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Code of Conduct

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Section 1 - Purpose and Context

Towards the Highest Standards

The University community at Western Sydney University is committed to demonstrating high standards of personal and professional conduct.

These standards are outlined in this Code of Conduct and together establish the ethical framework within which we must all - employees, members of Board and committees constituted within the University - operate. The Code is also a guide to students (on-shore and off-shore), visitors and contractors of the ethical standards that we expect they will also uphold in their engagement with the University. The Code applies to all of the University's activities whether within Australia or off-shore, subject to the operation of relevant legislation in Australia and overseas.

The principles and values underpinning the Code will shape the reputation by which we will be known in the future. Some situations faced by our people are complex, so the Code explains the broad guidelines that are more closely defined elsewhere in policy, procedures, legislation, and industrial agreements.

All members of the University community need to be familiar with these guidelines if we are to meet the challenge of becoming an organisation that embodies its values in its operations, its teaching, learning and research, and in its community and interpersonal interactions.

The Code reflects the character that is becoming distinctively 'Western Sydney University'. It will be successful to the extent we all give our personal commitment to the principles it espouses.

We seek your support in building Western Sydney University's reputation for integrity, ethics and fairness.

Peter Shergold, AC, Chancellor Barney Glover, Vice-Chancellor and President

Section 2 - Definitions

(1) Nil.

Section 3 - Policy Statement

Part A - Principles and Values

The Foundation of Western Sydney University Standards

(2) The University is a modern institution with a commitment to equity and fairness, a University that puts knowledge to work in the education of its students for employment, in the application of its research to contemporary problems and in mutually enriching partnerships with its communities. It provides a 'place to grow' in understanding, tolerance, compassion and insight; and it cherishes exploration and enquiry at the edge of disciplinary convention and at the forefront of professional practice.

(3) The University is a 'public' body in the broadest sense, with a mission that encompasses service to local, national and international communities. In order to maintain its reputation and standing, our people are expected to act ethically at all times, with openness and fairness, and in recognition of the role of universities in society.

(4) A shared and explicit set of values will continue to characterise the University, the cornerstones of which are:

  1. Ethics and accountability
  2. Excellence and quality in all endeavours
  3. Equity of access and inclusiveness
  4. Academic responsibility and freedom
  5. Scholarly rigour and integrity
  6. Collegiality and participatory decision making
  7. Relevance and responsibility to our communities.

(5) As a member of the University community it is expected that, in carrying out your role, you will:

  1. act in good faith and with honesty, integrity, transparency and impartiality
  2. act with diligence and responsiveness and treat other University members with fairness, respect and courtesy and without discrimination or harassment
  3. foster and protect the reputation of the University
  4. carry out duties as best you can within your delegated authority, constantly enhancing your professional knowledge
  5. be accountable for all actions and decisions, providing documentation and sound reasons for them
  6. not act in a manner that inhibits another person from fulfilling the requirements of their position
  7. respect the confidentiality of entrusted information
  8. be alert to issues of conflict of interest and take action to declare and avoid them
  9. use University resources properly and in accordance with work health and safety obligations
  10. report all fraud and corrupt conduct.

(6) As the University provides an environment that fosters free enquiry, civility and respect, it is important that members of the University community ensure that outside interests and their personal beliefs and private commitments do not interfere with, or influence, their duties and responsibilities.

Part B - The Code of Conduct

(7) The University's Code of Conduct reflects the nature of the University as defined through its Mission, its strategic planning documentation and the employment agreements.

(8) Universities are relatively autonomous with the ideal of academic freedom providing the foundation for the pursuit of knowledge without undue interference. Universities exist and operate, however, in an environment of statutory requirements and obligations with which they must comply. These deal with issues such as discrimination, corrupt conduct, workplace safety, privacy, freedom of information, industrial relations and the like.

(9) The University therefore expects its people to remain informed about, act within the spirit of, and comply with University policies, directions and relevant legislation, as well as any regulatory requirements of their discipline or profession. You should report breaches or non-compliance with legal obligations as such matters can affect people's safety and security and involve legal liability.

(10) This Code of Conduct will assist the University to meet its goals. It outlines what is expected of you as a member of the University community. It does so recognising that all University policies are secondary to State and Federal laws and that in all matters our people - staff, students, contractors and others - are subject to the law.

A Fair and Safe Environment

(11) All members of the University are entitled to be treated with respect and given equal opportunities regardless of personal, social or cultural characteristics. They should also experience a safe work and study environment free from discrimination, harassment, bullying or vilification. The University will investigate all complaints within its relevant policies and in accordance with the anti-discrimination and other applicable laws. The University will not allow victimisation of complainants.

Public Comment

(12) The University embraces the ideal of fair and open discussion, recognising the rights of individuals to their own opinions, and supporting the principles of freedom of speech. However, it is expected that you will restrict your public expression of opinion or comment to matters that will not risk damage to the University's reputation and prestige and avoid representing a personal viewpoint as being that of the University. You must also refrain from using a University title when expressing personal views other than within your area of academic expertise or managerial responsibility and must ensure you are officially authorised to comment on behalf of the University before doing so.

Academic Freedom

(13) Th University is committed to the ideal of freedom to undertake intellectual inquiry and the pursuit of knowledge without undue interference or influence. While the individual and the University benefit from this, we acknowledge the social context and our responsibilities and accountability to peers, each other, and society in general. You should therefore recognise that:

  1. academic responsibility encompasses an ethical obligation to the University community and society for the quality and integrity of outcomes and relevance to the work of the University
  2. there is an organisational context of consideration and decision making within which we work
  3. academic freedom does not include a protected privilege to speak out on any matter, to deride or defame individuals, groups or the University or to ignore the policies or decisions that have been formally made within the University community, or those which the University is required to observe at law.

Intellectual Property

(14) The University, as an employer, is the owner of intellectual property created by staff in the course of their employment including such things as owning copyright in course materials. This principle does not apply to use of skills in future employment but it does encompass confidential and commercial in-confidence material and other sensitive information.

Confidential Information

(15) In protecting the privacy of individuals or organisations about which the University holds confidential information you must ensure that information is accessed only by those who have a legitimate need and lawful authorisation to do so. You must:

  1. respect the confidentiality and privacy of personal or commercial information entrusted to the University
  2. disclose official information only in accordance with University policy or legal obligations
  3. ensure that University information and electronic files are kept secure
  4. ensure that personal or confidential information is never used for your gain or benefit or that of a third party, nor to the detriment of the University - either while employed at the University or later.

Conflict of Interest

(16) A conflict of interest arises when a private interest conflicts with our duty as University members. Such conflicts can influence decisions unfairly. Where a conflict of interest exists in reality or where others may perceive that it does, the University expects you to declare it to a supervisor, Chair of a committee, or other relevant person or body. As a general guideline should:

  1. comply with policies on conflict of interest, delegations and commercial activities
  2. never use information obtained in the course of employment to gain advantage for yourself or anyone else
  3. exclude yourself from any decision in which you have an interest. This may involve a personal benefit or vested interest or one that involves family, friends, former employees or business contacts. It may also involve prejudice against a particular person or outcome.

Outside Employment

(17) In valuing the expertise of our people, the University recognises that staff may engage in paid or unpaid outside employment or private practice but expects that their doing so will not adversely impact on their ability to fulfil their obligation to the University, nor impede its work health and safety commitments. Subject to individual staff contracts, the University expects that people will not, unless expressly approved, use the University's name, reputation, or resources in association with any outside work or private practice. The University's approval processes must be followed.


(18) The University is intent on the detection and elimination of fraud and corrupt conduct and on protecting people who make disclosures. The University expects you to act honestly and to report any possible corruption, maladministration or waste of the University's resources. You can do the latter as a protected disclosure, internally or to government authorities such as the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), the Ombudsman, or the Auditor-General. Such reports will be properly and confidentially investigated and you will be advised of the outcomes.

Gifts or Benefits

(19) Gifts or benefits that may appear to influence any aspect of our work must be neither solicited nor accepted. Such gifts or benefits might include things like money, property, a discounted service or goods (consideration), a service, or hospitality. Please refer to the University policies for more detail but in general, you:

  1. may not accept gifts of money in any circumstances
  2. may accept unsolicited gifts or benefits of a nominal value attached to social and cultural events, promotional activities or visits if the acceptance poses no compromise. Gifts above nominal value are gifts to the University
  3. may, where practicable, donate consumable gifts to charitable organisations.

University Funds

(20) All members of the University are accountable for the efficient and effective use of funds and must act only within delegated authority and University policies and procedures. You are expected to:

  1. be prepared to justify all expenditure approved
  2. seek clarification about transactions where there is confusion over delegation, authority, policy or procedure
  3. maintain proper documentation and records of all financial transactions
  4. report instances of misuse or misappropriation of University funds
  5. never use University funds or credit cards for personal purposes or benefit, or to make donations to any political party or political association.

Facilities and Equipment

(21) University facilities and equipment are provided so we can achieve our Mission and agreed Goals. You can only use them for approved purposes and never for private purposes without express permission. For reasons of practicality, reasonable personal use of University communications facilities, photocopiers, internet access, and desktop computers is acceptable if that use is brief, complies with University policies, and does not interfere with normal work. However, no one is approved to use University facilities or equipment for private commercial, personal interest, or party political purposes other than as expressly approved within relevant policy and employment agreements.

(22) When using University facilities, equipment or vehicles, you are responsible for them - for maintaining safety and adhering to University policies and for legislative requirements such as Work Health and Safety, as well as for any damage or loss. All University facilities, equipment or vehicles must be used efficiently and carefully and any misuse or misappropriation reported.

Alcohol and Drugs

(23) Western Sydney University is an educational and social community whose students, staff and guests interact in a wide variety of activities. It is acknowledged that alcohol will be consumed at some activities involving the University or occurring on University grounds. However, the University's relationship with the community and in particular with people under 18 years of age demands a responsible approach. The University does not allow the consumption of illegal drugs nor harassment and unacceptable or unlawful behaviour that may result from the use of alcohol or drugs. You must not attend work if your performance of your duties is impaired by alcohol or drugs, or if you are likely to cause danger for yourself or others. You must comply with University policies and legal and safety requirements for usage of University grounds or equipment.

Part C - Breaches of the Code

(24) The University is committed to the highest standards of conduct and the continual improvement of our practices. The University also recognises that the issues raised in this Code are complex and that it is sometimes hard to interpret specific cases.

(25) Therefore, it is intended that supervisors will deal with minor breaches by counselling staff, explaining procedures or requirements more clearly or taking other remedial action.

(26) However, serious breaches will be addressed through disciplinary procedures as detailed in the applicable employment agreements. Breaches of the Code may amount to misconduct or serious misconduct within the University framework. Perceived corrupt conduct will be reported to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Part D - Ethics Guidance

(27) Sometimes, a matter may present an ethical dilemma or one in which there are perceived conflicts of duty or loyalty but which may, in the end, have no 'right' answer. In such cases you need to reflect on the matter personally, to talk it over with supervisors, to document it, or to seek other avenues of advice, both professional and personal, available within the University.

(28) Some questions that might help reduce the level of uncertainty are:

  1. How do I personally feel about it?
  2. How would an independent person feel about it?
  3. How does it sit against the values of the University and the spirit of those values?
  4. What guidance do the University's policies and procedures provide?
  5. How would I justify my actions to others?
  6. Is it in the best interests of the University?

(29) In addition to discussion of issues with supervisors, advice on ethical issues can be obtained from a range of sources within the University depending on the context. These include:

  1. University Secretary and General Counsel who is also the Protected Disclosures Coordinator
  2. Office of Audit and Risk Assessment
  3. Equity and Diversity Unit
  4. Office of Research Services - research ethics
  5. Research Engagement, Development and Innovation - intellectual property
  6. Office of People and Culture

Section 4 - Procedures

(30) Nil.

Section 5 - Guidelines

Part E - Relevant Documents, Policies and Legislation

(31) The Associated Information page contains a listing of the key documents, policies and legislation that regulate the University's operations. The University is also subject to the general 'laws of the land' and a range of Acts dealing with registration for particular professions.

(32) The listing includes links to the key policies that relate to the issues covered in this Code of Conduct. The list is current at the time of publication but is subject to change. Existing policies are amended and new policies are added regularly. Reference should always be made to the Policy DDS website in order to access the most recent policy information.

(33) The listing of State and Federal legislation refers to the most frequently cited legislation in the University context, but should not be taken as a comprehensive listing of all relevant statutes. State and Commonwealth legislation can be readily accessed via a number of Australian web sites including those of the Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII) and the NSW Parliamentary Counsel's Office.