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Careers service remodel sparks outrage

first_imgCareers advisors at the Oxford University Careers Service have strongly criticised draft plans to transform the service, labelling the proposals “a disgrace”.The plans, circulated to prominent members of the University, would aim to engage more students by drastically cutting the number of people receiving personal interviews with staff.Over a third of students who use the service currently have one-to-one 45-minute discussions sessions – a privilege that will be available to only 3% if the changes, as currently drafted, come into force. Instead, careers advisors will organise spontaneous 5-minute drop-in clinics and one-to-many, group activities.Some members of staff have expressed concern that the plans would threaten the quality of the service. One advisor said, “The document issued by the Director is a disgrace. Not only does it offer ridiculous proposals for the future, but it seriously misrepresents what the Careers Service does currently, and has done in the recent past.”Another member of staff commented, “Many in the careers service have concerns, peculiarly over whether the increased quantity will not compromise quality.”The document was drafted by the Careers Service Director, Jonathan Black, who has come under fire for the troubled rollout of the new OUCS website, as well as declining use of the careers service during his directorship.Black vigorously defended the new proposals, stating that it is crucial for the service to increase involvement. He said, “We want to improve quality and quantity… It is unusual for people to go to the service. We have to go to you – to your college to your department.”He added, “A successful example of our work is Oxford students consultancy programme – it’s a real experience. It’s an example of a programme we’ve launched and we have given a value added service.” The document denies that the suggested changes are an exercise in cost-cutting. It states, “while the plans are projected to reduce the operating costs of the Service, it is worth emphasising that the key driver of this plan has been raising engagement levels, not reducing costs.”The new model would not only reduce one-to-one contact, but also decentralise the service, with more events taking place in colleges and departments. This is in order to “increase the perceived value added to a much higher proportion of the student audience”.Some college head have expressed support for the suggestions. Sir Michael Scholar, the head of St John’s college stated, “I think it is a good idea to involve colleges more. There still will be a centrally located venue.”Peter Oppenheimer, a fellow at Christ Church commented, “If they have a plan for the reducing the number of jobs, then that in itself is a good thing with the university’s current financial situation.”Some careers advisors also expressed concerns that the statistics included in the plans have been selectively chosen and misrepresent the service’s current status.The document mentions that Oxford came 26th place in the High Fliers Survey in terms of levels of engagement. Yet, it fails to mention that it came 6th in the same survey in terms of student satisfaction.Tim Wise, Research Director at High Fliers pointed out that to suggest that Oxford is 26th without any context is “somewhat misleading.”“The right people go to the Universities service and they rate it very highly. To my mind, the Oxford careers service is very effective.”Some have also suggested that the careers survey mentioned in the document has not been representative as only 3% of the student body was surveyed.Black denied these allegations stating, “These statistics were checked by the Department of Statistics. Only 6% of students came in Michaelmas Term 2008 for one-to-one consultations.”Black has been criticised by staff members over OUCS’s new website, as well as claims that use of the service has declined during his appointment.One careers advisor said, “The Director also insisted on the rushed introduction of a new web and IT system which has been a serious failure, offering much reduced functionality and which is exceptionally user unfriendly – with far fewer students now making use of our website than prior to its “upgrading” in January 2009.“The reduced usage of the website, and its lack of integration into other careers service activities has also contributed to lower physical usage of the Careers Service over the past four months.”The director confirmed that use of the service has dropped recently. He refused to comment on website figures, but said that 50% of students have registered with the online service.Lewis Iwu, OUSU president said, “OUSU is always committed to ensuring that the University delivers useful, meaningful and tailored services to its students and this will be reflected when I give formal feedback to the Careers Service on this issue.”The new proposals have been met with scepticism by some students. One Physics postgraduate said, “I don’t really see the colleges as being different enough to warrant bespoke careers guidance, to be honest. This new college representatives idea would doubtless cost quite a lot but, as I see it, have relatively small gains.”last_img read more