Lecturer in Ombudsman and Complaint Handling Practice

Division: Business, Enterprise and Management

Tel: 0131 474 0000

Carolyn Hirst (BSc (Hons), MBA) is a Lecturer in Ombudsman and Complaint Handling Practice in the Business, Enterprise and Management Division. She is also a associate member of the Consumer Dispute Resolution Centre.

  • Overview
  • Research Interests
  • Research Publications
  • Teaching & Learning

Carolyn Hirst works as a part-time Lecturer in Ombudsman and Complaint Handling Practice at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh where she carries out research relating to dispute resolution and designs/delivers related courses for first and second tier complaint handlers. This includes leading on the Mediation Theory and Practice modules for the online MSc in Dispute Resolution. She also designs and delivers investigation training for Regulators, such as the UK Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Carolyn also works as an independent consultant. She has her own business, Hirstworks, where she works as a mediator, investigator, complaints reviewer, trainer and coach.

She is the mediation practice supervisor for Cyrenians (a charity working with people who have few choices), a member of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission Mediation Panel, a member of the Edinburgh Sheriff Court Mediation Panel and she mediates complaints referred by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education.

Carolyn is a Lay Member of Employment Tribunals (Scotland) and of the Private Rented Housing/Home Owner Housing Panel, which are Scottish Tribunals dealing with housing-related matters.

Carolyn previously served as a Deputy Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, having a term of office from the formation of the SPSO in 2002 until 2007. She also worked for nine months in 2014/15 as the Interim Principal Ombudsman at Ombudsman Services. Before this, Carolyn worked in Social Housing for nearly 20 years, latterly as a Deputy Director of a Housing and Care Organisation. Carolyn has extensive public sector, social enterprise and voluntary sector Board experience and is currently a Non-Executive Board member of NHS Lothian.

Affiliations/Memberships to Other Organisations:

  • Member of the Law Society of Scotland Administrative Justice Sub-Committee
  • Advisory Group member of the Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Member of the Chartered Institute of Housing
  • Scottish Mediation Network Member and Accredited Mediator
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA)

Research/Knowledge Exchange Centre Membership:

Research into the policy and practice of Ombudsman and second tier complaint handling organisations, including redress design and the use of appropriate dispute resolution.

Active research interests:

  • Dispute Resolution. Mediation. Ombudsman. Appropriate Dispute Resolution. Apology. Complaints. Decision-making.

Research Methods:

  • Interviews, Surveys, Observations, Literature Reviews

External courses for complaint handlers and regulators. MSc in Dispute Resolution.



  • BM050 Fundamentals of Dispute Resolution
  • BM051 Complaint Management and Consumer Behaviour
  • BM053 Mediation Theory
  • BM056 Mediation Practice