The mysterious case of the personal tutor

Have you felt the benefit of the role? These students say no…

As stated in the University of Nottingham’s ‘Quality Manual’ for Student Support and Development, “Personal tutors should have scheduled meetings with their personal tutees at the start of each academic year and at least three times in each academic year in total” – my personal tutor has therefore instantly failed in his role. 


Unfortunately, my experience of University personal tutors has not been a positive one.  In first year I had high hopes. My personal tutor was also new to the University and during our first tutor group meeting he seemed friendly, approachable and willing to help. However, since that first meeting two and a half years ago, I have seen him a grand total of three times – he wasn’t even available to give us our results at the end of second year.

My understanding of what a personal tutor’s role entails regarding their tutees is that they are to be available for help and support when required for either academic or personal issues. I can honestly say that I have not received any assistance or support from my personal tutor. In fact, I would go as far as to say that he has been decidedly unhelpful.

For example, at the beginning of this year I required an academic reference for an application I was completing. After emailing my tutor to confirm it was ok to put him down as a referee, I then had to wait nearly three weeks (with several reminders from me) for the reference to be completed.

After ten days of no response it came to light that he was not actually in Nottingham and was in fact away doing research – something that in my opinion would have been common courtesy to let his tutees know. Again, referring back to the University’s own guidance, apparently our tutors should provide “reasonable provision…to enable undergraduates to contact their personal tutor as they may require” – I don’t believe that having to wait three weeks for an adequate response is ‘reasonable’ enough.

Speaking to several other students to gauge their views on this topic, it would seem that the majority have very little to say on the benefits of having a personal tutor. It would appear that even when personal tutors are following the guidelines, students feel this is merely to ‘tick the boxes’.

PhD student Tom Wicks believed that his undergraduate personal tutor did the “bare minimum” and would consequently not consider him to be his “primary resource for support” within his school.

Meanwhile Politics student Beatrice Currie believes her tutor is “more concerned with her PhD than her tutor group”. In fact, Beatrice’s tutor left the University last year and she still has not been appointed a new one!

Worrying still is that a staggering number of students believe that their tutors do not actually know who they are! It would be wrong to say that this is the case for all tutors. This is a generalization, and one which depends on subject, personality and attitude.

Unfortunately though, it has been much easier to gain negative rather than positive feedback. What do you think?


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