Following the decision of the Senate of the University of Pécs, a new unit has been established at the University of Pécs from 1 October: the Student Services Centre (Hallgatói Szolgáltatási Központ). This organisation is now in charge of the institutional coordination of student services, the operation of the UP dormitories, and provides support services to the University Student Council and the Doctoral Student Association. It is led by Arnold Koltai, the former president of the UP University Student Council. In the following interview we asked him about the aim, and future plans of the council.
Why was there a need for this new organisation and why was it necessary to set it up now?
It should have been established 20 years ago. The Student Services Centre is intended to help the University of Pécs to meet the needs of students in terms of living and housing, in addition to academic services, to the highest possible standard. This also enhances the image of our institution, because it is important to have feedback on the services provided to students.
How do you determine the needs of students?
We are constantly receiving feedback from both Hungarian and international students. We are monitoring what kind of ideas and needs our students have.
We are planning to carry out a university-wide survey on the needs for complex services, as well as a focus group survey.
In the context of the change of model, the fate of the dormitories operating under PPP arrangements is at stake. The former Dormitory Centre will be merged into the new organisation of the Student Services Centre. To what extent will the functioning of this unit change?
It has been integrated as a whole and is one of the main departments of the Student Services Centre. Most of the dormitories in Pécs are currently run by external management, but in the event of a PPP replacement we will have to take over a number of tasks and, if possible, operate them at a higher standard than at present, including the use of multilingual reception services.
The Student Services Centre aims to boost student life in the dormitories,
to create living communities within the dormitories, to organise events and to expand high-quality services. The aim is also to make more community space available for this purpose, by redeveloping spaces that are currently under-utilised or not optimally used. We have work to do in many areas.
What are the areas where we can expect improved service quality in the short term? Which areas do you plan to develop in the long term?
Our service improvement plans include the re-design of souvenirs with the university's logo, the organisation of cultural, sports and scientific events, and professional training for students. What is certain is that
the further expansion and internationalisation of cultural events is a priority area for Students Services Centre and the student council.
We aim to improve the quality and accessibility of services that directly support studies (printing, office services). The importance of talent management must not be overlooked: we are also trying to strengthen the college for advanced studies movement, participation in the National Scientific Students' Associations Conference (OTDK) and the willingness to conduct research. The development of services to reduce the number of drop-outs should be a priority. Housing support is a potential future programme element in this area, and we also plan to expand student mentoring and mental health services. The Student Services Centre will provide the backbone of services in these areas.
How will you manage this year's budget for the organisation, and will the new organisation cost more/ how much more will it cost compared to the three previous independent organisations?
This year’s budget will cover the cost elements for 2021. The representative organisations will continue to manage the institutional and normative support, as well as their own revenues autonomously. The Student Services Centre will provide support and oversight in the use of resources by the two student council bodies in accordance with the internal rules of UP. Naturally, the Centre, in its role as coordinator, will work with the student councils to develop a service development strategy that will make the best use of the resources for all three organisations.
The Student Services Centre is also planning to increase its own revenues in the future: the aim is internal rationalization and strengthening external market partnerships. We are also taking a completely new approach to infrastructure development and operations in the coming years.
Where will the Student Services Centre be available in person and online?
In person, the administrative management of the Centre will be located on the 2nd floor of the Rector's Cabinet (4 Vasvári Pál str.), but we will be present in all the dorms and will be involved in the operation of the service offices on all the campuses, so that our activities will be visible at the faculties. Our website is under development and we plan to develop a site where general information and basic information will be available. Direct contact with students will be through the established online platforms and face-to-face contact with dormitory managers, receptionists and student advocacy interfaces. It is also obvious that we should be connected, as most complaints and suggestions about services are received by the student representatives.
Written by: Éva Harka
Photo: Szabolcs Csortos