The University is consolidating several major student support services under a Draft Change Proposal, due to come into effect mid-2021.
The Draft Change Proposal (DCP) advises that the University consolidate Inclusion and Disability Services, Safer Communities, a small wellbeing team, and a clinical services team into a University-wide student wellbeing hub.
The DCP proposes a student advisory hub to provide academic and career-related support and the establishment of an Office for Student Life. The Office for Student Life will oversee peer and co-curricular programs, financial support, and residential life.
Under the proposal 22 staff members from student support services will be made redundant. The DCP also calls for the hiring of 26 new positions.
“The list of proposed job cuts are going to lose a lot of institutional knowledge, meaning that students will face longer waiting times and less specialised advice,” said Student Representatives’ Council (SRC) President Swapnik Sanagavarapu.
Susanna Scarparo, Director of Student Life, told Honi that the proposed approach was designed to “facilitate enhanced communication between teams” and that the program is “student-centred and designed to ensure all support teams across the University are working together effectively to deliver clear, pro-active and tailored services and support to all students – including international and CALD students.”
The changes to student support services will pursue digital-first strategy, despite previous surveys calling for increased face-to-face interaction.
Sanagavarapu said neither students nor the SRC were consulted about the changes: “This is disappointing considering the extent to which students will be impacted by any changes to student services.”
“The University is very reluctant to consult because they’re afraid that the people may not agree with their way of doing things,” said Grant Wheeler, President of the USyd branch of the Community and Public Sector Union. “That’s the last thing they want to have to face.”
Sanagavarapu further emphasised the SRC’s support of improvements to student services. “The University is consistently in the lowest quartile for student experience, and it’s time that something was done about that,” he said. “However, the source of these problems has been centralisation, cost-cutting and job-cuts — the University’s remedy seems to propose more of the same.”
In 2016, the University consolidated student services, closed faculty student service counters, created a centralised special considerations system, and the 1800 SYD UNI helpline. This was largely criticised by the student body.
These changes will not affect the Student Centre or the Learning Hub.