A deep dive into why you didn’t get that concession
I cradle the dying timetable in my arms. It’s the same wound I’ve seen so many times— that big rectangular splotch of red, with the circled exclamation mark placed dead centre. Time was seeping from it like blood. How far would this set me back? A summer school? A semester? A whole year? I look up to the skies where Dawn Freshwater and the rest of the university council sit in judgement, and I plead:
“Surely you can let this one through. Please, just this once, have mercy!”
But they were not merciful beings. They never have been. Their voices boom down from the skies in unison:
I watch, grief-stricken, as the last spark of life fades from my timetable. Leering down with their best ‘cheerful customer service’ grins, the council makes their final statement on the matter.
“If you have any enquiries, please visit your nearest student hub, thank you!”
What you have just read is a true(ish) story. You probably have a similar one. A lot of students do, because the enrolment systems at the University of Auckland suck. You know it, I know it, and the university knows it. But what are the real issues here, and why isn’t anyone doing anything about it?
Prevention is Better Than Cure
Before we take a peek into UoA’s lacklustre first aid kit for broken timetables, let’s explore why there are so many timetabling issues in the first place. For instance: clashes. In the year of our lord 2023, do you really need to be able to attend every class? The answer is obviously no, but SSO simply does not care. Are you enrolling in two 8am classes on a Monday morning, neither of which you have any intention of actually getting out of bed to attend? Too bad, gotta apply for a concession anyway. If a class is optional (and let’s face it, most of them are these days), forcing students to apply for a concession wastes their time and staff time, and that’s assuming it even gets approved. It’s a whole other ordeal when it’s not.
Clashes aren’t the only issue either. One student informed me that if you’re in an exchange program, you have to apply for a concession for every single course you enrol in. Despite applying the day that enrolment opened, they still lost out on their preferred courses. This happened because by the time that their concessions were finally reviewed, the classes had already filled up.
“This seemed really unfair to me because I applied early on purpose to avoid the classes being full,” the student added.
My condolences to every exchange student who’s ever tried to enrol here. And I thought I had it bad.
The absolute worst way that SSO can screw you over is by offering the vaguest explanations for why you can’t enrol in a class. Tessa, an Arts student, said that they weren’t allowed to enrol in a hieroglyphics course that they had been looking forward to all year.
“I checked if there were issues with timetable clashes or grades… but nothing. Even the enrollment team was stumped.”
So yes, SSO is so broken that sometimes it won’t let you take classes because uh… it just doesn’t like you I guess?
There are lots of ways enrolment can go wrong. But where do you go to get things fixed?
Trying to Get Enrolment Help: A Labyrinthine Nightmare
Your first port of call should be to get in touch with someone in the faculty. However, the quality of help you get will vary a lot depending on which faculty you ask. In my own experience, the process can range from being super chill (shoutout to Arts), to being absolutely draconian (side-eye at Business). Sometimes they’ll be able to sort your issues out asap, and other times they won’t even talk to you, but it’s still worth a shot if you know who to ask.
If you have no luck there, the next place to go would be the Student Hubs, sorry Hub (singular). I have nothing but respect for all of the Student Hub staff, but a recent Student Services Function Review by the higher-ups has led to major consolidations of services and staff changes. As a result they’ve been left severely under-trained and under-resourced, and are struggling to deal with the huge amount of student issues that are funnelled their way.
Unfortunately, if you visit the Hub right now, your experience probably won’t be great. Wait times can get pretty abysmal. The staff aren’t always well equipped or informed enough to deal with some of the more complex issues students face, making visits feel a bit like playing a lottery.
One student said that when they visited the Hub for enrolment help, they were told they wouldn’t be able to enrol this year as they “did everything incorrectly”. The experience left the student horrified and they were “bawling [their] eyes out.” Thankfully, the Hub was wrong and everything was worked out in the end. However, this doesn’t erase the reality that the student experienced “a lot of confusion” in the process and felt they “received no support.” Stories like this are far too common, and students across the university are struggling to get the help they need, but why is this the case?
Behind the Curtain: The Hidden Issues With Student Services
I was able to interview an anonymous staff member who works in the enrollment team. Like the Hub, their department recently became centralised, instead of being split across each faculty. They shared that:
“With the move to centralisation, we no longer have instant access to faculty-specific knowledge and we have a significantly smaller team working on processing concessions and enrolment requests.”
Consequently, the staff member found that this change can cause delays to the processing times of student enrolment requests.
“The Student Services Function Review also caused many staff to move to other service divisions, or out of the University altogether. A lack of process documentation for new staff, a loss of prior staff knowledge, and minimal training due to workload pressures has created a difficult environment for the new processes to flourish in.”
When asked how these issues can be fixed, the staff member said that more staff in all service divisions is needed to help with delays and lack of resources. There also should be better training around faculty-specific requirements for enrolments and concessions so that staff are better able to support and advise students.
I think those sound like pretty straightforward fixes—but what does the University have to say on the matter?
A University spokesperson said that while the University has been aware for some years about student frustrations with the enrolment process and acknowledges these, its Student Service Strategy (Whakamana Tangata) has outlined a multi-year response to these difficulties, which will include initiatives like the extended hours of access recently given to Student Hubs.
The University spokesperson acknowledged that this year, Student Hubs had “longer than desirable in-person wait times for about 10-14 days.” However, peak periods for enrollment and admissions always put significant pressure on teams and the impacts of the extreme weather, which saw campuses and Student Hubs being closed for a period of time, exacerbated these impacts. They’re hoping that wait times will go down soon thanks to “significant improvements being introduced to their processes and procedures”.
The University is also aware that there are many areas where Hub staff can’t resolve student queries on their own due to existing barriers, which they plan to address. I’m hoping these ‘improvements’ will be along the lines of what the staff member was advising, but they didn’t give any more details, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
As for reducing the number of timetable issues altogether, the University spokesperson said that there are long term plans for a “Curriculum Framework Transformation”, which will simplify programme regulations and reduce requirements for concessions. Even the University admits this issue has been “a matter of concern for a number of years” and they really do make it sound like actual change might finally be coming—they’ve given their plan a fancy name and everything!
Given that these initiatives are part of a multi-year response, it might be some time before we see real change. But don’t worry, they’ll get around to it eventually. Maybe one day our timetables will be safe from Dawn Freshwater and her vicious council, but until then the struggle continues…