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For many people visiting Robinson College, the Porters’ Lodge is the first port of call. But in addition to providing a friendly welcome, the team also has a range of other duties too explains Colin Barnes, who has been Head Porter for nearly ten years.

 

“The Porters’ Lodge has a team of ten and together we maintain the security and good order of the College. As Front of House desk, we look after our wide customer base which includes conference organisers and delegates, members of the College Fellowship, students, staff and other guests to the College. Our conference business represents a very important element of the College’s activity, supporting the academic vocation through significant income.

“As well as meeting and greeting all College visitors, the Porters’ Lodge deals with a range of security issues including CCTV monitoring, estate patrols and the College fire alarm system. We also cover room key issues; mail handling for the whole College and the telephone system and switchboard. As the first and last point of contact we also manage student arrival and departure each term and delegate check in and out during conference periods.

“It’s essential we always provide a high quality of service to our customers across the wide range of services we offer, for example we book taxis and sell stamps, as well as maintain and supervise all aspects of security to ensure the safety of everyone in College. It’s a 24/7 operation and that’s reassuring to all our customers.

“It’s a large community here with over 500 students (Undergraduates and Graduates), together with Fellows and staff so it’s important to have the appropriate staffing level in the Lodge at all times to handle queries quickly and efficiently. We work hard to ensure that we understand the comings and goings and the activity planned to take place so that rotas can match the requirements.

“What do I like about my job? I really enjoy the interaction with customers at all levels and networking between departments. It’s extremely rewarding when we receive compliments from customers acknowledging the good service received from the Porters’ Lodge. It’s a very varied role with a number of milestones during the academic year, many of which bring their own challenges. These include matriculation day presentations at the start, open days and applicant interviews, the annual May Ball and culminating in Graduation Day. My dress code also changes for some of these days – I wear top hat and tails to carry out ceremonial duties for MA Graduation, General Admission and Matriculation Day.

“The biggest variation is during the vacation periods when the students go down and the College plays host to residential conferences. We welcome delegates from all over the world, so requirements range from handling transport queries through helping with language difficulties. I like to think that we play our part well to ensure that many events and delegates return to Robinson year after year.

“This is a great job for me - 31 years in the Cambridgeshire Constabulary was an excellent grounding!”