FAQS - Frequently Asked Questions
The first ombudsman was appointed by the Parliament of Sweden in 1809. The word 'ombudsman' meant 'citizen's defender'. It was the job of the ombudsman to protect individual citizens against the excesses of bureaucracy, and this root meaning continues today in public sector ombudsman offices.
A college or university ombudsperson
There are currently 41 members of ACCUO, representing 25 universities and 8 colleges.
Members of ACCUO come from a variety of backgrounds - law, social work, academic disciplines, student services and other areas, too. At this point in time, there is no standard qualification to be an ombudsperson. However, certain skills are essential: ombudspersons are good listeners, have excellent analytical skills, and a keen sense of fairness.
The mix of cases varies somewhat from institution to institution. These differences reflect differences in the mandates at different institutions - some ombudspersons deal with landlord/tenant problems, or sexual harassment, or with staff and faculty problems as well as student issues. A survey of members conducted in spring 1996 revealed that complaints about teaching or course management and cases involving academic appeals were the most common for most practitioners in Canadian educational institutions.
No. Some ombudspersons have qualified as mediators through training programs, and mediation may be an approach to problem solving adopted by the individual practitioner in some cases. But while a mediator typically remains neutral throughout the mediation process in order to facilitate agreement between the parties, an ombudsperson is impartial at the outset but may come to a conclusion on the merits of a case following an investigation.