Student services workstream

The student services workstream is working to define the people, processes, and technologies required to implement the new operating model for student services across the university. The new model will provide a student-centred, consistent, professional, and continuously improving student services ecosystem. This involves engaging the right experts—centrally through the Student Service Centre or at the college/faculty/department level—to support students and ensure they have easy access to student-centric services.


Latest updates


Student services stream approach

The student services stream consists of three main projects in order to successfully transition into the new administrative operating model:

  1. Vision for future state & model: The underlying project is to develop a model that clearly defines student services and identifies what work will be done, where and how, cohesively, to reflect the overall objectives of SET. This will enable multiple student services to be delivered seamlessly by the right people, at the right time, and at multiple points throughout their academic journey.
  2. Student Service Centre: For more information on the Student Service Centre, please visit the Student Service Centre.
  3. Initial performance improvement initiatives: We have found several immediate performance improvement opportunities, including creating the Enrolment Management Centre of Expertise and service partners, creating the Undergraduate Student Recruitment Centre of Expertise, centralizing undergraduate transfer applicant admissions, and implementing the centralization of the administration and selection of undergraduate prizes, medals, awards and scholarships. Not only do we expect these initiatives to bring immediate performance improvements, but we expect them to inform the stream's approach to additional transformations.

Student Services Stream Approach Timeline

  • A) Visioning B) Student Service Centre C) Initial Improvements
  • Information Gathering (until March 2021): Information Gathering. Understand student services delivery across the institution.
    • A) Discover Phase until May
      • Unified vision until May
      • Discovery workbook mid-March to mid-May
      • Redesign and plan until July
    • B) and C) Discover Phase (until April 2021)
  • Analysis and Validation (March to July 2021):
    • A) Prioritize processes to support the new organizational structure.
    • B) Develop Student Service Centre structure.
    • C) Prioritize services for improvement.
  • Transition (July 2021 onwards):
    • A) Transition people and processes into the new organizational structure.
    • B) Soft-launch the Student Service Centre and initiate continuous improvement.
    • C) Launch and implement the three proposals.

Career opportunities

To view upcoming position opportunities in student services, please check the SET Position Opportunities Page (otherwise known as “POP”) regularly. Once a position has been finalized and the competition launched, you can apply to it on the U of A Careers page.


Membership

The student services stream consists of the following project team members:

  • Melissa Padfield — Vice Provost & University Registrar, Executive Sponsor, Initiative Lead
  • Barbara Billingsley — Dean of Law, Executive Sponsor
  • Andre Costopoulos — Dean of Students, Initiative Lead
  • Tess Lawley — Project Manager
  • Fatima Rana — Business Analyst
  • Sara Horseman  — Financial Analyst
  • Brendan Woychuk  — Organizational Design
  • Heather Cook — Change Management Specialist

Consultation and engagement events

  • September 17, 2021: Ask SET Anything - Student Services Edition
  • August 19, 2021: Engagement with Indigenous Graduate Student Association
  • July 21, 2021: Student Services Visioning Workshop 3
  • July 7, 2021: Student Services Visioning Workshop 2
  • June 21, 2021: GSA Council Meeting (presentation of the Student Service Centre)
  • June 8, 2021: Student Services Visioning Workshop 1
  • May 19, 2021: Engagement with Graduate Students Association
  • May 17, 2021: Engagement with International Students Association
  • May 3, 5, 7, 2021: Student focus groups
  • April 23 - May 12, 2021: One-on-one engagement sessions with key faculty stakeholders
  • March 31, 2021: Dean of Students Advisory Committee (presentation of the Student Service Centre) 
  • March 23, 2021: Students’ Council (presentation of the Student Service Centre) 
  • March 18, 2021: COSA (presentation of the Student Service Centre)
  • February 17, 2021: Deans’ Council (feedback on Enrolment Management Proposals)
  • February 11, 2021: Service Excellence Steering Committee (feedback on Enrolment Management Proposals)
  • January 22, 2021: Advisory Committee on Enrolment Management (feedback on Enrolment Management Proposals)
  • January 12, 2021: Registrar's Office Student Advisory Committee (presentation of the Student Service Centre)
  • December 14, 2020 - Feb 5, 2021: Enrolment Management Proposal working group sessions (Undergraduate Recruitment, Undergraduate Transfer Admissions & Enrolment Management Job Development)
  • November 27, 2020: Advisory Committee on Enrolment Management (service catalogue discussion)
  • November 20, 2020: Staff Advisory sub-committee (student services stream discussion)
  • November 13, 2020 - Ongoing: Weekly Student Service Centre Development discussions
  • October 26, 2020: Student Services Stream consultation workshop
  • October 23, 2020: Advisory Committee on Enrolment Management (preliminary presentation of the Student Service Centre model)
Check the UAT consultation page for upcoming events.


Frequently asked questions

Operating model
The POP references Student Services and the Student Service Centre. Are they referencing the same area or are these two separate entities?

The POP references Student Services and the Student Service Centre. Are they referencing the same area or are these two separate entities?

These positions are separated into two different categories on the POP as they will function in different areas of the new model, but all with the same goal of supporting students. Positions listed as Student Services will support the overall ecosystem and can work centrally, in a faculty, or within a Centre of Expertise. These include Service Partner positions or recruiters at the college level. Positions listed under Student Service Centre are those that will work directly in the Centre.

[Updated June 24, 2021]

Does this integrated model limit the future hiring of specialists in various specialized areas?

A key element of improved student experience is ensuring the expertise that students need for complex inquiries is not only available at the university but easy to access. As such, the integrated model will not limit or decrease the hiring of specialists and, in fact, seeks to make it easier for students to access specialist staff and their expertise.

[Updated October 7, 2021]

In a time of tight resources, why do we maintain separate ROs and other services (i.e. Registration, Awards, Careers) for undergraduate and graduate students? A significant amount of time and money could be saved by combining these tasks.

Noting that the objective of the student services stream’s visioning work is not to cut costs but to prepare for growth and improve the student experience, we will investigate opportunities to improve efficiency that achieve these objectives in all services and for all students.

The team is considering many instances of duplicated work across the university as this is common practice in many student services. We intend to remove duplication of work, which we know will improve the student experience and allow our services to scale up with growth. We also know that staff experience can be improved by removing duplication so that staff feel empowered to deliver excellent services and not feel as though they are always ‘working off the side of the desk,’ so we intend to remove duplication where these goals will be achieved.

[Updated October 7, 2021]

What changes can we expect to see at the college and faculty level?
There is restructuring happening outside of central services which may impact student services, but are not necessarily due to the work of SET. It’s also important to note that finding the right balance between what is offered in central versus the faculties is a major task of the student services workstream, however the restructuring faculties is not within our scope.

At the college level: Academic reorganization is happening right now in the Colleges - i.e. the establishment of an Office of Education and Graduate Office in each College. SET is not working in this space or directing the decisions being made, instead, SET is responding to that work to create as seamless a student experience as possible. 

At the faculty level: Some faculties are in discussion about what student services the SSC and other central student services units can realistically take to ease pressure on their staff. SET is not working in this space or directing the decisions being made, but rather, is responding to that work to create a seamless experience for students. It is agreed that the central units will provide support to under-resourced faculties whenever possible.

[Updated October 7, 2021]

Student Service Centre
Will the new Student Service Centre lose the personal touch staff now offer?

The Student Service Centre will provide personalized service as students will still be able to interact with staff members. We will build on the service commitment to students that is already well-established within the Office of the Registrar and Dean of Students with a goal to enhance this already high level of service.

The intention is that students can easily find services, receive the advice they need when they need it, from one location, and with clear navigation paths for where they should be able to find support in different cases. The Student Service Centre will coordinate with the faculties and units on campus to ensure that knowledge based articles are kept up-to-date so that comprehensive and consistent information is provided to students.

In order to provide high quality service, we need more scalable services that allow for appropriate self-serve options and workflow automations where possible, so that the people available can focus on customer service and manage the workload more effectively.

As with any change, we know that there may be a period of disruption as we adjust to the new system, but data from other institutions who have experienced similar transition, shows that this period is temporary. As we navigate through the transition, we will deploy a student engagement plan, which will involve monitoring student satisfaction with service delivery, identifying gaps and issues, and ensuring continuous improvement.

Will faculty/program advising be centralized into the Student Service Centre?

The management of the academic program, including academic advising, is a core academic responsibility and will remain a service offered by faculties/departments. 

Where will the Student Service Centre be located?

As transitions are already unfolding and the U of A is still preparing for a return to campus, it’s likely that aspects of the Student Service Centre will initially be delivered online. The Student Service Centre will have a physical location on North Campus and will initially be housed in the Administration Building until it takes up final residence in the new Dentistry/Pharmacy centre once refurbishment is complete.

[Updated June 24, 2021]

Will the Student Service Centre have an Indigenous advisor?

As is the case in other areas of Student Service Centre operations, our goal is to connect students with the appropriate university stakeholder as quickly as possible. For FNMI prospective students, this means effective referrals to the Manager of Indigenous Recruiting within the Registrar’s Office, whereas for continuing students, it means maintaining robust lines of communication with First Peoples’ House in the Dean of Students.  At the present time, we do not have an Indigenous advisor in the Student Service Centre.

[Updated October 7, 2021]

Will the Student Service Centre’s focus be academic services or will it include existing service centres that deal with high volumes of non-academic inquiries (i.e. InfoLink and ONEcard)?

Since the launch on August 16, the Student Service Centre has handled inquiries about all student services for all types of students. At this time, the centre’s focus is answering student inquiries, delivering services offered by the Registrar’s Office (i.e. information on transcripts, course registration, or financial support) and providing referrals to services offered by the Dean of Students  and University of Alberta International. As a result, the Student Service Centre is the universal front door through which students can navigate to all student services at the U of A—with the exception of some services in the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research.

We are working to make these referrals as smooth as possible to ensure the student experience is as seamless as possible.

[Updated October 7, 2021]

When will the Student Service Centre assume responsibility for class scheduling?

Neither the Student Service Centre nor visioning work components of the student services stream have discussed the specifics of the Centre assuming responsibility for class scheduling. As such, we don’t have information for this specific question at this time.

[Updated October 7, 2021]

Could you please identify whether increased training around specific services/policies is being completed as part of the ongoing training for Student Service Centre staff?

A robust training framework will be essential for the development and growth of the Student Service Centre.  As we move beyond the initial onboarding of the Centre’s staff, we will continue to work with university stakeholders to ensure our knowledge base articles are up to date. Ongoing consultation is taking place with units across campus.

[Updated October 7, 2021]

Graduate and professional programs
What will student services look like for students in professional programs?
For generalized or transaction-based inquiries, the Student Service Centre will support students with different pathways, such as undergraduate, graduate, transfer, professional program students, as well as international students. We recognize, however, that certain activities such as academic advising or clinical placements is best done at the faculty or program level because the advisors have specialized knowledge; it wouldn't be in the student's best interest to centralize these services. Faculties will coordinate their individualized student supports with the Student Service Centre in ways that provide a more seamless experience for students. From a student perspective, there should be no change in specialized service from their home faculty.
How does the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGSR) and Research fit into student services?

FGSR has been involved in both the visioning work and development of the Student Service Centre. Currently FGSR and the Centre are investigating how to work together more closely to drive a cohesive and positive experience for graduate students.

The intent of the visioning work that is ongoing is to maintain the U of A’s expertise in different student experiences, including graduate students. Currently, FGSR offers expertise to graduate students that we will maintain and strengthen in the future vision of student services overall.

Through the visioning work, we want to improve the graduate student experience and prepare for growth in graduate student enrolment. As we complete the visioning work and have more clarity on the future state, we will share this information.

[Updated October 7, 2021]

Student experience
What is being done to ensure that the student experience is maintained or enhanced in the Student Service Centre?

The aim of the SET Student Services Stream is to improve the student experience and prepare the U of A for growth and proposed change is guided by these objectives.

The Student Service Centre is already working to deliver improved student experience as part of an ecosystem that enables quality student services provided from many different locations, including the Student Service Centre, and to build a shared knowledge base that will help advisors placed anywhere in the ecosystem to advise and help navigate their students to specific services. We will work to ensure a closer connection between colleges, faculties, program-level services, and the university-wide services that we provide, while improving the holistic student experience. This approach does not necessarily mean that the service will be generic for all students; rather, we expect the Student Service Centre will support different pathways — for example, undergraduate, graduate, and international students. We also know that some student services, such as academic program advising, will best be delivered at the faculty level. Advisors will exist all over the university and although executing different purposes, they will all have a common mission to provide high level personal support to students whether in a faculty or central unit.

Why is student services one of the last workstreams to get going, when students are the reason we’re here?

The initial focus of the SET program was to focus on and begin with areas where benchmarking indicated there was the greatest opportunity for cost savings. As student services did not provide immediate cost savings to meet initial budget targets, the SET program began with restructuring the other service areas. The objective of the student services stream is not to cut costs but to prepare for growth and improve the student experience.

[Updated October 7, 2021]

What is the student services stream doing as part of the visioning work? What services are being discussed?

The visioning work involves bringing together student service leaders to plan for a future that will prepare the U of A for enrollment growth in the next two to five years and continue to improve and evolve the student experience. This work will make our student services and processes efficient so that we can handle increased volume, improve the student experience, and ultimately continue to be a desired post-secondary institution. Therefore, the vision is not necessarily about centralization or cost cutting, but rather about preparing for growth and improvements.

While we are still working to determine what is in scope for the reorganization of student services, there is no intent to cut or halt services. The intent is to:

  • Support all students through simple access points, such as the Student Service Centre
  • Maintain our expertise in different student experiences without referring them multiple times
  • Lessen the burden on students to navigate services themselves, through the Student Service Centre, improved web presence, and technology

While the vision is not yet confirmed, we understand areas likely for change, but can indicate services that are out of scope for SET, and that remain up for discussion.

Out of scope for SET

Up for discussion

Some services we know will remain at the faculty or college level, for example: 

  • Program-specific advising
  • Academic standing
  • Setting program-specific requirements
  • Program-specific placements
  • Program-specific exam and graduation administration

While other services we know could be improved by a different structure, for example by:

  • Increasing efficiency of high-volume services
  • Improving student access and experience of high-quality student supports
  • Setting up other portfolios for growth

[Updated October 7, 2021]