Public interest disclosure procedure ("Whistleblowing")

Making a disclosure

(1) The employee should make the disclosure to the designated person.

(2) The designated person is the Registrar and Secretary in his/her capacity as the University Secretary. If the disclosure is about the Registrar and Secretary, then the disclosure should be made to the Vice-Chancellor. If the disclosure is about the Vice-Chancellor, then the disclosure should be made to the Chair of the Council of the University.

(3) Upon receipt of a disclosure under this Procedure, the designated person will immediately inform the Vice-Chancellor and Chair of the Council in writing.

Investigation of disclosures

(4)A meeting will be arranged between the designated person or their designate with the employee to discuss their concern. The employee may bring a work colleague or trade union representative to this meeting. The companion must respect the confidentiality of the disclosure and this procedure. A record of the meeting will be taken, summarising the concern(s) and the employee will be provided with a copy. The employee may also be asked to provide further information.

(5)The designated person will consider the information made available to him/her, including the record of the meeting, and decide on the form and scope of any investigation to be undertaken (taking account of the PID Advisory Panel, where one has been convened under paragraph 6).

This may be:

  • to investigate the matter internally or arrange for the issues to be investigated independently of the University; 
  • to refer the matter to the police;
  • to refer the matter to an interested external body (e.g. the Office for Students or a relevant funding body).

In appropriate circumstances, the designated person may decide that more than one of these actions is necessary. The employee will be informed of the decision.

(6) In seeking to determine the nature of any investigation to be undertaken, the Designated Person may refer the disclosure to a PID advisory panel, which will have the following membership:

-          A nominee of the Director of University Corporate Services (in the Chair)

-          A nominee of the Director of HR

-          The University General Counsel and/or Employment Legal Counsel

-          Co-opted members as required by the specific case

The panel may advise the designated person on the following:

(a)    Whether the disclosure is a qualifying disclosure;

(b)    Whether it is appropriately addressed under the PID procedure or another procedure in accordance with clause 9 of the PID Policy (i.e. the Grievance Procedure) or the guidance notes below.

(c)     Whether it is appropriate for internal investigation or investigation by an appropriate person independent of the University, e.g., where specialist knowledge of the subject matter is required

(d)    Actions that might be taken under paragraphs 5 and 7of the public interest disclosure procedure;

(e)    Where appropriate, alignment with the disciplinary procedure;

(f)      The potential impact upon those members of staff and students involved in the disclosure, including the discloser and the subjects of any complaint, and how these can best be mitigated;

(g)    Any other matter upon which the Designated Person may seek advice.

The panel may also meet again once the investigation has been completed to advise the Designated Person on any relevant next steps. 

(7) Where the matter is to be the subject of an internal investigation or where the matter is to be investigated independently of the University, the designated person will:

  • appoint a senior manager, the University’s Internal Auditor or an appropriate person independent of the University (or an investigation team) to undertake the investigation;
  • determine the terms of reference of the investigation;
  • determine any other parameters or procedures to be followed, including timescale, which may be necessary to the investigation.

(8) Investigations should not be carried out by the person who will have to reach a decision on the matter, either under this Procedure or any subsequent procedures which may be invoked.

(9) The University will seek to conduct the investigation as sensitively and speedily as possible. The employee will be informed of the progress of the investigation and its likely timescale.

(10) As part of the investigation, the person(s) against whom the disclosure is made will be told of it, the evidence supporting it and will be provided with an opportunity to put their case.

(11) The person(s) conducting the investigation will submit a written report of their findings and (where appropriate) recommendations to the designated person. The Designated Person may refer the outcome of the investigation and its recommendations to the PID Advisory Panel in accordance with paragraph 6.

Outcomes of the investigation

(12) Following consideration of the report of the investigation, the designated person may:

  • invoke the appropriate disciplinary procedure;
  • refer the matter to the police;
  • refer the matter to an interested external body (e.g. the Office for Students or a relevant funding body);
  • review and modify appropriate University procedures, taking account of any recommendations made in the report of the investigation;
  • make a recommendation or instruction to a manager;
  • take no action.

In appropriate circumstances, the designated person may decide that more than one of these actions is necessary.

If it is found following investigation that the employee making the disclosure has knowingly made false and/or malicious allegations then the employee may be subject to disciplinary action.

Reporting of outcomes

(13) Subject to data protection standards, the designated person will inform the employee making the disclosure in writing of what action, if any, is to be taken. If no action is to be taken then the employee concerned should be informed of the reason for this.

(14) Also subject to data protection standards, the actions determined by the designated person may be shared with others who have been involved at the investigation stage.

(15) If no action is taken or if the discloser is unsatisfied with the actions proposed to be taken, the employee may, within 14 days of receipt of the notification from the designated person, submit a written request to the Chair of the Audit Committee (if the issue falls within the purview of that Committee) or the Chair of the Council of the University that the decision be reviewed. The employee’s request should explain why they are dissatisfied with the outcome of the investigation of their concern. The Chair of the Audit Committee/Chair of the Council will consider the information considered by the investigation, the procedures that were followed and the reasons for not taking any further action. The outcome of this will be either to confirm that no further action is required or to decide that further investigation is required in accordance with the procedures referred to under ‘Investigation of Disclosures’ above.

(16) A report of all disclosures and any subsequent actions taken will be made by the designated person, who will (subject to data protection standards) retain such reports for at least three years. In all cases a report of the outcomes of any investigation will be made to the Audit Committee: in detail where the issue falls within the purview of the Committee, and in summary in other cases as a means of allowing the Committee to monitor the effectiveness of the Procedure.

Contact details

  • Registrar and Secretary (the designated person) - email Registrar@exeter.ac.uk or write to Registrar, Northcote House, University of Exeter, Exeter EX4 4QJ 
  • Vice-Chancellor - email Vice-Chancellor@exeter.ac.uk or write to Vice-Chancellor, Northcote House, University of Exeter, Exeter EX4 4QJ 
  • Chair of the Audit Committee - write to Chair of Audit Committee, c/o Executive Suite, Northcote House, University of Exeter, Exeter EX4 4QJ 
  • Chair of the Council of the University - write to Chair of Council, c/o Executive Suite, Northcote House, University of Exeter, Exeter EX4 4QJ
  • The Colleague Well Being Team: ColleagueWellbeing@exeter.ac.uk

Revised and agreed by the University Executive Board, 6 July 2022.


Guidance on when to use the Public Interest Disclosure Procedure

You should read the Public interest disclosure policy which explains they types of concerns which are in the public interest and covered by the policy and procedure before reporting your concerns.

Employees are expected to report information which they believe shows malpractice/wrongdoing within the University.

Employees should report their concerns direct to line managers but they can chose to report concerns independently of line management where they have concerns that line management will not take their concern seriously or may be involved in malpractice.

It may be more appropriate to raise your concerns through one of the following procedures: