The Student Desk opening hours in UCD’s Tierney Building have been reduced, with cuts enacted in the service from last Monday 2nd November. The reductions mean that the Student Desk will not open until 2pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but will stay open until 6pm on these days. This is a change from the former opening hours, which saw the Student Desk open from 9.30am to 4.30pm five days a week.
In another cost-cutting measure, the standalone Fees & Grants desk has been closed, which means that students looking for help in these areas must also queue for the Student Desk.
Student negative reaction to the changes has been strong. One PhD student who approached The University Observer stating that she was forced to wait for “at least twenty minutes” to be attended to at the Student Desk. The student also says she received conflicting reasons for the inadequate services.
“My complaint was the putting of all the queries into one desk,” she said. “Everybody has to queue, it doesn’t matter what your query is. I pointed [the queuing situation] out a few months ago and I got the form letter, which I understand other people have received, saying it was due to budget cuts. Later that day I saw somebody who told me it had nothing to do with the budget cuts.”
The student went on to express her annoyance at being ‘misinformed’ on the issue. “The budget cuts were just being used as cover for what the manager claimed was some survey they did, which seemed to say that students wanted a one-stop place. Therefore, this has been planned as a response to the survey, so it was on the cards before the cuts were ever necessary.”
UCD Students’ Union have also received a number of complaints about the issue, according to the student, who voiced her concern about the considerable waiting period involved. “I’ve spent a total of a couple of hours queuing for a couple of minor things that should have been handled by fees and grants.”
However, UCD’s Director of Administrative Services, Michael Sinnott, stated that the changes implemented were unavoidable, telling The University Observer that “the Student Desk in Administrative Services is working in a challenging environment which has seen a significant reduction in staff resources available, both to the Student Desk itself as well as other teams in UCD Registry.”
Sinnott believes that the reduction of opening hours for the desk is justified on the basis that it allows staff the opportunity to carry out other tasks, such as replying to emails. He also confirmed that the changes were made in reaction to a student survey.
“These changes certainly reduce the amount of time for students to call in. However, in our start of term student survey, this year and last, we see an approximately 60:30:10 balance between direct contact, email and phones as the preferred means of getting support. Our balancing of services reflects this – our order of priority is desk, mail, and phone.”
Sinnott also expressed scepticism on any potential return to full hours in the near future, saying that “the current economic climate, its consequent impact on budgets, nationally and within the university, allied with the employment control framework of the Department, and in the general context of an apparent belief that third level administrative headcounts are too high, does not make me optimistic in this regard.”