Today, AskAuckland On-Hold Music. Tomorrow? Te Pākārito On-Hold Music.
“Bigger, better, faster… centralised?” seems to be the thinking behind the University’s recent decision to merge its student support services into one. Te Pākārito, ‘Student Hubs’, will replace all individual faculty-based and AskAuckland course advisors and student support with one main hub. According to the University, “Students will receive personalised and seamless service and advice no matter where or how they make contact with the University.” The faculty Student Centres will close from April 1st, and starting from April 4th students can go to one of the three Auckland City locations (Central campus, Grafton and Epsom) for in-person help. The University’s announcement last week claims students will have the same access to advice and support as they did from their faculty’s staff.
The University has told Craccum the student services review isn’t about centralisation per se, the new model just “creates some organisational changes that combines shared services and faculty services” to improve consistency, accuracy and timeliness of support and advice to students.But how will this latest move by the University really affect students? To find out, we broke down the Student Services Function Review Summary (SSFRS) and got the low-down from a current student services staff member witnessing the process.
The introduction of Te Pākārito is meant to improve service accessibility for students. Combining the student support services into one is the University’s attempt to address the inefficiency and disjointedness students experienced from the outgoing student services’ siloed nature. The hope is Te Pākārito becomes students’ one-stop shop for all issues—no longer will students be bounced between advice services. Staff will allegedly be cross-trained to deliver comprehensive and tailored advice and support to students. Cross-training will give staff “the right breadth and depth of expertise, experience and decision-making clarity for a student-centric experience”. It is unclear what “right” will entail.
This is especially promising for conjoint students. In theory, students can come to one place for conjoint degree planning and course concessions without being shuffled between their faculties clueless about the other’s requirements. If the service can actually deliver such comprehensive advice, all students will benefit from cutting down waiting times and service delays.
But according to the SSFRS, students may need to be referred to expert services if they’re seeking specialist services such as health and counselling, career developments and, yes, specialist degree advice. Rather than bouncing between dedicated faculty advisors, it is a real possibility students will be bounced within Te Pākārito instead.
Our student services staff insider was sceptical the new system would live up to its promise. When asked about combining information for complex courses and conjoints they expressed they “have little faith in the ability for the new student hubs to get it right”. They agree it is likely to be a “good move for conjoint students who are often told the wrong thing from one faculty support to the other” but predict “tailored individual support will go down.”
Unlike the previous system, Te Pākārito will have Māori- and Pasifika-specific roles to support Māori and Pacific student participation and achievement. The SSFRS claims this will be enabled by improved provision of programme-specific advice and support, advanced with student faculties and the Pro Vice-Chancellor Māori and Pro Vice-Chancellor Pacific.
Though centralisation could be a win for all students, it’s also the University’s latest business move. One of the University’s Review objectives for centralisation is to “accelerate the University’s achievement of segment market share targets.” Streamlining services would significantly cut operational costs. Our staff insider explained, “One central support space instead of one per faculty means a lot less staff, a lot less back-and-forth, and less running costs.” The Tertiary Education Union has stated that the Student Services Function Review has already redeployed 150 staff and released 22 staff. If Te Pākārito under-delivers with the service benefits promised to students, the University comes out on top in the long run.
It remains to be seen whether Te Pākārito will fix the flaws of the old system and provide all students the service experience they deserve, or if it’s just the University seeing dollar signs again.