidence of prejudice or bias; or
  • there is further evidence which was not available at the time the original concerns were raised.

4.3. The appeal should be submitted to the Vice-Chancellor, unless the original report related to the Vice-Chancellor, in which case the appeal should be submitted to the Chair of Council. The appeal must state the grounds on which it is being made, as per paragraph 4.2.

4.4. The Vice-Chancellor or the Chair of Council will decide if the case meets the criteria for appeal. If it does, he/she will appoint an independent member of Council to consider the appeal.

4.5. The whistleblower will be notified of the outcome of the appeal, and Audit & Risk Committee will be notified of any appeals and the associated outcomes.

4.6. If the whistleblower is a student and is dissatisfied with the appeal decision, he/she may be entitled to refer the matter to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator.

Contacts

5.1. Queries about the Raising Concerns process can be directed to the Information Manager.

5.2. Contact details for the individuals mentioned in the procedure are: