Red tape still a bind for students

Against all odds: Jeffrey Choma pictured outside CNS, is one of the few students successfully registered for Wits  WiFi services.              Photo: Luke Matthews

AGAINST ALL ODDS: Jeffrey Choma pictured outside CNS, is one of the few students successfully registered for Wits WiFi services.
Photo: Luke Matthews

By Lameez Omarjee and Rofhiwa Madzena

Despite the introduction of online registration to make the experience “more convenient”, Witsies still complain that administrative processes are tedious and discouraging.

Claiming back money

Sinoxolo Msomi, 3rd year BEconSci, said claiming money back from Wits “just took too long”. It took a month to resolve her issue with the fees office.“Everyone I would talk to would refer me to someone else.  They first told me I could claim back money via telephone and just give my bank details but then I found out I had to fill in a form.” She speculated that the cause of the delay was due to the fact that the sum of money was large. 

To claim money back, students are required to get a stamped bank statement and verification from their parents or the person or entity that paid their fees, as well as certified copies of their IDs. Students say this means a great deal of running around. 

Lengthy waiting periods

Students also complained about the time it took for their cell phones and tablets to be registered for WiFi access on campus.  Rosina Mabapa, 3rd year BA, said: “I don’t think it’s amazing, [and] it could be better”. Xolani Hadebe, acting director at Computer and  Network Services (CNS) said: “I’m aware that the process of registering online for WiFi access is a tedious one so we are phasing that out.”  Students will in future be able to gain access to WiFi using their login details.

Carol Crosley, deputy registrar of enrolment, acknowledged that students are often sent from “pillar to post” because staff did  not feel empowered to address issues or make decisions about problems that did not fall within their capacity.  But she said staff referred students to people who were better able to solve their problems.

The registration process

Online registration was introduced as a pilot project this year, in order to give students the “freedom and flexibility to register from home”, said Crosley.  Some students found it a great improvement.

Bambi Stewart, 3rd year BA, said, “I feel that it’s [online registration] much better now, especially the registration process for BA students because I felt it was the most tedious process ever. I managed to do it in two hours whereas in first year it took me two days, but everything is a bit better now.”

[pullquote]”although online registration was effective in reducing queues, it would not always be possible to remove human interaction entirely.”[/pullquote]

But other students still complained about having to come to campus to reregister manually because their subject choices did not show when they registered online.

Crosley said that, although online registration was effective in reducing queues, it would not always be possible to remove human interaction entirely.  Many students still needed career guidance and help with subject choices.    

Service survey facilities

Electronic survey facilities are available to measure service delivery at admin points like the Student Enrolment Centre, the Fees Office and some faculties. However, only a small number of students fill in these surveys, according to Crosley. 

The majority of students approached by Wits Vuvuzela were either unaware of the survey facilities or were unsure about what they were when they saw them on campus.

International students’ registration

International students have also complained about the services at the Wits International Office.Manager Gita Patel said the process became lengthy when documents had to be sent through to Home Affairs for verification. She added that, because students had to wait for Home Affairs, the office “allows students to register with acknowledgement of receipt [from Home Affairs]”.

Patel also said that it was up to students to follow up with the office to make sure their registration was on track.

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It’s all systems go for online registration

Long queues, accommodation struggles and other registration day blues will affect fewer students when Wits implements its new online registration system next year.

The university is making strides in boosting its online presence as more administrative processes are moving to the digital realm.

Carol Crosley, deputy registrar for enrolment, said planning is well under way to see the implementation of the system in January.

“The university is in the advanced stages of planning for online registration for students with fixed curricula in January 2014 and those with flexible curricula for 2015,” Crosley said.

[pullquote align=”right”]”They really have to change the system because it’s expensive for me. I have to drive more than 200km [from Limpopo] just to come and register at Wits.”[/pullquote]

Students will be able to register online from  January 2014, with the Faculty of Health Sciences being the first to use the new system from January 2.

Other faculties will access the system from January 6 until about a week before the start of the first term.

However, returning students who have not passed all their courses and those who require academic counselling will not be able to register online.

Costs include more than just the registration fee

Hulisani Mudau, Microbiology and Biochemistry Honours, said she hoped to see a change in the current registration system.

“They really have to change the system because it’s expensive for me. I have to drive more than 200km [from Limpopo] just to come and register at Wits,” Mudau said.

Pearl Siganunu, Biochemistry and Cell Biology Honours, said accommodation was her biggest problem.  Siganunu, also from Limpopo, is a resident at Wits Junction. She said her residence was still closed on the day of registration. This meant that she had to travel back to Limpopo, only to return to Johannesburg a few weeks later.

“We have to come here and we have to find a place to stay in order to register in time. If you are going to come here and you don’t have a place to stay and you register late, they are going to charge you for that again,” Siganunu said.

Crosley said online registration had taken this long to implement because of the complex demands of the registration process such as different combinations and substitutions made to courses.

It was therefore important to only implement online registration once the system was solid, to avoid compromising the registration of all students.

According to Crosley, the implementation of the Student Information Management System (SIMS) was part of the process of assessing the university’s readiness for an online registration system.

“The university only went live with the new system [SIMS] this year and wanted to ensure processes were bedded down before online registration was implemented,” Crosley said.

A growing online presence

Other online advancements the university has made include online applications and the recent move of residence applications to an online platform.

Both Mudau and Siganunu also complained about not being able to access June academic results on the internet. But this issue is something that is already being addressed by the Sims system.

Maggie Maseka, head of the Academic Information and Systems Unit, said students were now also able to view their June results on the SIMS portal, provided the results had been confirmed by the board of examiners.