Department for Curriculum and Quality Enhancement
Personal tutoring is pivotal in helping students make a successful transition to HE and key to their academic progression and achievement. The role of Personal Tutor has three main aspects:
- Providing academic support and guidance.
- Providing personal support and guidance.
- Providing students with sources of further support and advice.
These are the minimum expectations regarding formal Personal Tutor/Tutee interactions per academic year:
- Level 4 - eight group and two individual meetings.
- Level 5 - four group and two individual meetings.
- Level 6 - two group and two individual meetings.
- Levels 7 and 8 - two group and two individual meetings
Part-time courses should provide pro rata formal contact sessions. Please see Curriculum Framework Document 2014.
Personal Tutoring Guide
What Does Personal Tutoring Involve?
As a Personal Tutor you are a point of contact for your tutees. You can help them to settle into the University; understand the differences between school / college and HE; understand what they need to do to obtain their award; help them choose their options; review their academic progress; consider their postgraduate study / career opportunities; and support their academic and personal progress, directing them to other sources of support as necessary.
About This Guide
This guide is intended to provide an overview of the role of a Personal Tutor and the various academic and pastoral aspects of that role. It includes advice on how to deal with difficult situations and, on how to protect yourself mentally, physically and legally. It includes information on the support available to students and on how and where to refer students who may need additional support.
Who is this guide for?
This guide is for all academic staff who act as Personal Tutors - both those new to the role and those who are experienced. Various parts of it will also be of interest to all staff members who have contact with students and a general 'tutoring' role. As an academic member of staff you have been appointed because you are an expert / practitioner in your subject and you probably feel confident in this aspect of your role. However, you may feel less of an expert and less prepared to be a Personal Tutor. This handbook can support you in such circumstances. There is no absolute right or wrong way to do the job. The minimum requirements were outlined on the home page; these will be supplemented by your department's specific expectations and will depend to some extent on the tutees in your group. Exactly how you meet these will be left to your professional judgement and will be influenced by your own experiences, your personality and how much you enjoy the role.
You will be supported in your role by your Head of Department, your Faculty Associate Dean (Students), a range of experienced colleagues and the professional student support services.
What is it?
Inclusivity means ensuring equity of provision for all students at all stages of the student lifecycle, regardless of their social background, country of origin, ethnicity, gender, age, previous educational experience, disability or preferred learning style.
Why is it important?
The University aims to ensure that all students have good quality learning experiences, but there are many factors that impact on the quality of students' experiences including their previous educational background, expectations of university life, cultural differences and so on.
Personal Tutor role
As a Personal Tutor you can take a pro-active role in ensuring that all students maximise their potential. Consider how being a member of one of the following groups may impact on a student's understanding about learning and their experiences at the University:
- BME (Black and Minority Ethnic students - refers to UK students only)
- Widening participation (students from non-traditional backgrounds)
- Students with disabilities
- International students (who can be BME students in their own countries)
- Mature students
- Part-time students
Of course, this can be a sensitive area; you cannot ask students about their background or personal circumstances and students will not want to be 'labelled' as belonging to one group or another. As a Personal Tutor, you need to be aware of the underlying factors that impact on student experiences and on their academic performance. If an issue arises, consider whether it is due to a mismatch between expectations and experiences and discuss accordingly.
For more information please contact DCQE, or follow through the sections below.
The role of the Personal Tutor with international tutees
Going to University is a big step for most people and going to a university outside their home country is an even bigger step. Personal Tutors can take an active role in familiarising international students with learning in a UK institution.
It is important that Personal Tutors are aware of the specific needs of international students and that settling down may take more time for international students. Suggested courses of action:
- Clarify the nature of any concerns or topics international students wish to discuss.
- If possible, learn the students' first names(not the English equivalent).
- Let the students know how and when to contact you.
- Familiarise yourself with all of the support mechanisms in place to assist with any difficulties the international students may have.
- It may also be helpful if you can familiarise yourself with some the cultural backgrounds of your international students.
Common issues for international students
Although the most obvious challenge for international students may be that of English language use, international students raise many other concerns. As with all students, some may arrange an appointment to discuss their concerns with their Personal Tutor while others are very reluctant to do so. Listed below are some examples of particular challenges faced by international students:
- Language (for support see EAP section). The student may not ask for clarification. They may, therefore, be reluctant to talk in tutorials, giving the impression that everything is fine. The use of terminology in a UK academic institution may also cause confusion.
- Homesickness - for many, it may be the first time they have been away from their home country or even their family. In many cultures the family is central to everything they do.
- Acculturation - it may take a long time for an international student to adapt to a new environment. The differences may be immense and can include such issues as different cultural behaviour, customs, climate, interpersonal communication (including interaction with those in authority) and academic norms and expectations.
- Finance - studying and living abroad is very expensive. Students often take up part-time employment (often late into the night).
- Reluctance - for cultural reasons, some international students may regard discussing their difficulties as admitting 'failure'. As a result a student will not ask for help during a lecture/seminar/tutorial.
The International Office
For a range of social and pastoral support for international and EU students see:
The International Office provides a vast range of pre- and post-arrival support for EU and international students. The following is a summary of some of the support provided:
- Pre-arrival newsletters and online study skills resources to assist with transition to the UK.
- Collection from airport on arrival.
- A week-long orientation programme prior to the start of the academic year.
- Written and oral guidance regarding living and studying in the UK.
- Schemes such as Mix and Match that aim to pair international and UK students.
- The production of an international student newsletter.
- A programme of social events to promote inclusion and aid familiarisation with the UK.
- International advisors who are able to support students regarding a wide range of matters.
The International Office staff are always willing to give you advice to help your tutees or to advise them directly.
Mature students are classified as those aged over 21 when they begin their studies. Some mature students slot into university and student life without any difficulties while others may, initially at least, feel out of place - especially if they live off campus and/or have family responsibilities.
Mature students often arrive lacking in confidence and many are unfamiliar with the range of technology in use at the university. If your tutees (mature or young) lack confidence or they need to develop their skills it is important that they seek out the help they need early in the first semester. There is a series of Return to Lean workshops at the beginning of the academic year specifically for mature students which cover essential technology, reading, writing and information skills: Workshop Calendar
Students With Disabilities
Some 9.3% of all full time students (nearly 1800) disclosed a disability or disabilities in 2011-12. This proportion has remained relatively stable over the last few years and is comparable with the South Coast benchmark of 8%. With the exception of the Business School, disabled students are fairly evenly distributed across faculties with disabled students as a percentage of total student numbers in each faculty as follows: Creative and Cultural Industries (11.0%); Science (9.2%); Technology (10.1%); Humanities and Social Sciences (11.0%), Portsmouth Business School (PBS)(6.2%). As the incidence of declared disability among overseas students is relatively low (1.5%) the difference is partly attributable to the relatively high number of overseas students in PBS with the proportion of disabled students rising to 8.3% if these are discounted. The relative proportions of disabled students within the UCAS disability classifications is very close to national benchmark figures, with the only exception being a relatively high proportion of students with social communication disorder. If disclosed multiple disabilities are disaggregated and taken into account overall, 49% of disabled students are dyslexic and 12% have mental health difficulties such as anxiety or depression.
The role of the Personal Tutor for students with a disability or mental health problem
The Additional Support and Disability Advice Centre (ASDAC ) will make contact with all students who declare a disability on their application form, or on registration. Should a student disclose a disability to you, you are asked to check with them whether they have already formally disclosed their disability and if not, encourage them to do so by contacting ASDAC who may be able to offer support, referral and/or relevant adjustments to processes. ASDAC will treat all such disclosures in confidence. Similarly, if you think that a student may have a disability or specific learning difficulty that is not on their student record or has not been previously identified, please raise this with the student and encourage them to discuss this further with ASDAC.
The ASDAC website provides a range of guidance notes for both you and your tutees. Of particular relevance for academic staff delivering course units is information on a Discoverer Report (Disability Support Details by Unit) that provides real time details for staff on the disabilities and specific needs of their disabled students by individual unit reference. Other sections included guidance notes for staff on recommended approaches and adjustments appropriate for a range of disabilities such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, hearing impairment, visual impairment, Asperger syndrome, unseen conditions and mental health.
If you are concerned about a student's mental wellbeing then you can contact the MHA (Mental Health Advisor), Pam Ringland or phone 02392 843466 for advice on what courses of action are open to you. If a student is in crisis during working hours and the MHA is not available, you can contact the Counselling and Wellbeing Services 02392843466 in the first instance, or the student's GP (with their permission), or the NHS Home Treatment Team (on 023 9273 6999), who again will be able to offer advice on what action you can take.
Here are some practical guidelines about what to do if you think a student might have a mental health problem:
Information about mental health services can be found here and
Guidelines for Staff - Student Mental Health on the ASDAC website provides advice on a whole range of matters relating to student mental health issues. Of particular relevance to Personal Tutors is Section 5, which provides guidance on general procedures and protocols to be observed when: determining when there may be a mental health difficulty; approaching the student; responding to the student; and dealing with confidentiality. Section 6 covers appropriate actions and behaviours when handling crisis situations.
See more about the services available for students with disabilities on the ASDAC pages of this website.
Distance Learning Students
Distance learning students, who are full members of the University, rather than collaborative students, are entitled to the same level of tutorial and other support as campus-based students. Alternative but equivalent means of support will be necessary. It is important that both tutors and students are clear about departmental arrangements.
Central support services are making an increasing amount of information and guidance available online, and some services - for example, Counselling - are offering services such as email counselling, which are particularly convenient for such students.
As a Personal Tutor you need to maintain regular contact with your tutees and have regular (real or virtual) scheduled meetings (individual and/or group tutorials). A good relationship between Personal Tutors and their tutees encourages students to talk about any difficulties before they develop into major problems. Tutorial sessions provide the opportunities to talk about these difficulties and academic progress in a structured and supportive environment.
This section includes guidance about communicating and contacting your tutees, and organising the first and subsequent meetings.
Organising Tutorial Sessions
Students will usually arrange a time to meet you or visit during the allotted time. However, there will also be times when a student will want to talk to you without making an appointment, but it may be difficult to accommodate them.
Feedback shows that students are often not aware that they have approached you at an inconvenient time and can take your request to come back later/tomorrow as rejection. Therefore, it is worth trying to assess how urgent the situation is and whether it has to be dealt with immediately (very rare) or whether you can arrange a suitable time for a meeting.
Also it is useful, for both your student and yourself, to clarify how long you are able to spend with your tutee before the meeting starts, for instance, "I can give you 10 minutes"... and try to keep to time!
Communications and Contact
It is important for students to know how you and the University will communicate with them. Information on how to communicate with students is available in the Student Communications Policy, which you can find here
On initial contact with your tutees you will be able to explain how they should contact you (and how you are likely to respond to them) and when your office hours are. Please let your tutees know that you and the University will use email as the first point of contact and will only use their University email address. They should therefore check this every day. Students should also make regular use of the student website at www.port.ac.uk/lookup.
In this age of mobile phones, emails and messaging, some students might have unrealistic expectations of your availability to respond to them. Please be clear about your availability and that, whilst you will deal with emergencies as soon as possible, you will endeavour to respond to more routine requests within X working days. You should also tell your students who to contact should you be unexpectedly unavailable. The University does not expect you to provide your tutees with your personal contact details so do not feel obliged to do so.
Your Head of Department may have expectations about operating an open door policy or you may have your own policy about availability. Whichever is the case, make sure that your tutees and the students you teach understand whether you encourage them to drop in or whether you expect them to keep to scheduled office hours or to make an appointment (apart from emergencies).
The First Meeting
You will meet your tutees face-to-face (unless they are distance learners) during the first few days of their arrival at, or return to, the University. Successful social and academic integration promotes student retention and achievement. Within your tutorial group you are likely to have EU/international students and UK students who may have very little idea of what HE learning involves. Your first meeting should help them to settle in, give them confidence and enable them to understand your role.
Your department may provide you with guidelines about the format and content of your formal tutorial sessions. At a minimum, the first session should cover:
- Introductions - as tutorial groups get larger it can be difficult to remember tutees' names. However, we know that it matters very much to students and often affects how well they settle in at the University if they feel that at least a few tutors know who they are. If you find it difficult to remember names then try the usual tricks like repeating the names when people tell you them, writing the names down with an aide memoir to link a description with a name, or in group sessions, draw the layout of the room/table and annotate it with the names of who is sitting where. Ask the students to introduce themselves to the rest of the group - while they are doing this you will have time to write a few notes.
Some colleagues ask their tutees to fill out an index card with their names and contact details and then annotate the cards with key information about the students. The cards can also serve as a useful jotter to record attendance/non-attendance and so on.
This may be the first time this group of students have met each other - so provide an opportunity for them to tell you and the rest of the group about themselves and how they are finding things so far. If you have a student with a disability in your group, it's worth considering how the room arrangements will work for them (for more information see the Students with disabilities sub-section under the Inclusivity section of this guide).
- Your role - this first meeting provides an opportunity for you to explain your role and the nature of their tutorial sessions with you.
- Location of buildings - depending on what has been/will be covered in general sessions and induction activities it may fall to you to point out the location and purpose of some of the main buildings. You may want to/be expected to take them of a tour of key building(s). At a minimum, make sure they can find your office!
- Go through the Student Handbook - While this may have already been covered in a general induction session, it is worth going through both the University and Departmental Handbooks and pointing out important information - such as the University's expectations regarding behaviour. You will probably be involved in helping your students with their Personal Development Planning (PDP).
- Outline key support services using the pocket guide to students services here. Also check they have registered with a local GP.
- Check that your tutees have a timetable or know where to find it - explain how the timetable is set out and what codes and abbreviations mean.
In addition, in your first (or in an early) meeting with your new tutees you may like to arrange for them to meet some of your continuing students. This can be very successful - second year students can tell first year students about what to expect and, given their time again, what they would have done differently. Your department may well arrange a social event to help new and existing students to interact.
Students repeating the year
If you have tutees repeating the whole or part of the year in your group, it might be worth trying to arrange an additional meeting with them to discuss whether the reasons for their poor performance have been resolved and/or what they will do differently this year and what support they might need to support them in achieving this.
The first scheduled meeting with returning and direct entry tutees
The first meeting provides an opportunity for you and them to catch up. It is rare for the composition of a tutorial group to remain unchanged - there are likely to be losses and new additions. At a minimum, this first meeting of the new academic year should include:
- Introductions - take care to include direct entry/repeating students in the discussions.
- Outline of year ahead - cover any important changes in staff, course, buildings or regulations.
- Academic progress - the first meeting provides an opportunity to review the academic progress of the previous year and to work with your tutee and their PDP for the forthcoming year.
Your subsequent meetings with your tutees will possibly include both scheduled and unscheduled sessions. The nature of the former will depend on the year of study and University or departmental expectations. Thus the following provides an outline of the core components of the personal tutoring year:
- Induction - A good initial experience of the University is essential to promoting social and academic integration. As a Personal Tutor you will probably be involved in induction. Your first meeting may be part of your department's formal personal tutorial programme or it may precede this. Nevertheless, the advice given above should be useful.
- Options - It is difficult to be an expert in all of the subjects that are offered as part of a student's course. However, you should have a good understanding of the course content and structure and, depending on departmental requirements, you are likely to be involved in discussing options with your tutees and, where appropriate, ensuring this is recorded..
For further information see: www.port.ac.uk/accesstoinformation/policies/qualityassurance/filetodownload,52364,en.pdf
A reminder about core and optional units
- Core units are required units for all students studying for the named award.
- Option units are where students are free to choose between alternative units that are specified within the course structure and contribute to the programme learning outcomes.
In addition, within the Combined Honours programme, units may also be designated as Subject Core Options - this means that students have a limited choice of alternative units but within a specified core subject area.
Managing Tutorial Sessions
Students may ask to see you for a variety of reasons - and the one stated may not be the real reason - so be prepared for a chat about a missed submission date to turn into something more complicated and/or serious.
There are also a number of routine tasks that you will need to undertake, such as keeping a record of the session and dealing with non-attendance.
Approachability and Listening
Many students may feel nervous when talking to you or making an appointment to see you. International students and first generation home students may particularly see tutors as powerful figures far removed from the anxieties that they face. The literature tells us that students will settle more quickly if the room setting is welcoming and conducive. Tutees may be unsure about how to address you. While most lecturers probably encourage students to address them by their first name, you are not obliged to do this.
Staff and students expect to learn how to speak and present, but rarely do they expect to be taught how to listen. Active listening is helpful particularly when you want to get more than one word answers from your tutees, and when understanding the bigger picture might be important.
Listening well gives you a better chance to find out what's really the matter, and although it takes more time at first it usually saves time in the long run. Students do not want or need their tutors to be counsellors; but they will appreciate a thoughtful initial contact that makes them feel understood and helps them know where to take their problems next.
There is a lot of information about barriers to, and strategies for, effective listening and the following summarises some of this:
- Try and find somewhere to sit where you will not be disturbed. Find a comfortable distance - not too close, and not behind a big desk.
- Have a clock somewhere easy to see, so you and the student can both see how much time you've got.
- Show from the start that you are interested - not distracted, looking at the computer screen or rifling through papers.
- Begin with something encouraging - for example "Why don't we talk a bit about what's worrying you, and then see what we can do about it".
- Ask more 'open' than 'closed' questions - for example "How do you feel things are going for you?" rather than "Are things going OK?"
- Remember small encouragements - "uh-huh", "really", "go on", "tell me more".
- Long silences can be uncomfortable, but short pauses can leave time for thought.
- Focus on what the person is saying rather than how you are going to respond.
- Make sure as you go along that you have heard properly - "let me just check I've understood this right. I think you're saying that..."
- Be cautious about giving advice or guidance until it feels like the student has finished what they want to say, and you have something useful to contribute.
- Do not promise confidentiality. You don't know what a student is going to tell you, and it doesn't help you to listen if you feel anxious about not being able to share information.
Keeping a Record
In your tutorial sessions it is useful if you can make a note of the main points and any agreed action arising from all the discussions, but it is particularly useful if you have a difficult situation to deal with or when you have advised a tutee to perhaps seek counselling advice or to visit their GP. However, you are responsible for the personal data you keep and you must ensure that you keep this data securely, and do not disclose it to anyone without the student's consent.
Students, like all individuals, have the right to request access to any personal data held about them. It is therefore advisable to assume that any personal data you hold about students, whether on paper or electronically (including emails), could be read by the student.
You should always ensure that the data you hold about students is factually correct and up-to-date. You should also consider whether you need to keep all the information you have collected, particularly when the student has left the University. Any significant information - such as concerns over performance - should be transferred to the student file once a student leaves the University, where it will then be held for six years after the student has left. Personal data must be stored securely, for example, password protected on a computer or kept in a locked cabinet. Sensitive personal data, which is defined in the Data Protection Act 1998 as relating to the racial or ethnic origin of a student, their political opinions, religious beliefs, trade union membership, physical or mental health, sexual life or the commission of any offences, must be kept even more securely than plain personal data. For example, the sensitive personal data should only be referred to when absolutely necessary and not discussed with other tutors unless you have the consent of the student to do so.
For further information on the Data Protection Act 1998 click: here
Dealing With Non-Attendance
The university is in the process of introducing a new attendance policy. It is likely that you will be asked to record attendance at scheduled tutorial sessions and report non-attendance.
Dealing With Parents/Guardians, Employers, and Others
As a Personal Tutor you may be asked for information about a student either in the form of a reference or possibly by parents, partners or friends. Dealing with parents can sometimes present difficulties. You should not normally disclose a student's whereabouts, address or other personal details to a third party - even a parent. In such circumstances you must tell the parent that you cannot disclose any information without the student's permission. Parents may contact you and say that their child has not telephoned or written for X weeks. In such circumstances the most appropriate action is to offer to pass a message on. Should a student be taken ill and be unable to give permission for you to contact their parent/spouse, you should not contact them directly - you should leave it to the hospital.
You may not disclose any information about a student (including their academic performance) to anyone (including a parent or guardian) without the student's prior (preferably written) consent to do so. The only exceptions to this are: if information is requested by the police in relation to a crime; where there are concerns for the immediate welfare of a student or a third party; or where a contract exists to provide information. One example of the latter is where a sponsored student may agree that their sponsor can approach the University for information about their progress - but you will need to see proof of this before disclosing any information. If in doubt, contact the Information Disclosure Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org, or see here.
For specific information regarding providing references, see Writing References here
Whilst your role will be to support and guide your tutees and to help them develop, your role is not to solve their problems for them or to act in loco parentis.
For some of your tutees, University may be their first time away from home and they may be looking for a parent substitute. More mature students may consider you their peer or friend. Whilst you should be seen as a trusted point of contact, you will need to maintain a professional position. There may be rare occasions when this becomes difficult and personal and professional boundaries begin to blur.
Most tutors will not feel excessively burdened or distressed by the issues raised by their tutees. However, occasionally it is possible to become too emotionally involved or worn down by students' problems. Therefore, do not be reticent about suggesting to a student that they might be better discussing their problem with a professional. There are some circumstances where it is probably best to make sure, and record, that you have urged the student to seek professional support. This would particularly be in any case where they indicate an intention to harm themselves (or others), or express any suicidal thoughts. Students may not realise that help is available, and encouragement from a trusted tutor can make a great deal of difference to the likelihood of them accessing it.
If you find it difficult to cope yourself, remember that the University subscribes to WorkplaceWellness. Call free from a landline on 08001116387 or visit http://Wellness.rightmanagement.co.uk/) with the User name UPuser. WorkplaceWellness provides a wide range of services, including a telephone helpline and online and face-to-face counselling.
It will be rare (and probably never happen) but there may be occasions when you are concerned about the immediate safety of yourself or another individual. In such circumstances, contact security immediately. Their emergency number is Ext. 3333. Routine enquiries should be directed to Ext. 3418.
Please see the practical guidance for staff supporting students with a possible mental health problem here.
Staff should not have or enter into any other relationship with a student that could compromise, or could be perceived to compromise, the relationship of trust. In this context a personal relationship is defined as a business or commercial relationship; financial relationship; sexual/romantic relationship; close friendship of a social nature; and/or membership of an organisation that is perceived to operate for advancement. The document 'Relationships - Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of Staff' has now been incorporated into the Declaration of Interests Policy; this document relates to relationships between staff and students, including what action should be taken if there are pre-existing relationships, including family.
For further information see:
If you are uncertain about whether you should declare a personal relationship you should seek guidance on a confidential basis from the Human Resource Office.
Plagiarism, Referencing, and Research Skills
The formal definition of plagiarism that the University uses is: 'the incorporation by a student in work for assessment of material which is not their own, in the sense that all or a substantial part of the work has been copied without any adequate attempt at attribution or has been incorporated as if it were the student's own, when in fact it is wholly or substantially the work of another person or persons'.
- Copying material from any source and using it without an appropriate reference (this includes computer language and programmes, scientific data and visual images - in addition to standard written text)
- Collusion, where the assessment artefact is prepared by someone else and presented as a student's own work
- Purchase of essay/project/computer programme, etc. (whether pre-written or specially prepared)
- Submission of essay/project/computer programme written by someone else
- Submission of another learner's work with or without that learner's knowledge or consent
Both the Library and ASK can provide advice about these areas.
Understanding how to cite and reference the work of others correctly are difficult areas for many students, both the Library and ASK can provide support about citations and referencing.
The University Library supports students by providing:
- Referencing@Portsmouth - An online, interactive referencing tool covering Harvard APA, Vancouver and OSCOLA (law)
- Short printed guides, which can be ordered from the Library for distribution to students
- The Library runs workshops covering all three styles; for more details see: Library Workshops
For a complete lest of referencing guides see:http://www.libr.port.ac.uk/libguides/index.php?clear=catselect&txt=&cat=4&sub=0
Both ASK and the University Library work in a co-ordinated way to ensure consistency of advice. As a general rule of thumb, the Library can help students with queries relating to technical referencing questions. If their problem is one of understanding academic writing and the use of citation practices in the construction of academic argument, then they can be advised to make a one-to-one appointment with an ASK Lecturer by emailing Academic Skills or phoning 02392843028.
As a Personal Tutor you may become aware that your tutees do not have the necessary skills to find, use and evaluate information at the level required for successful university study. This awareness may come through the PDP process (which includes questions about information use), through talking to them during tutorials, or when you are giving students feedback on their assessments. Students often assess their competence in this area as high (especially finding electronic information), but research shows that they often over-estimate their skills - particularly when academic information is concerned.
The University Library supports students by providing:
- Formal teaching sessions within the curriculum.
- Advice, either from students visiting the enquiry desks or via email.
- elearning objects and paper handouts to develop information literacy - see: www.port.ac.uk/library/help/skills/uplift/
- A programme of workshops - see: www.port.ac.uk/library/workshops
In addition, the Faculty Librarians and Assistant Faculty Librarians are happy to see individual students (this can be particularly effective when dissertation topics are being explored) or can drop into your group tutorial sessions if you feel this would be helpful.
If you would like an update yourself, or to discuss how the Library can support your research or teaching, please contact your Faculty Librarian at: www.port.ac.uk/library/librarians or if you are interested in attending one of the staff workshops see: www.port.ac.uk/library/sdw.
Student Support Services
The majority of students will cope with student life and you may have a relatively passive role regarding their pastoral support. Nevertheless, you are likely to be the point of advice and referral for a range of academic and pastoral queries and problems. You may be able to deal with many of these queries yourself. However, you need to be aware of the range of support services that are available to your tutees within the University.
For undergraduates, the first year personal tutorial sessions, study skills sessions, and other specific units will be designed to equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in their studies. However, some students may need additional support or perhaps just want to enhance their existing skills. In addition, not only do some of these services assist your students they may provide you with useful information and resources.
The Tutor as a 'Broker' - Redirecting Students To Appropriate Services
The role of the Personal Tutor is varied. On occasion you may be asked to provide your tutees with a reference, help with a complaint or (hopefully, very rarely) be asked to guide them through withdrawal or transfer procedures.
You may also need to act as a 'broker' and direct your tutees to areas of additional support. This section covers all these topics and more.
It will be important to ensure that your tutees understand the academic regulations and the pass and progression requirements, especially for professionally accredited courses. It will be worth explaining your role as their Personal Tutor at the Board of Examiners.
You may also be called upon to assist with the following:
Personal Tutors are likely to be approached to write references for their tutees. The University guidelines may be found at: University guidelines.
In addition, departments may have their own guidelines. When approached to provide a reference for a student, there are a few points that you should consider:
- A reference must be accurate and supported by evidence - make sure that statements can be confirmed by evidence and make a clear distinction between facts and opinions. For example, a fact might be that X's level 2 average mark was 50%. An opinion is that based on X's level 2 performance it seems likely that they will obtain a particular grade. If you say that X appears suited to (for example) the post of a proofreader, back this up with why. Also be clear about the capacity in which you have known the student and for how long. Employers want to know about the whole person, therefore it is helpful if you can include some information about extracurricular activities - so ask your tutees to provide you with an up-to-date CV.
- A referee has a duty of care to both the subject of the reference and the recipient. You need to be fair to both student and recipient. If it is relevant to disclose negative information, the University's guidance is that 'you should either obtain written consent to do so or suggest that the person requiring the reference obtains the information directly from the subject (or decline to act as the referee)'. Under the Data Protection Act 1998, personal data must not be disclosed to a third party without the permission of the individual to whom the information relates. This particularly applies to any sensitive personal data (defined as: personal data relating to racial or ethnic origin; physical or mental health; political opinions; sexual life; religious beliefs; criminal offences) to be disclosed.
- Verbal references should be given as carefully as those in writing. Callers should be asked for their number and told that their call will be returned in order to allow you time to consider your response (and to confirm the identity of the caller). As soon as possible following the call, you should confirm in writing the information that you have supplied.
- The Data Protection Act 1998 states that the subject of the reference can gain access to it from the recipient. Thus always assume that it will be read by the subject. Alternatively, you may choose to supply them with a copy.
- References should be stored appropriately. A copy of the reference should be placed in the relevant student file. For further guidance see Retention Policy: Student and Course Records: section 9 and Retention Schedule: Financial and Staff Records: section 7 - access here online.
Requests to Withdraw/Transfer
Occasionally one of your tutees may express a desire to withdraw from their course or transfer to another course at the University or elsewhere. You will need to advise the student about their options and you may need to seek advice from the relevant parties involved. Students considering withdrawing or transferring may find it useful to talk to one of the careers advisors in the Department for Employability.
Although your instinct may be to try and persuade your tutee to stay on their course and/or remain at the University, sometimes it is in the student's best interests if they leave.
The University is committed to providing a high-quality service and encourages its students to raise issues where they have cause for concern. Therefore a student may come to you to discuss whether they should pursue a complaint.
The Complaints Policy, produced by Academic Registry, is explicit in assuming that the Personal Tutor may be the first person whose advice is sought. It states that: 'every student has a Personal Tutor or, if you are a research student, a supervisor. This member of staff may be the most appropriate person to contact if they are not involved in the issue that you are concerned about.'The policy is available online.
Accessing Tutee Records
Information about units that your tutees are studying (such as their timetable and their performance in assessment) can be accessed via the Staff Portal either by selecting the 'My Tutees' link and then selecting the individual tutee's registration number or name, or by selecting 'My Services' and 'Student Search' then entering the tutee's registration number. Either of these routes will take you to the Student Portal, where you can access some pages but not those that contain confidential information. The 'My Course' link will take you to a page that provides a list of units the student is undertaking; the 'My Assessments' link takes you to a list of units with assessment marks and results. Details of marks in discreet artefacts can be obtained by selecting individual unit marks. You can access the student's timetable via the 'My Timetable' link.
Further information about your tutees is held in their Student File, which is usually located centrally in your departmental office. This will typically contain personal details, application information, details of on-entry qualifications, a copy of the student enrolment form, registration details, transcripts of results and sundry correspondence. Departmental administrators can also access information for you - for example: personal details, fee information, course and unit registration, assessment marks and results via Jupiter records.
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You are not expected to become a legal expert in your role as a Personal Tutor - there are University experts you can consult if you need advice. However, you do need to be familiar with the following:
Data Protection Act 1998
Although the University does not require you to keep records of meetings with your tutees, it is good practice to do so. This is especially the case for unscheduled or difficult meetings. Meeting notes should be a factual record of what happened. Under the terms of the Data Protection Act 1998, students have the right to request information held about them. For more information see University Secretary webpages.
You should not disclose any personal information about a student to a third party unless the student has given their consent for the disclosure. Students need to know that you will treat them and their problems with discretion and confidentiality. Sometimes, even if it is in their best interests, they may not want personal or medical information disclosed. Whilst you can advise on the desirability of disclosing the information you must respect the students' wishes. In the case of disclosure of a condition that you believe may be considered a disability you must ensure that the confidentiality request is confirmed in writing. ASDAC can advise on the legal definition of disability if you are in doubt.
On rare occasions you may have to balance a student's right to confidentiality against other obligations such as protecting the student, their peers or your colleagues. Your tutee may tell you something about themselves or another student that you think requires you to take action - for example, threats to other students/staff or criminal activity. In such cases seek advice from a senior colleague, your Head of Department or, if appropriate, a member of the Counselling Service or Academic Registry.
Further details can be found at: www.port.ac.uk/dpa/
Equality and Diversity
The University is committed, not only to meeting the legal requirements of the Equality Act 2010, but also, to be seen as an exemplar of best practice around equality, diversity and inclusion for staff and students.
The Equality Act 2010 harmonised and consolidated previous anti-discrimination legislation. The Act covers the protected characteristics of:
- gender reassignment
- marriage and civil partnership
- pregnancy and maternity
- sexual orientation
The public sector equality duty of the Act came into force in April 2011. The University of Portsmouth, carrying out its functions, must have due regard of the need to:
- eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation
- advance equality of opportunity
- foster good relations
- publish information demonstrating compliance with the act
- provide at least one measurable equality objective
- publish information in a manner that is accessible
In addition, specific public duties commenced in September 2011 that require HEI's to:
Full details of the University's approach to meeting these requirements are laid down in the University's Equality Objectives www.port.ac.uk/equality. Further details on the implications of the public duty and specific duty on HEIs are available from the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) www.ecu.ac.uk
Harassment and bullying
Whilst we have no evidence to suggest that bullying, harassment or racism is a problem at the University we need to remain vigilant, take action as necessary and support any students who feel they are being bullied or harassed. As a Personal Tutor, you may be approached by a student experiencing such difficulties. If this happens the recommended procedures are clearly set out in the University's Anti-bullying and Harassment Policy.
The advice for students is given in Section 7 of the code and also given on the Look Up site: www.port.ac.uk/lookup/generalinformation/bullyingadvice/
You should be approachable and sensitive in cases of alleged harassment and should never minimise the significance of any student's perception of what does and does not cause them offence. After listening to your tutee's concerns you should advise them to initially seek the advice of a Harassment Advisor and/or the Student Support Officer at the Students Union.
Legal advice for students
If you think that one of your students could benefit from legal advice, then this is available at the Nuffield Centre on Tuesdays during term-time. Any student can make an appointment for a free 'one-off' 15-minute consultation with a solicitor from Saulet Ashworth. Appointments can be made by emailing email@example.com, phoning 023 9284 3157, or coming into the Nuffield Centre; appointments are offered on a 'first come, first served' basis.
Studying at university can be a life-changing experience. For many, this is their first experience of living independently and managing their time, finances and relationships. When students talk to you about their problems, you might be able to help them see how they can solve them. At other times, their problems will be specialised and/or complex and you will want to refer them. Often the best point of referral is clear, but sometimes it is not. If students' problems relate to finances, housing or disability then the referral is relatively straightforward. However, if the problem is less clear or complex, then the following gives some details of sources of help and advice within the University and also provides some details of external agencies. Do not worry if you are not sure exactly where your students should seek assistance; all of the following services work closely together and will make sure that the students find the most appropriate help they need. If you need advice before referring a student then both the Counselling Service and Chaplaincy will be able to advise you.
Students generally do well on their courses, but a proportion will suffer setbacks. Some of these will be personal in nature, but will nevertheless affect their academic performance. Students may sometimes be terribly lonely, despite the people around them; they may have family issues - parents divorcing, bereavements, illnesses. They may arrive quite low in confidence as a result of pre-existing difficulties, and go through periods of deep depression or high anxiety. However, students are also generally resilient and motivated, and a little help goes a long way. Talking, listening and, where appropriate, referring on is time well spent with a distressed or anxious student.
Often students will use professional services as a result of someone else recommending them - friends, family, tutors. A caring conversation with a concerned other can in itself be enough to make a difference. Through responding to the student as an individual and being willing to consider their well-being as a whole, tutors can play a great part in helping them to manage their difficulties and successfully complete their time at University.
Check out the following:
The University chaplains offer all students, regardless of their values or beliefs, an opportunity to consider the challenges of their academic programme in the context of the rest of their life experiences. Chaplains are available to consult personally and in confidence about whatever a student wants to explore and will bring particular pastoral skills that can help with establishing values, meaning and purpose for living. Life can be full of surprises that often challenge our ability to cope alone. These emergencies may include sudden changes in circumstance, a loss of some kind or decisions to be faced and can be worked through with support from a chaplain - sometimes combined with other support services.
Contact the Chaplaincy by email or find out more on the Chaplaincy website.
Hall Community Support Officers
The Hall Community Support Officers are not only there to support students in Halls of Residences or to deal with accommodation-related topics. Although the focus of the team of professionally trained Hall Community Support Officers is to help students through their first year at University, they can also act as general advisors about a range of matters. Their details will be displayed in the Halls of Residences and they are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for every week of the academic year. They provide both evening drop-in sessions and appointment-only sessions.
In addition, Resident Assistants - students who have been through the first year process - have been trained to assist with all manner of issues. Their details will be displayed in the Halls of Residences and they are available to provide both evening drop-in sessions and appointment-only sessions. They also provide an out of hours support service for emergencies.
University of Portsmouth Students' Union (UPSU)
The UPSU offers your tutees advice on a number of academic and pastoral matters. Sometimes, students will feel more comfortable seeking initial advice from their peers. The Academic Affairs, Welfare, and Volunteering Officers at UPSU are available to discuss a range of topics. The officers for 2010-11 are:
- President - Godfrey Atuahene Junior
- Vice President Education and Democracy - Enzo Rossi
- Vice President Welfare and Community - Perry Taylor
- Vice President Activities - Grant Clarke
- Vice President Sport - Cat Redding
The Students' Union also provides training for Course Reps, volunteers and committee members.Academic Advice Service.www.upsu.net/advice/academic The Union offers an Academic Advice Service for students which is free, confidential and impartial. The Academic Caseworker offers advice and representation for students on Extenuating Circumstances (ECF's), complaints, appeals, exclusions, disciplinary hearings and fitness to practise panels. The Academic Caseworker is also a trained Bullying and Harassment Advisor and is available to support students with these issues. The service is based in Gun House and operates an appointment based service. Lecturers can ask for advice or make the initial contact for a shy or distressed student by phoning 02392 845310, or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students may come to you for advice about a number of other aspects of their lives. The University has a number of professional services which can help with the following matters:
Find out more about:
The University has a clear policy regarding actions that should be taken if you suspect that a student is abusing drugs and/or bringing them onto the premises. The University policy can be found here.
The following extract of the policy relates specifically to lecturers and tutors:
- If a member of staff witnesses or has direct evidence of the usage or suspected usage of illegal drugs or suspicious substances by students in University buildings other than Halls of Residence or Students' Union facilities, they should call the Security Lodge (Ext. 3333). Security will then take over the handling of the incident. The same procedure should apply if a member of staff is informed of such incidents occurring.
- If staff believe, or are led to believe, that an individual student for whom they have tutorial or other responsibility is using illegal drugs but there is no direct evidence of this, they should ask the student, through an appropriately professional and sensitive means, to refer to agencies specialised in helping people in this area.
Student Finance Centre
For many students, money is a major worry. That is why staff from the Student Finance Centre are on hand to provide information, advice and individual support to students who need help managing their money.
Our experienced team can offer advice about student funding, for example the Maintenance Loan, Maintenance Grant and the University Bursary - as well as more complex issues such as benefits and debt.
As a University we are able to offer additional support and emergency funding to students who are in genuine financial difficulty, through the various hardship funds we administer.
For more information about the Student Finance Centre, the support available and contact details visit: www.port.ac.uk/lookup/supportservices/studentfinancecentre/ or contact the Student Finance Centre on 02392 843014
Other queries students may have:
Tuition fee payments
University Finance Department
Tel: 023 9284 5533
University of Portsmouth Bursary payment
Tel: 023 9284 3429/3451
General site: www.port.ac.uk/money
Site for current students www.port.ac.uk/lookup/supportservices/studentsfinancecentre/
Forced Marriage and 'Honour-Based' Violence
Both the Counselling Service and Chaplaincy are good sources of assistance for any student who is concerned about forced marriage and 'honour-based' violence. In addition, there is a national helpline for victims and those concerned about forced marriage and honour-based violence.
The Honour Network is a dedicated helpline that is run by the charity Karma Nirvana www.karmanirvana.org.uk which helps victims of honour crimes and forced marriages. The network can be contacted on 0800 599 9247 daily from 9am-9pm.
Students new to living in Portsmouth should register with a GP. If they have any health problems they should be directed to the appropriate service or the general Start Up pages related to health.
More advice available at:
Housing and Neighbours
Living in a new community with new people can be quite a challenge for students. The Student Housing service will help them at every step of the way from finding accommodation to dealing with safety, security, neighbours and disputes. In serious welfare cases involving students who live in the private sector, Student Housing can be contacted to arrange referrals to the Community Tutor or to the University and Police Liaison Officer as appropriate. The main website, Accommodation, and the Start UP website, www.port.ac.uk/lookup/supportservices/hallsofresidence, both provide valuable information.
Other useful websites include the following:
- Safety: Private Housing Safety
- Tips for harmonious living: Harmonious Living
- Being a good neighbour and dealing with neighbours: Being a good neighbour
- Crime prevention and security: www.port.ac.uk/lookup/supportservices/saferstudents/
The UoP Model
The University has adopted a model that contains elements of all three standard models of personal tutoring1 as outlined below.
The pastoral model:
A member of academic staff is assigned to each student to provide personal and academic support. The onus is generally on the student to initiate contact with their tutor and thus the support available may be unstructured and only available to those students who seek it out.
A professional support model:
Tutoring is centred on the provision of welfare and academic services provided by trained professionals. The professionals may be staff in a central service, or increasingly, in some universities, trained administrative staff. The system is based on student need and not aimed at integration into the curriculum.
An integrated curriculum model:
Students undertake timetabled academic study (generally credit rated) with their tutorial group. This model introduces students to their institution; tells them what is expected; helps them understand their own learning; conveys engagement, workload and standards expectations; facilitates peer support; and enables students to seek professional support when required.
At Portsmouth we have adopted a holistic, inclusive, proactive approach that enables the development of relationships between staff, students and peers.
All students have a Personal Tutor and take part in one-to-one and group tutorials; these sessions cover academic matters and activities designed to support students' transition, such as transition. Various aspects of the role are integrated into the curriculum, for example, study skills, careers, research management, project/dissertation supervision. These two aspects of the role are backed up with access to professional support services such as the ASK, ASDAC and the Counselling Service.
1Earwaker, J. (1992). Helping and supporting students. Buckingham: SRHE and OUP.
University Policy on Personal Tutoring
The University is committed to providing each student with a named Personal Tutor with whom they will meet (generally face-to-face, but alternative mechanisms will exist for distance learning programmes) regularly and formally during their time at University.
The University's commitment is articulated in two key documents:
Curriculum Framework Document
The policy for personal tutoring, as set out in the University's Curricula Framework Document, is outlined below.
Personal Tutors will take responsibility for overseeing and/or providing general academic and pastoral support for their personal tutees. They will also liaise, as appropriate, with course leaders (or equivalent) and student advice and support services.
Personal Tutors will maintain regular contact with their tutees and have regular (real or virtual) scheduled meetings (individual and/or group tutorials). Support and advice will be provided in the areas of affective learning and organisational support with reference to:
- Academic engagement
- Subject-specific matters
- Personal Development Planning (PDP)
- Option choices
- Feedback on academic performance at the end of each assessment point
- Extenuating circumstances
- Referral to specialist student services provided by the University and the Students' Union (ASK, ASDAC, Purple Door Recruitment etc.)
- Student complaints and disciplinary procedures.
Tutorials should be structured (especially at Level 1) and an outline of topics to be covered in each session available to the student prior to the session.
Tutorials will often be linked with units that focus on skills development.
Responsibility for the allocation of tutees to tutors rests with Heads of Departments in consultation with Course Leaders and/or Year Tutors. Heads will attempt to ensure that allocation of personal tutees is part of an equitable workload.
Personal Tutors and/or tutees may be changed at any time on request by tutor or tutee, subject to the approval of the member of staff responsible for allocation. Appropriate arrangements should be in place to ensure that personal tutorial support is still available in cases of prolonged staff absence. Students should always be able to contact their Tutor or another member of staff who can help them at a maximum of five working days' notice.
Students should be informed that if they have a sensitive problem, or if they face difficulties which they cannot discuss with their Personal Tutor, they can receive independent and impartial advice and support from the Students' Union. The Students' Union and the Sabbatical Student Support Officer can provide students with advice and guidance on a range of matters.
It is recognised that the particular arrangements for personal tutorial support will vary according to the aims, objectives and mode of delivery of the named award. In particular, alternative (but equivalent) procedures will be required for non-campus based students (e.g. online/distance learning). Therefore the precise details of tutorial support on any named award of the University will be included in the Course Handbook.
Personal Development Planning (PDP)
What is Personal Development Planning?
Personal Development Planning (PDP) enables all students to make the most of their time at the University by becoming effective, ambitious, confident and self-directed learners. Tutors and students work together on issues (academic and non-academic) which affect each student's performance, achievement, retention and progression.
PDP is an evidence-based process. It requires students to gather and evaluate evidence of their achievements and failures, to reflect on them, and to create and implement pragmatic plans to secure their academic, personal and career intentions.
PDP is an integral part of curriculum 2012, a core element of the University's new Education Strategy, and is included in official quality evaluations completed by students.
PDP is a tailored, structured and supportive process. It is personal. It should ensure that students manage their academic performance, personal growth and career preparation in a realistic and professional way. PDP promotes student engagement. Timely and rigorous tutorials can put wayward students back on track and raise the aspirations of others. High quality PDP has advantages for the University as it supports both value-added student achievement and progression into graduate level employment.
What do I have to do?
The University Framework for Personal Development Planning is set out in the Curriculum Framework Document.
Heads of academic departments are responsible for ensuring that all students have opportunities to engage in PDP, Personal Tutors are responsible for organising and overseeing their tutees' PDP activities.
How do I do it?
There is flexibility in how departments manage and deliver PDP, providing they work within the University Framework. CFD2012 Annex A outlines four approaches to PDP:
- A structured approach through the personal tutor system
- Course units using materials produced centrally or by departments
- Self-managed opportunities (e.g.ePortfolio)
- A combination of the above
Tutors are encouraged to take an active approach to PDP, leading the process where students are unwilling to engage.The "Purple Forms" used in previous years have been withdrawn. All students have access to an ePortfolio and e-PDP site in Moodle which support PDP. Students and staff can access both from the Useful Sites menu on the Moodle homepage. Best practice in PDP which foster student engagement in characterised by course teams:
- promoting PDP in unit descriptors, programme specifications, course handbooks and induction.
- resourcing PDP services with trained staff; senior tutors; CPD in pastoral services; high quality PDP resources.
- meeting PDP service standards through structured pastoral curriculum; formal PDP induction; aspiration-raising, proactive tutors with a focus on each student's individual needs; regular contact with tutees; staff with refined advice, guidance, feedback and planning skills.
- recognising achievement using on-line tools (e.g. ePortfolio) to plan and record students' personal development.
- quality assuring PDP by planning, managing, evaluating and benchmarking PDP service standards; expanding impact and reach standards.