Code of Practice: Personal Tutor Scheme

Introduction

1. This code of practice sets out the procedures for providing support and guidance to all taught students (undergraduate and postgraduate) via the personal tutoring system. The code of practice builds on the existing good practice provided by the adviser of studies structure and enhances this by the addition of a new personal tutoring system to provide additional support for students.Students who are studying part-time, off-campus or online will be allocated a personal tutor but it is expected that the contact between the tutor and student will be appropriate to the context of their study.

Purpose

2. The personal tutoring system has a vital role to play in enhancing a students’ academic and personal development and is essential in ensuring students make the most of their time at university. Personal tutors provide a personalised point of contact for students within the academic community. Broadly speaking the purpose of the role is:

  • To be the first point of contact for students seeking advice.
  • To undertake a pastoral role and to advise students of the relevant support services available to them.
  • To support students in maximising their student experience.

Role of Personal Tutor

3. The role of a personal tutor is to help students feel part of the University community. They are a specific and consistent source of guidance, information and support for students throughout their studies. The tutor should be the student’s first formal point of contact for general academic guidance and pastoral support. Personal tutors should be able to:

  • Help the student settle into the University.
  • Where possible, answer queries or direct the student to the most appropriate source of advice.
  • Address any concerns or problems that may affect the student’s studies.
  • Help the student to make the most of the opportunities available at the University and support their personal development and employability.
  • Work with the student to find appropriate pathways to resolve difficulties.
  • Direct the student to other sources of academic guidance (eg. adviser of studies).
  • Provide advice on the availability of sources of personal or welfare support such as help with studying, employability, financial matters and counselling.
  • Follow up students who are not making satisfactory progress.
  • Respond as promptly as possible to a request for contact, and in no more than three working days
  • Provide a safety net for students who may be experiencing physical, mental or emotional issues by acting as a point of referral to avert a crisis.
  • Keep up to date with the University’s policies and procedures relating to the provision of academic and personal support.
  • For students on professional programmes provide advice on professional registration and professional codes of practice.

A personal tutor will not be expected to:

  • Give specific guidance on any modules students are studying out with their subject area.
  • Approve module or programme changes (students should contact the appropriate adviser of studies).
  • Provide counselling but will ensure that students are signposted to the relevant professional services.
  • Provide immigration or financial advice but will ensure that students are directed to the appropriate contacts.
  • To answer every question that a student may have but should know where to go or who to contact to get the answer.

Personal Tutor Responsibilities

4. Whilst personal tutors can be approached about any issues a student has relating to their time at University, the tutor may not be able to provide specific guidance on academic studies or the choices that have to be made. In these circumstances a personal tutor may refer matters relating to a student’s academic programme or module choices to an adviser of studies in the first instance.

5. Personal tutors should be able to give assistance to students with general areas where they need to improve but specific feedback on assessments should be obtained from module co-ordinators.

6. It is expected that tutors should meet with their allocated students at least twice a year for around 30 minutes. The first meeting with new students should be within two weeks of their programme commencement. Continuing students should be met within six weeks of the start of their programme. These meetings will normally take place in the tutor’s office.


Suggested topics of discussion include:

At the first meeting

  • Make sure the student knows how to contact you and agree the process you want to follow for setting up subsequent meetings.
  • Do mutual introductions to get to know each other and help the student relax.
  • Make sure the student is aware of their responsibilities and what support they can expect from you as their tutor.
  • Encourage the student to maximise the opportunities available to them as part of the wider student experience and direct them to the employability student guide.

At subsequent meetings

  • Ask the students if they are enjoying their time at the University.
  • Ask the student if they have any issues they would like to raise.
  • If they are experiencing any academic or personal problems that are affecting their academic work, chat about these issues and, where necessary, point them in the right direction for additional support.
  • Discuss learning strategies and where they can get help to improve these.
  • Ask students to reflect on their personal and academic development to date.
  • Review how the student is getting on with their studies and perhaps reflect on work that has been completed, and on any feedback received.
  • Discuss career aspirations and what they can do to improve their employability, and encourage them to seek advice from the Careers Service.

7. It is the responsibility of the tutor to establish contact with the student and to arrange meetings. Tutors should encourage students to attend meetings and make reasonable efforts to contact their students. However, ultimately it is the student’s responsibility to attend meetings and they cannot be forced to attend. If the tutor suspects there may be a reason for non-attendance this should be reported to the School Manager in the first instance.

Personal tutors should familiarise themselves with the support and services that are available elsewhere within the University so students who require support can be directed to the relevant areas. Academic queries should be directed to a member of the advisory team in the first instance. Personal tutors may want to follow up with a student if they have referred them to a service or colleague. This could be done by asking the student to come back and see the tutor to let them know how they are getting along or by asking the student to email the tutor.

8. Tutors are encouraged to take a note of attendance at meetings and, although not obligatory, they may wish to make a record of the meeting.

9. Where a personal tutor does not have the relevant knowledge or expertise to advise a student on their programme of study they should refer their tutee to the School’s Advisory Team.

10. Students should be made aware that it is for them to decide whether or not to seek guidance on personal problems from their personal tutor. Students have the option to self-refer themselves to Student Support Services and the Students’ Union.

Role of Students

11. The aim of the personal tutor system is to engage students with a member of academic staff who will be available to provide support and guidance throughout their studies. Students are actively encouraged to view their personal tutor as someone who can advise and support them across a wide range of issues and not someone whom they should only see when they have a problem.

In order to gain the maximum benefit from this contact the student should:

  • Attend all scheduled meetings or request an alternative time when not possible.
  • Participate actively in scheduled meetings with the personal tutor.
  • Check their University email account regularly and respond promptly for requests for information.
  • Make sure that their personal details are up to date on the portal.
  • Inform their personal tutor of any circumstances that may be affecting their academic performance so that effective support can be offered.
  • Make themselves aware of the regulations and procedures relevant to their studies, and seek advice where they are unsure of what is required.
  • Reflect on their academic performance.
  • Reflect on how their learning opportunities will contribute towards their longer-term goals.
  • Take due account of advice or information given.

How the System Works

12. All taught students will be allocated a personal tutor who will be a member of academic staff within the subject area of their intended degree when they enrol. Students will normally retain the same personal tutor throughout their studies whilst enrolled on that programme. However, when a personal tutor is absent from the University for a significant period, the students will be allocated to an alternative tutor.

13. The allocation of personal tutors will be carried out by schools and it is the responsibility of the schools to ensure that all taught students are allocated to a tutor. There will be central support provided to assist the allocation process such as providing schools with details of the students for whom they are responsible for.

14. Where students are on combined degree programmes which span more than one school there will be an owning school.

15. In the first instance each personal tutor will be allocated up to 40 students and each subsequent year this cohort will be refreshed by up to ten new incoming students as existing students leave. The maximum number of allocated students per tutor will be 40 and school work allocation processes must ensure the time is ear-marked for personal tutor meetings.

16. In the unlikely event that the relationship between the personal tutor and student breaks down irrevocably the School Manager should be contacted to request that the school reallocate the student to an alternative tutor.

It will be possible for a student to change their personal tutor in certain circumstances through discussion with the school. For example, if the student prefers a same-sex tutor this can be arranged through the school.

Training

17. Training will be available annually for personal tutors. This training will be provided by Human Resource & Organisational Development.

Confidentiality

18. Conversations with students should normally be confidential. Problems raised should not be discussed with anyone else without their permission. Normally any issues should be discussed first with the student and with their agreement these should be brought to the attention of other relevant colleagues.

19. However, there are occasions when it would be inappropriate to maintain confidentiality, such as the disclosure of illegal activity or activity that may lead to harm for the student or others. In these circumstances it would be appropriate for an adviser to discuss their concerns with other colleagues.

20. In order to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998 care should be taken with the storage and handling of student records. All users of personal information within the University have a responsibility to ensure that they process data in accordance with Data Protection Guidelines (see web-link below).

21. Personal tutors must not hold sensitive personal data (i.e. where it relates to physical or mental health, sexual life, criminal offences or alleged criminal offences, ethnic or racial origin, political opinions, religious beliefs or trade union membership). Such data is subject to further constraints on processing and requires a greater level of security in its storage, handling and disposal.

22. In accordance with the University’s retention guidelines personal tutors must confidentially destroy records held on students five years after the last contact with the student.

23. Further information about Data Protection is available at

http://www.rec-man.stir.ac.uk/data-protection/info-staff.php or by emailing

data.protection@stir.ac.uk

24. Any day to day queries regarding the operation of this code of practice should be addressed in the first instance to sacsadmin@stir.ac.uk.

Review and Enhancement

The code of practice will be reviewed on an annual basis to ensure it takes consideration of sector best practice and any change to external requirements.

Staff Support and Development

A programme of support and staff development will be established to ensure staff identified as personal tutors are given adequate guidance and development as required.

Registry & Governance Services

July 2014

© University of Stirling FK9 4LA Scotland UK • Telephone +44 1786 473171 • Scottish Charity No SC011159
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