A growing shared service

There were a number of pre-conference sessions ahead of UCISA’s Advisory and Support Staff Symposium. The first detailed the out of hours support service operated out of the North-West regional network NorMAN. This was one of the initial feasibility studies funded by HEFCE as part of their Shared Services programme and is a good example of how bottom up initiatives can grow and become realistic shared services. They now have 21 institutions signed up from a starting point of the original five NorMAN universities. A good number of problems are solved by the helpdesk although the proportion addressed by the service (compared with those referred back) varies both between institutions and from month to month. Obviously it is not possible to solve all problems – for example if the network is down in the home institution then there is little the service can do other than advise the institution concerned – but in some cases the number of problems solved is close to 80%. Students can access the service in a number of ways – telephone remains the most popular by far although the service can also be accessed by email and text (SMS). Chat is also used to communicate with students and this has proved particularly useful where the student’s first language is not English. There is generally a good level of satisfaction with the service (over 75% of respondents to a survey) and the service continues to grow, with a further expansion of another 9 institutions planned by mid 2010. So overall a success story – a service delivering an enhanced service to students in a cost effective way.

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