Former UBC IT employee criticizes switch to new course registration system


A former IT employee at the University of British Columbia (UBC) is speaking out after the university switched to a new course registration system.

The former employee, who wishes to remain anonymous, says he never expected UBC to spend millions switching to the Workday Student system, even though he believes the system was not necessary.

“The previous system was over 30 years old and was heavily tailored to the needs of students and different faculties… it’s not what they’re used to,” the former employee said.

On May 21, UBC switched from its Student Service Centre (SSC) system to Workday Student, which students can use, among other things, to register for their courses.

The former employee says he opposed the adoption of Workday while at UBC, which ultimately led him to resign. While he wasn't opposed to switching, he says he didn't get any benefit from it other than better reporting and a web app.

“So they didn't invest in SSC, they basically just fixed it with Band-Aids and kept it running,” he said. “So the technical debt had to be paid back, and when that debt was paid back, the platform was as solid as it could be.”

UBC students who spoke to CityNews said they were stressed or frustrated by the switch to Workday Student. The system also drew criticism on the r/UBC page on Reddit, with users claiming the new system was difficult to access or simply unusable.

The former employee says he is not surprised that students are having problems with the system, but doubts that UBC will return to the SSC.

“What they had still works, it's still on the shelf,” he said. “It's not like the licenses have expired – they own it, they wrote it. They could go back to it, but you know nobody likes to say they made a mistake and go back.”

According to UBC, SSC could no longer meet the university's requirements

In an email to CityNews, Jennifer Burns, UBC's chief information officer, claims that SSC can no longer meet the university's needs.

“After several attempts to rebuild the platform proved unsuccessful, it was decided that a commercial solution was required,” said Burns. “Replacing the university's student information system is a complex and large-scale initiative that is part of a broader, multi-year and strategic overhaul of all of the university's core administrative systems.”

According to Burns, the budget for the portion of the renewal that affected student systems was $207 million, with a $78 million reserve.

She says that over time, the application will allow staff, faculty and students to access all their information in one place.