Florence Harvey – Assistant Manager, Student Services Centre
I joined Student Services in August 2011. In my role, I’m responsible for the Student Services Centre team, made up of the front-facing Student Advisors, and the Financial Support Advisors who manage the University’s Student Support Fund. The team supports students before their arrival in Southampton, in those first few weeks when they are getting to know the University and the city and then throughout their time with us.
We participate in Welcome Weekend activities by running the ID card collection tent – last year we handed out over 3,000 ID cards to ensure that students could access our facilities in the first week of term.
We also run the Accommodation Hotline in conjunction with Residences. In August we received over 12,000 emails and phone calls from prospective students, asking about everything from their accommodation, to funding and fees, and general queries about university.
A typical day for me involves working with colleagues in Student and Academic Administration (SAA), faculties and other professional services to improve our services for students. We are always trying to make ourselves more visible, so that students know who we are and how they can access support.
In the next year we’re looking to increase our online services, to help students access the support they need more quickly. We also want to improve access to the Student Services Centre for those on satellite campuses.
In the Student Services Centre, the queries we receive are extremely wide-ranging, so you have to plan for every eventuality – making sure we have all the knowledge to answer their questions can be a challenge!
The best bit about my job is helping students through the nerve-wracking period of starting university – it’s fantastic to see them progress throughout their time here and support them in their journey.
Dan Clifford – Student Visa and Immigration Advisor, Student and Academic Administration
I joined the VISAS (Visas and Immigration Student Advice Service) team permanently in April this year after two secondments in 2014 and 2015.
My job involves offering guidance on immigration issues, such as submitting visa applications and running drop-in sessions to answer quick questions about visas. I’m also responsible for compliance, ensuring that students abide by the conditions of their visa and that staff are aware of our duties as an institution.
Each day I respond to staff queries, confirming what their students are allowed to do – whether they can take time away from university, make changes to their academic status or work in the UK.
I welcome new students to the University in two ways. Firstly, I work at international registration events, checking the visas and passports of new students, and ensuring they have the right permissions to study here. Secondly, I’m heavily involved in the visa renewal process for new students, extending the visas of over 1,000 pre-sessional students once they have passed their course. The extension process has to be done in a very short space of time – around four or five weeks – and it’s a very intensive process.
Immigration is a hot topic and the landscape is ever changing. The University itself is always evolving with new partnerships, so trying to make sure you’re giving students and staff the most up-to-date advice can be challenging. Teamwork is key – discussing changes to immigration rules and sharing experiences of interesting cases helps us to adapt to our changing environment.
The most enjoyable aspect of my job is getting a positive outcome for students. Often, the application process is stressful and the requirements can be strict, but when you’re able to help a student with a complex problem to get a new visa granted, it’s very satisfying
Emma Bennett – Student Records Team Leader, Student and Academic Administration
I’ve worked at the University for 20 years in a number of roles. I re-joined the Student Records Team in 2014 because I enjoyed the variety of work that the department does, and working with a wide range of people across the institution.
In Student Records, we support the online enrolment process that all students undertake and offer help via email, phone calls and in person. We also help with Student Finance, making sure there are no delays in students receiving financial support and answering queries on issues such as council tax exemption.
My day varies depending on where we are in the student lifecycle. At the moment, I’m making sure that last year’s student data is accurate, ready for the Higher Education Statistics Agency student return, and ensuring that we’re prepared for the coming year.
Postgraduate loans are being introduced for the first time this year, and it’s also my job to make sure we have the processes in place to advise the Student Loans Company of when our postgraduate students are in attendance.
One of our main challenges is dealing with the high volume of enquiries we receive at the start of the academic year, but we have two student ambassadors who staff the enrolment hotline and give friendly advice to students. No two days are the same, but I really enjoy working with people as well as data and our IT systems.
Krishan Mistry – Student Support Practitioner, Enabling Services
I joined the University four months ago after studying psychology and health psychology to masters level. I’ve worked across schools, colleges and universities and was inspired to continue working in this field when I saw the fantastic support offered to students at Southampton.
A typical day for me involves helping students who are dealing with difficult situations or facing a crisis. Through one-to-one appointments I talk with students in a comfortable environment, gathering information about their difficulties and ascertaining the impact this may have on their health and their work. Then, I carry out a risk assessment to identify the most appropriate support for that student.
I also deliver interactive group workshops tailored around the student calendar, with topics ranging from homesickness to managing exam stress and encouraging mindfulness. Enabling Services has recently launched a health strategy campaign to promote awareness on issues such as mental, physical and sexual health, alcohol and drugs, and we are excited at the positive impact this will have on our students this year.
Another key aspect of my job is working to support new students before they arrive, by running the Enabling Services Transition Days. All new students with a disclosed learning difficulty, or mental health or physical disability are invited to attend these over the summer, before term begins. This is a great opportunity for them to meet other students and find out about the support available to them during their time at university. The feedback so far has been really positive.
Demand on our services will significantly increase as the new term approaches, and while it can to be draining to deal with such sensitive issues daily, we have a very supportive team of staff who are always happy to help each other out. Every day is different but it’s rewarding to help students build their resilience and encourage them to take ownership of managing their wellbeing.
Rachel Nash – Customer Service Advisor, Residential Services
I’ve been working in Residential Services since November 2013. Having lived in Southampton my whole life, I would see new halls of residence pop up around the city and I wanted to be part of something that was growing.
Working in Residential Services, there’s a constant flurry of work to be done and I’m responsible for a lot of operational work within my site, Gateley Halls. From finance, maintenance approval and health and safety to building layouts and room prices, there’s a lot that I have to remember!
I’m heavily involved with the July and September Open Days, working on the accommodation stand in Garden Court to promote the University’s offering to prospective students and their families.
‘Moving in’ weekend is also in September, where we move around 6,000 students into their new home in halls. Based on the check-in desk, I greet students as they arrive and give them the keys to their new room. It’s a busy time, but it’s rewarding to know that your efforts have paid off when you see the halls up and running with a new intake of students.
Working in halls can be stressful as we’re essentially trying to run a home for a family of over 6,000 people across one city, but it’s uplifting to see students living on their own, making new friends and enjoying their time at university.