At the SU we are here to represent your academic interests and improve your education. A key part of this relies on you, as students, being aware of your rights and what you should expect from your academic experience.
In this blog I am going to clue you up on personal tutors, what their expectations are of you, and what your expectations are of them.
So first up, what even is a personal tutor? A personal tutor is a designated friendly face and line of support within your department. They are there to help you settle into academic life, check up on how you’re doing, and to signpost you to other University services if and when needed (such as the Disability and Dyslexia Services and Wellbeing). Joint honours students will have a main personal tutor and a second personal tutor or designated contact in their joint subject.
Your personal tutor is there to support you throughout your university journey, acting as a point of contact for any issues or concerns you may have. They should have knowledge about student support services and be able to signpost you to the correct service if required. Your personal tutor should also be able to provide academic support, such as digesting feedback, help with referencing academic pieces of work, or guidance with considerations for module choices in future years of study.
You should meet with your personal tutor in the first two weeks of term and continue having individual (and often group) meetings over the course of the year. In total, undergraduates should have at least five meetings in first year, three in second year, and three in third year. Postgraduate taught students should have at least two meetings per year. You may have more meetings if required, and you are not restricted to only speaking to your personal tutor at these designated times; you can reach out to them at any point across the year. If you are having trouble contacting your personal tutor, then raise this with your academic rep, myself as VP Education, or another member of staff in your department.
Your personal tutor can act as a point of contact to discuss ideas you have for your career after university. Especially if you are unsure, a chat with your personal tutor may help to open up these possibilities. Personal tutors are also able to provide job references if you require them.
Personal tutors should be contactable via email and available at designated set times (often called office hours) for you to reach out to them. Again, if you are unable to contact them, then please do speak to your academic rep, myself as VP Education, or someone else within your department.
You should make an effort to engage with your personal tutor, attending all meetings and letting them know if you can’t make it in order to rearrange. The personal tutor system can be really beneficial to you and make starting university (and your subsequent university experience) more manageable and less daunting. Engaging with your personal tutor early on provides a friendly face in your department and gives you a point of contact for any issues or concerns. Let them know if you are having problems, even if they are personal, as soon as possible; they should respect your privacy and help you get guidance and support.
Your personal tutor may expect you to come to a meeting having prepared some thoughts or a piece of academic work. It will make the meeting more beneficial for both you and your personal tutor if you fully engage with any preparation they ask for. The personal tutor system is here to benefit you and can be a wonderful line of support throughout your degree but works along the ‘you get out what you put in’ motto.
Every student has the right to request to change their personal tutor, if necessary, on substantive grounds. The departmental senior tutor (you should have been informed of who this is in your department) is in charge of all personal tutors in your department and deals with requests to change personal tutors.
Also don't forget that every student has access to the Advice Centre at the SU, an independent and confidential service offering impartial advice. You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively you can book an appointment via the Union Helpdesk either in person or by calling 01784 276700.
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