Policy Directory


Date first approved:

5 April 2006

Date of effect:

5 April 2006

Date last amended:
(refer to Version Control Table)

21 July 2017

Date of Next Review:

(Currently under major review)

First Approved by:

Director, Student Services Division

Custodian title & e-mail address:

Senior Manager, Academic Administration, Student Services Division


Senior Managers, Student Services Division

Responsible Division & Unit:

Student Services Division, Academic Administration

Supporting documents, procedures & forms:

Privacy Policy
Privacy Information Sheet

Emergency Response Guidelines

Emergency Checklist Manual

WHS Emergency Management Procedures

University Critical Incidents Process Map (refer Attachments)
Critical Incident procedures for University of Wollongong students participating in the International Exchange Program

Sexual Harassment Prevention Policy

Relevant Legislation & External Documents:

Higher Education Support Act, 2003 (Commonwealth)
Education Services for Overseas Students Act, 2000 (Commonwealth)

The National Code of Practice for Registration Authorities and Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students




1 Introduction / Background

  • 1. This guideline is intended to provide a clear process for managing critical incidents involving students. This will minimise the risk of independent action and assist in ensuring that each case is managed effectively and compassionately.
  • 2. Our response needs to be timely and professional, and also as personal and sincere as possible. Incidents may vary in terms of the scale of the emergency, the level of response required and the level of media interest. Our response should be adapted, within these guidelines, to meet the needs of each incident.

2 Scope / Purpose

  • 1. This Critical Incident Guideline applies to all UOW students, whether on or off campus unless otherwise stated.
  • 2. Included within the scope of this document are incidents involving students in University Residences.
  • 3. Included in the scope of this document are incidents involving UOW students enrolled at offshore sites (with the exception of UOW Dubai)
  • 4. Excluded from the scope of this guideline are outbound students (ie: students enrolled at onshore sites who are participating in an exchange program). Please refer to the separate Study Abroad Procedure ‘Critical Incident Procedures for University of Wollongong students participating in the International Exchange Program’.
  • 5. Some international students may require additional support because they will not have close family available and the University should try to assist in these cases.

3 Definitions


Definition (with examples if required)

Critical incidents

An incident can be defined as either a “major” or “minor” critical incident.

Major includes the following:


Serious injury/illness

Hospitalisation (eg: accident, ill health, incapacitated)

Public health alert

Mental health issue

Emergency medical evacuation

Missing person

Student arrest

Suicide attempt (concerns of welfare of student).

Perpetrating or being the victim of crime related incidents (eg: assaults, sexual assaults, robbery)

Anything that involves a threat to a person (eg: stalking, domestic violence, bullying – including cyber bullying)

Reputational effect on the University of Wollongong

External disaster

        • Minor is anything that does not fall into these categories and can be managed locally.
        • Minor injuries
        • Petty Theft
        • Minor vehicle incidents on campus
        • Incidents out of session that are unrelated to University activities and have no impact on other students or staff
        • False alarms

University Residence

University student accommodation

Regional / Sydney Campus

Institutions part of the University of Wollongong's network of campuses. They include UOW Shoalhaven campus, UOW Batemans Bay, UOW Bega, UOW Southern Sydney, UOW South Western Sydney, UOW Southern Highlands, UOW Sydney CBD.

International or overseas student

A student who is not a permanent resident of Australia but studying in Australia with UOW or is studying at an offshore site


All people employed by the University including conjoint appointments, whether on continuing, permanent, fixed term, casual or cadet or traineeship basis.


Includes people holding University of Wollongong Honorary Awards as conferred by the University Council, including the awards of Emeritus Professor, Honorary Doctor and University Fellow; people appointed in accordance with the University’s Appointment of Visiting and Honorary Academics Policy; and people engaged by the University as agency staff, contractors, volunteers and work experience students


A person registered for a course at the University of Wollongong

Residence Student

A student living in University student accommodation

4 Preliminary Action

  • 1. The following actions should be taken by the responsible staff of the Student Services Division or Accommodation Services Division in the case of Residence students:

    a. Access the relevant student record to verify details, including contact information.

    b. Gather background details of the incident from the informing source if possible and appropriate.

    c. If relevant, confirm with UOW Security that the Police or the relevant emergency services agency has been in contact with next of kin/family/other relevant parties, where appropriate.

    d. Where the circumstances are considered to have some implications in relation to or arising from the University’s public profile, the Vice-Chancellor and Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) are to be briefed by either the Director, Student Services Division (or nominated delegate), or Director Accommodation Services Division (or nominated delegate), in case of Residence students.

    e. Check with the UOW Principal Privacy Officer about privacy obligations prior to any discussion with external agencies (including Consulate/Embassy where the student is an international student).

    f. The Director, Student Services Division (or nominee) or, in the case of Residence students, the Director Accommodation Services (or Student Residence Manager), will provide timely advice to the following (where appropriate and/or necessary).

    i. Counselling Services

    ii. Chaplain

    iii. Members of the Senior Executive as appropriate. For example:

    iv. Research students - Vice-Chancellor, CAO and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation),

    v. International or Study Abroad students – Vice-Chancellor, CAO and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International),

    vi. Undergraduate students – Vice Chancellor, CAO, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

    vii. Relevant Faculty (Executive Dean, Head of Students and relevant Heads of School)

    viii. University Residence (if applicable)

    ix. Student Advocacy Officer

    x. Student Services Division (where the student is an international student, to facilitate advice to the agent and/or funding authority)

    xi. Manager, Study Abroad (if applicable)

    xii. Graduate Research School (if applicable)

    xiii. Security Services, if notification is not through that channel

    xiv. Library (for action regarding any loans)

    xv. Student Support Advisors (for student support)

    xvi. Student Services Division (for student fee issues)

    xvii. Media Manager

    g. Where the student is an international student and family members have already been consulted, advise the Consulate/Embassy (where support such as travel for the family of the student may be available).

5 Recommended Process Involving a Student

  • 1. Where a critical incident is first identified by, or reported directly to, an emergency service the emergency service will inform UOW Security as the University’s initial point of contact.
  • 2. Where the critical incident is first identified by (or referred to) UOW Security, UOW Security will contact the relevant emergency service agency, if required/appropriate.
  • 3. UOW Security has access to student records for the purposes of verifying details to assist emergency services. Particulars of the student’s home address are to be provided only in cases where the individual is incapacitated and unable to provide these particulars themselves.
  • 4. UOW Security should immediately alert the Director, Student Services Division and, if the student is a Residence student, the Director, Accommodation Services Division.
  • 5. After receiving notification, the Director, Student Services Division (or nominated delegate) or Director, Accommodation Services Division (or nominated delegate) will organise support where required. This may involve liaison with:

    a. Student Services (Counselling Services, Disabilities Services, Student Support Advisors and/or other relevant parties based on the nature of the event);

    b. Student Residence Manager;

    c. The Manager, Study Abroad.

  • 6. It is the responsibility of these officers to conduct an assessment of the circumstances of the matter and determine further immediate action.
  • 7. During office hours, the contacts are:

    a. The Director, Student Services Division (02 4221 3943)

    b. The Director, Accommodation Services Division (02 4221 5657).

  • 8. Where the matter arises after office hours, UOW Security has after hours contact details for key staff.
  • 9. Depending on the scale and nature of the event, responsibility for managing the situation might be transferred to another officer within the University. This could include a Senior Faculty Staff Member, Manager of a Regional /Sydney Campus or a Student Residence Manager.
  • 10. All internal communication is channelled through the Director, Student Services Division (or nominated delegate) or Director, Accommodation Services Division (or nominated delegate) in case of Residence Students. All comment to the media is to be made through the Media Manager.
  • 11. Any direct contact with the family/next of kin in an official capacity is to be through the Director, Student Services Division or nominee.

6 Recommended Process for Missing Persons

  • 1. From time to time, parents or other family members of a student, a recent graduate or recent student may contact the University to report that student or graduate as missing. These enquiries should be referred to the Director, Student Services Division.
  • 2. The Director, Student Services Division (or nominee) should refer the relative to the Police. However, there are circumstances where the family may be reluctant to pursue that option and if so, the following charitable organisations may be a suitable alternative.

    a. The Salvation Army (Telephone +61 2 9211 0277) offer a family tracing service. However, due to its international protocol, it will not initiate enquiries in Australia. The student’s relatives should be advised to contact the Salvation Army in their home country. The Salvation Army operates in 100 countries. This applies even if the family have arrived in Australia to look for their relative. If the Salvation Army locates the "missing" person, it will request the person to let their family know they are safe.

    b. Mission Australia (24 hours Support Line - Freecall 1800 227 772) has a Family and Friends of Missing Persons support line. It offers support and a referral service.

  • 3. Depending on the advice provided by the family, the Student Services Division should ascertain whether it has had any contact with the student and/or has current contact with the student, through which a message may be passed.
  • 4. There are Privacy constraints to providing student address and other information to family members. If a current student address/email address is on the Student System, the University may offer to send a letter on behalf of or from the family to that address or to telephone using the last known contact numbers on the student's record.
  • 5. The University shall provide advice as requested by the Police in conjunction with the University Privacy Policy.

7 Recommended Process for Student Death

  • 1. Where the student death is first identified by any University party (faculty or administration staff member, student etc) that party should immediately advise UOW Security. UOW Security should contact the relevant emergency service agency.
  • 2. Where the student death is first identified by an external party and emergency services are notified directly, emergency services will inform UOW Security as the University’s initial point of contact.

    3. UOW Security should immediately alert the Student Services Division and the Media Manager. If the student is a residence student then the Director Accommodation Services and relevant Student Residence Manager should also be contacted.

    4. The following steps should be initiated by the Director, Student Services Division (or nominee).

    a. Talk to the relevant faculty Head of Students to talk through the appropriate actions. These might include:

    i. Assess the likely scale of impact – friends affected/social networks etc

    ii. Responsibility for internal communications

    iii. Discuss the necessary actions to take to ensure a professional and compassionate response

    b. Student System details should be adjusted accordingly

    i. change personal details to deceased,

    ii. withdraw student from subjects as appropriate and

    iii. change course status to discontinued

    c. Financial Services, Fees, the Library and Information Technology Service should be informed to enable adjustment of relevant records

    d. In the event of a student death, an appropriate person, who has had some relationship or contact with the student, is to compose a letter conveying condolences. The relevant Executive Dean will be consulted to assist in identifying someone who was familiar with the student. Where the student was a resident, the Student Residence Manager will also be invited to provide input. The Director, Student Services Division (or nominee) will recommend whether the Vice-Chancellor or another senior person, such as an Executive Dean, should sign the letter of condolence. The final decision will depend on the circumstances.

    e. Ensure that any personal effects are returned to the next of kin. For international students bank accounts may need to be closed, and any other personal property disposed of, in consultation with the family.

8 Media Unit

  • 1. The Media Manager is responsible for responding to media enquiries and will, where appropriate, make statements on behalf of the University.

9 Ongoing Liaison

  • 1. The Director, Student Services Division (or nominated delegate) and/or Director, Accommodation Services Division (or nominated delegate), will take responsibility for managing the case including, where necessary, liaison with:

    a. Police;

    b. Medical Services;

    c. Media Manager - to be kept informed;

    d. Family - ongoing contact (assist with travel and accommodation, as necessary); and

    e. Vice-Chancellor - for information, and where an ex gratia payment is made to assist with travel and accommodation.

10 Roles & Responsibilities

  • 1. University Security Services plays a pivotal role in providing a first or emergency response, and should be the first point of contact.
  • 2. The Student Services Division is responsible for disseminating information to appropriate people within the University and responding to any special needs that might emerge.
  • 3. Director Accommodation Services Division is responsible for managing the first response to critical incidents involving students who live in a University residence that occur either in residence or off campus.
  • 4. The Media Manager is responsible for responding to media enquiries and will, where appropriate, make statements on behalf of the University.
  • 5. All other University staff and affiliates have a responsibility to report critical incidents to University Security who will ensure emergency service agencies are appropriately involved and will contact the Student Services Division or Director Accommodation Services Division for follow up.

11 Version Control and Change History

Version Control

Date Effective

Approved By



5 April 2006

Academic Registrar

New Procedure


6 May 2009

Vice Principal (Administration)

Migrated to UOW Procedure Template as per Policy Directory Refresh


7 February 2011

Academic Registrar

Review of entire document. Document name change to Critical Incident Guidelines. Process map and checklist created.


17 Jan 2013

Vice-Principal (Administration)

Updated references from OHS to WHS and DVC(A) to DVC(E).


11 September 2013

Chief Administrative Officer

Updated to reflect title change from VP(A) to CAO.


13 February 2014

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education)

Updated to reflect change from Dean of Students to Student Ombudsman


5 July 2016


Consequential amendment following minor amendments to Coursework Student Academic Complaints Policy – removal of reference to Student Ombudsman at clause 4.1(f). Transfer to rebranded template.


21 July 2017


Minor updates to include new UOW campuses UOW South Western Sydney and UOW Sydney CBD. Updated definitions for “affiliate”, “staff”, “students”, and “residence student”. Critical incident response more clearly outlined.

12 Attachments

University Critical Incidents Process Map

Here to Help

Need a hand? Contact the Governance Unit for advice and assistance on policy issues.