Skip to content

Valuing Ombuds 2: Standards of Practice & Ombuds Essential Elements

EN | 2 min

Ombuds adhere to professional standards of practice (ACCUO Standards of Practice: independent, impartial, confidential, accessible; IOA Standards of Practice: independent, impartial/neutral, confidential, informal). One way to articulate ombuds value is to connect the ombuds standards of practice, or ombuds guiding principles (fairness, equity, respect), to the institution’s values, mission, or commitments. Natalie Sharpe’s (ACCUO President) workshop at the  2018 ENOHE conference in Vienna provides us with 2 examples:

  • “Informality helps to empower parties to voice their rights and uphold university values.” 
  • “The SoPs reflect the unique nature of ombuds work in higher education; “with a focus on fairness, equity and respect, the ombuds builds capacity to help the institution to be accountable to its own value and mission statements.” (ACCUO SoP introduction)” 

I looked at the most recent annual reports available on the websites of 10 Canadian universities (UBC, SFU, U. Alberta, McGill, Concordia, Ottawa, Queen’s, U of T, RU, Dalhousie), and it seemed to me that only one (UBC) made an explicit connection between “fairness” (SoP / guiding principles) and institutional values and commitments.  (If your annual report made such a connection – please share in the comments!)   The “What we do” section of the UBC 2019 Annual Report states: 

  • Fairness is a legal principle within the broader body of Administrative Law, and at UBC, we are committed to advancing fairness that conforms not only to legal standards, but one that is informed and shaped by the university’s values and declared commitments.

I also found in my google search an American example. The 2020 Annual Report from the Oregon State University Ombuds (an office that does not keep identifying records and does not have a mandate to investigate) includes a chart (reproduced below) linking standards of practice to an institutional benefit.  It isn’t clear to me if the standard on the left (Independent) is supposed to link to the institutional value on the right (Cost reduction), or if the list is a more general conceptualization.  Thoughts?

IndependentCost reduction
ImpartialRisk prevention
InformalContributor to inclusive climate & SP 4.0 
ConfidentialAdvocate for organizational health

– Heather McGhee Peggs