Centralised enquiry system causing admin bottleneck

Students are struggling to access relevant, timely information about administration from the centralised 1800 SYD UNI and Student Centre services.

Almost all student administrative services previously provided by individual faculties will be centralised by May 1.

Student administration for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), the Business School, and the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology was centralised in December 2016.

Students from these faculties have since been told to direct administrative enquiries to the centralised 1800 SYD UNI hotline or the Student Centre in the Jane Foss Russell building.

A University spokesperson told Honi the decision to centralise student administration was made “in order to improve processing and response times for student enquiries,” and to “ensure a consistent level of service for all students, regardless of faculty”.

But Students’ Representative Council (SRC) caseworkers told Honi that some students have reported longer wait times at the Student Centre.

SRC President Isabella Brook said they have heard “stories of students being referred from place to place which … can increase the distress students are facing in seeking important degree advice or support”.

The University spokesperson said, “the provision of academic advice still resides with academic staff in the faculties,” while the hotline will be used to handle general administration enquiries such as course options and unit of study selection, application requirements, fees, exams and study abroad.

Fifth-year Bachelor of International and Global Studies student Tom Joyner recently tried to visit the FASS Information Desk, as he had done in previous years of his degree, to seek advice about unit of study selection. He found it closed, with a sign directing enquiries to the centralised system. 

“So I called the number,” he said, but after waiting for 10 minutes on hold “I gave up and I just came to the Student Centre”.

He waited there for 48 minutes, after which, he said, “I got to speak to someone who was very nice, but she clearly didn’t have any idea about the specifics of my faculty, and … could only speak in general terms and told me how to enrol”.

Joyner hopes to contact his faculty directly; this will be somewhat difficult given the hotline’s reluctance to provide faculty members’ contact details.

Education and Social Work, Law, the Sydney College of the Arts (SCA), the Sydney Conservatorium of Music (SCM), and Architecture, Design and Planning will be centralised next on March 27.

According to an email sent to all SCM students, their student services counter will close on this date, although one member of their current administration team “will remain a further year with the Con, and during this transition period, students will still be able to arrange an appointment”.

After this year, SCM students will have to travel to the Camperdown campus for in-person administration advice.

Master of Music Studies (Performance) student Alexandra Nixon is concerned about centralisation given the unique concerns of specialist degrees at the Conservatorium.

She has made three calls to 1800 SYD UNI over the past week and told Honi, ‘‘two of the staff members had never even heard of my degree, the third thought I was a member of the academic staff looking to direct a student on an issue”.

On her first call the line cut off. On her first and second call she had to wait 50 minutes before someone picked up.  On her third she had to wait an hour.

1800 SYD UNI staff told Nixon to look on Sydney Student, but she explained to Honi that doing this wouldn’t help her with enrolling in many Conservatorium units.

“Enrolling in, say, choir is the same on the system as enrolling in wind symphony as they are often a generic ENSE (ensemble) code, and the Conservatorium admin staff are always quick to diagnose and solve issues with enrolment,” she said.

“Our admin staff [at the Conservatorium] have an incredible understanding of the inner workings of the system and the degrees offered which allows students to get the most out of their degrees.”

Science, Veterinary Science, Agriculture and Environment, Health Sciences, Pharmacy, Dentistry, Medicine and Nursing students’ administration needs will be centralised on May 1, meaning all relevant faculty services will be centralised by this date.

Correction: the print version of this article said Law would be the only faculty not officially centralised by May 1, based on comment from the University. The University has since clarified that Law will be centralised with a number of other faculties on March 27.