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USyd’s hotline bling

1800-SYD-UNI replaces faculty phone lines

1800-SYD-UNI replaces faculty phone lines

The University of Sydney has closed faculty phone lines and replaced them with a university-wide 1800 number, causing students to wait over an hour for their calls to be redirected.

The 1800 SYD UNI line was introduced at the start of 2015 as part of the Senior Executive Group’s vision for a centralised university contact service.

Over the course of the year, faculties surrendered frontline handling of student enquiries to 1800 SYD UNI.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Tyrone Carlin said the central line was intended to “provide a single convenient point of first contact for students”.

On average, waiting time is a few minutes, but huge delays surface during peak periods.

“There are occasions when the call centre gets absolutely swamped, where we just don’t have enough staff and enough IP points to keep to those levels,” Professor Carlin said.

Philippa Specker, a psychology student and former information officer at the Faculty of Science, said she waited “over an hour” before her recent call to 1800 SYD UNI was answered. When she was an information officer, she frequently dealt
with calls that were transferred from the new central line. She saw it as only creating “more bureaucratic process”.

In addition to long waits during peak periods, 10-20 per cent of all enquires are too complicated or faculty-specific for the call centre’s staff, meaning they must be diverted to faculties anyway.

Carlin agreed 1800 SYD UNI is not designed to answer very complex or degree-specific questions, but argued that by centralising and logging call data “we’re in a much better position to understand the reasons why students are calling us up… to try and avoid the need for the phone call in the first place.”

The Veterinary Science, Agriculture and Environment faculties and the Conservatorium of Music are the only remaining faculties with their own phone lines.

The central line is managed by the Student Centre team from the Jane Foss Russell building.

In February the centre received over 44,000 emails, telephone calls and in-person enquiries.