The University of Melbourne’s Business Improvement Program (BIP) will see the 18 faculty student centres closed by the end of 2015.
Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Sheil sent an email flagging the upcoming changes to students on 31 July. “A significant change underway is to place all student services in one location as a single hub for students,” she stated. “This will allow better personal service, with each advisor taking ownership of each enquiry.”
According to Senior Vice-Principal Ian Marshman the BIP will enable the university to invest more money in systems and processes. These will aim to make it easier and more intuitive for students to complete certain transactions themselves. “Student feedback has consistently highlighted complex and cumbersome processes for students to navigate,” he said.
Marshman further stated that much consultation had been undertaken to ensure the delivery of the best possible services and experience to students. He emphasised that a staged approach will be taken to the introduction of the student hub. He said the university intends to invest the savings from BIP back into research and teaching.
UMSU Education (Academic Affairs) Officer Adam Galvin said he was concerned about the effectiveness of a central student hub.
“A student centre manager described the new proposed student centre structure as ‘like an Apple Store’, where staff walk around with iPads before palming you off to staff actually capable of dealing with your enquiry,” he said. Galvin was also sceptical about the benefits of changing online processes for students. He argued that a move towards a “rule-oriented system” will provide less discretionary power to student advisors and reduce accessibility and navigability for students.
UMSU President Declan McGonigle said students should focus on the BIP’s changes to online processes such as special consideration and enrolment. He said students needed to be “holding the university to account” in regard to its attempts to improve student experience.
The BIP initiation officially began in July 2013. In June this year, the university announced it would cut 540 professional staff as part of the BIP.
Marshman now estimates that the BIP will see a reduction of 505 full-time equivalent professional staff. He stated that the university is seeking to limit the number of redundancies, focus on reducing the number of casual and fixed term staff members and rely on regular staff turnover to reach this number.