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Constitution and powers of the visitor

  • Article 6 of the Charter of the Ulster University states “There shall be a Visitor of the University who shall have the right at any time and in such manner as he shall think fit to direct an inspection of the University, its buildings and equipment and also an enquiry into the academic and general affairs of the University”.
  • Prospective appellants are asked to note an exclusion to the Visitor’s jurisdiction as described in Article 7 of the Education (Academic Tenure) (Northern Ireland) Order 1988 (see Annex 1).
  • The present Visitor, Mr Justice Gerry McAlinden, was appointed by the Queen in Council on 10 April 2019 for a period of five years from 1 May 2019.

Role of the visitor

  • In dealing with appeals made by staff or students of the University, the role of the Visitor is to ensure that the Statutes, Ordinances and Regulations of the University have been properly observed and carried out and that natural justice is observed wherever it may apply between the appellant and the University.
  • The Visitor is normally concerned with such matters as procedural propriety, fairness, prejudice and irregularity.
  • It is unlikely that the Visitor will intervene to substitute his opinion on academic matters for the opinion of the University authorities and that he will only intervene if there has been some real impropriety on the part of the University.

Procedures for an appeal

  • The Visitor will not normally be prepared to consider an appeal unless the appellant has made use of all channels of review and appeal within the University as provided by the Statutes, Ordinances and Regulations or by other mechanisms including the Student Complaints Procedure and the procedures for review of Boards of Examiners’ decisions.
  • Appellants will normally be expected to have completed all related applications to Courts (including Tribunals) before lodging their appeal.
  • Written details of such applications and the outcomes should be included within documentation submitted by appellants.
  • The Visitor will not normally be prepared to consider an appeal, the subject matter of which has already been determined/decided upon by a Court (including Tribunal).
  • Any member of staff or student of the University who wishes to make an appeal to the Visitor should submit two copies of his/her appeal in accordance with Section 4 below. One copy will be forwarded to the Visitor and the other retained by the University.
  • The appeal should consist of a concise statement of the grounds on which the appeal is made. The statement may be accompanied by supporting evidence in the form of copies of relevant documents, where necessary.
  • If the Visitor is of the opinion that there is a case to answer the University will be requested to make a response to the appeal.
  • A copy of the University’s response is sent to the appellant who will have the right to reply to it. The Visitor would normally expect to receive the University’s response within six weeks from the date of his request and to receive any subsequent reply from the appellant within one month from the date on which the appellant receives the University’s response.
  • After the expiry of this latter period the Visitor may proceed to consider and decide on the appeal.
  • The Visitor may reach his decision on the appeal wholly on the written record of submission, response and reply or he may invite the appellant to appear before him at an oral Hearing.
  • If the Visitor decides to conduct an oral Hearing the appellant will be invited to attend the Hearing and he/she may be accompanied by a friend or legal representative and may call witnesses.
  • The University is also invited to send appropriate members of staff to the Hearing who may be accompanied by a legal representative.
  • When consideration of an appeal is completed the Visitor will give a written Decision and he will send the Decision to the appellant and to the University. There is no appeal from the decision of the Visitor.

Secretary to the visitor

  • The role of Secretary to the Visitor is being held in the interim by Bernadette McGuinness. Although a member of staff of the University, Ms McGuiness is obliged to provide independent support to the Visitor, separate from the rest of her function within the Office of the University Secretary.
  • Appellants to the Visitor can expect the Visitor’s Secretary to act as an independent and impartial conduit between themselves, the Visitor and the University authorities.
  • Other professional staff within the University, together with its legal advisors, are responsible for making the University’s submissions to the Visitor. The Visitor’s Secretary does not have any role in that process.
  • All correspondence to the Visitor should be sent to Bernadette McGuinness, Secretary to the Visitor, c/o Office of the University Secretary, Ulster University, Coleraine, BT52 1SA.

Exclusion of the visitor's jurisdiction

  • The Visitor of [Ulster University] shall not have jurisdiction in respect of any dispute relating to a member of the academic staff which concerns his appointment or employment or the termination of his appointment or employment.
  • In accordance with procedures established in pursuance of Article 4 (i)(d) and (e), paragraph (1) above shall not be taken to prevent any person who is the Visitor of [Ulster University]:
    • from hearing or determining appeals; or
    • from hearing or redressing grievances;
  • Article 4(i)(d) refers to procedures for hearing and determining appeals by any members of the academic staff who are dismissed or under notice of dismissal or who are otherwise disciplined.
  • Article 4(i)(e) refers to procedures for affording any member of the academic staff opportunities for seeking redress for any grievance relating to appointment or employment.
  • The relevant procedures are those contained in the Charter Statutes Ordinances and Regulations of the University, copies of which are available on request from the Head of Governance Services.