Open any hours?

April 5, 2002

Is there anyone there? Far from being the business-minded institutions that universities like to be portrayed as, it transpires that many cannot even manage to answer the phone during normal working hours.

A ring-round by The Diary last week found that the answering machines were on at the universities of Oxford, Southampton, Leeds, Durham, Sussex and East Anglia. Oxford's message stated the university's opening hours were Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5pm, excluding Bank holidays. But The Diary was calling during those hours.

Neither Imperial College, London, nor the University of Warwick managed to pick up before the phone had rung ten times. Post-1992 universities fared far better - all those contacted by The Diary were present. As were universities in the north of England (except Durham), Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The prize goes to the University of Surrey. It has a voice-recognition system. Unfortunately, it recognises neither the name of the person nor the string of expletives that invariably follow.

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