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Examples of conflicts of interest

The following provide some examples of situations where a conflict of interest may, or may not, arise or exist. It is impossible to define all the potential areas where a conflict of interest may arise and therefore if you are in any doubt as to whether a conflict may exist, you should seek advice from your supervisor in the first instance.

Situations that may generate a conflict of interest can arise out of:

  • personal/sexual relationships with students, either current or previous
  • personal/sexual relationships with other employees, either current or previous
  • personal/sexual or commercial relationships with persons with whom the University is dealing, for example contractors or tenderers
  • personal financial interests in matters which involve the University
  • outside employment that may compromise the integrity of the University
  • use of confidential information obtained in the course of University duties
  • external activities and public comment, eg nominating for and contesting political elections
  • simultaneously being an employee and a student where one role may conflict with another, eg access to StudyDesk areas.

Personal relationships between employees and students

Employees must disclose to the University, any situation which may require them to supervise, teach and/or assess a student with whom they currently or previously have had a personal, commercial, familial or other significant relationship.

Examples of situations between employees and students which may be vulnerable to conflicts of interest, abuse of a position of trust or dependency could arise in the context of, for example:

  • selection for entry into any University course or program
  • assessment
  • selection for prizes or scholarships
  • project, practicum, or dissertation supervision
  • disciplinary matters
  • determining access to resources.

More specifically for example, this can arise where:

  • an employee teaches or supervises a close friend or relative, 
  • an employee has, or has previously had, a sexual relationship with a student where the employee has the potential to influence outcomes for that student
  • an employee attempts to influence an application for admission for a student or prospective student with whom the employee has a close personal relationship. 

Where a relationship has created or has the potential to create a conflict, the employee must immediately terminate any supervisory or assessment role and make alternative arrangements for the supervision/assessment of the student's work. 

Personal relationships between employees

Employees must  disclose to the University any personal relationships with a current or prospective employee which may give rise to an actual, perceived or potential conflict of interest.

Examples of a conflict of interest may include:

  • influencing the recruitment, selection, appointment or promotion of employees
  • impinging on employment related decisions where one employee is in a supervisory relationship to another.

More specifically for example, this can arise where:

  • the spouse or partner of a manager applies for a position in the same work unit where the manager is in a position to influence the selection outcome
  • a supervisor has a close personal relationship with an employee whom they directly supervise
  • an employee takes part in any recruitment, promotion, reclassification, evaluation or grievance process with current or prospective employees with whom they have, or have had, a close personal or financial relationship; or where in some circumstances is a close work colleague of an employee involved in such activities.  

Personal benefits, and financial or commercial conflicts of interest

Examples of this type of conflict may arise when:

  • someone with whom an employee has a close relationship stands to gain or lose financially by the actions of the University, where the employee can or might appear to be able to influence that action
  • apart from their salary, an employee stands to gain financially from their employment at the University
  • an employee accepts gifts of value, grants and/or favours from persons or associates who could be seen to benefit from the making of these gifts

More specifically for example, this can arise where:

  • an employee is a director of a company engaged by the University to undertake a consultancy, or the employee directs University resources to an entity where they or family members are directors or shareholders of that entity
  • a supervisor is involved with one of their employees in private business arrangements
  • an employee supervises a research student on a project in which the academic has a financial interest in the research results
  • an employee specifies a book they have written and from which they derive royalties as a prescribed text
  • an employee undertakes private tutoring of University students in circumstances where this could reasonably be expected to be part of their normal teaching duties
  • an employee or their family members have an interest in organisations that may provide property or services to the University, or to an entity the University controls
  • an employee owning property, or being aware of a person with whom they have a close relationship owning property, that the University might purchase
  • an employee wanting to use the results of work done by their graduate students in a business that they own
  • an employee's research being sponsored by a party who might benefit by, or who contract with external organizations that might have an interest in, a particular result being achieved
  • an employee responsible for purchasing consumables receiving a gift from a sales representative of a supplier company
  • an employee auditing the performance of a research project where they are or have been an investigator or participant on the project
  • a financial delegate approves payments to themselves or to someone with whom they have a personal relationship
  • the use of unpublished information emanating from University research or other confidential University sources for personal profit (or that of famly members or friends), or assisting an outside organisation by giving it unreasonably exclusive access to such information.

Conflicts with outside duties, including committee conflicts and public comment

This type of conflict may arise when an employee is involved in any external organisations whose interests might conflict with those of the University.  It can also arise in situations in which an employee assumes responsibilities for an outside organisation that diverts their attention from their University duties, or creates other conflicts of loyalty - these could be paid or unpaid positions.

 Examples may arise where:

  • a committee member is a government official in an agency which has responsibility for some aspect of policy affecting the University, or
  • an employee teaches at another tertiary education provider without obtaining approval through the Outside Employment Undertaken by USQ Employees Procedure.
  • an employee has a commitment, paid or unpaid, outside the University that involves frequent or prolonged absence from the University on non-University business without obtaining approval through the Outside Employment Undertaken by USQ Employees Procedure
  • an employee working for another organisation offering a competitive program to USQ or is in direct competition for funding with the University.
  • an employee holds a position in an organisation sponsoring and conducting research at the University 
  • an employee chairs a committee responsible for allocating internal funding for research at a faculty or university level where that funding is granted to the chair's school/department.

Conflicts of interest in this area can also arise where an employee is involved in a private activity and expresses a public comment that purports to represent, or may be perceived as representing, the views of the University.  For example:

  • an employee associates his or her name or his or her work with a private external activity (such as consulting) in a way that implies endorsement or sponsorship by the University
  • an employee expresses a private opinion or comment on an academic or research related matter in which the employee has no particular expertise, and the employee fails to disclose that his or her opinion or comment is made in a private capacity and not as a representative of the University
  • an employee comments publicly in connection with trade union, party political or interest group activities and fails to make it clear that such comment is made on behalf of the union, political party or association which he or she represents, and not in his or her capacity as an employee or member of the University