Staff Handbook: 3.5 Student Support and Guidance


1. Preamble

In order to reflect the University's concerns for student support, in a framework promoting transfer of responsibility to students for management of their own life and study, and in the context of increasing student numbers, the School has implemented a system to support its students which is both responsive and flexible, and which seeks to identify students in special need of support and then to provide that support.

The description in this section of the Staff Handbook is addressed to academic staff who are called on to act as Academic Advisors. The School's formal policy is set out in a separate document (Student Support Policy), which is definitive should there be any discrepancies between the two documents.

The Staff/Student Consultative Committee is an important component of this system. It has student representatives from each degree programme or group of degree programmes. This ensures that specific problems can be addressed and resolved as they arise.

2. Undergraduates

  1. The School of Computer Science distinguishes between Personal Academic Advisors, Progress Advisors, and Welfare Tutors. The roles are defined more precisely below but at this point they can be summarised as follows: Personal Academic Advisors help with settling in and are the first points of contact for all matters of academic development and guidance; Progress Advisors return year marks and advise students on their options for re-assessment; Welfare Tutors deal with pastoral matters (such as illness and personal distress) that may impact negatively on a student's academic performance.
  2. Students will have an advisor assigned to them. They will be able to change their advisor -- this will be managed by the Head of Student Development & Support. In the final year, students are expected to make weekly contact with their final year project supervisor, though a student still has access to the advisor he or she ewas originally assigned to.
  3. Undergraduate students will be allocated to advisors as equitably as feasible.
  4. Advisors will display on their office door hours when they are available to see their allocated students, as well as any other student on module/supervisory matters.
  5. Students will be able to arrange an appointment to see their advisor, and may be required to do so.
  6. New students will have an induction week (in Week 0). Returning Students will have an induction session which normally occurs on the first Wednesday of term (i.e. Week 1)
  7. Students will have access to the online student handbook which will be maintained for both staff and students by the Head of Student Development in consultation with others. The Student Handbook contains many details of services and facilities on campus and elsewhere. These include, for example, the provision of careers advice which is not provided specifically within the School.
  8. Academic advisors will have one group meeting at the start of the autumn term with all their First Year advisees. They will then have one one-to-one meeting with each First Year advisee after the mid-point of term. There will be another group meeting at the start of the spring term. The one-to-one meeting in the spring term will be Transitional Review meeting which is a formal requirement of the University and requires that the Academic Advisor discusses and gives feedback about a substantial piece of work to the advisee.
  9. Academic advisors will have a one-to-one meeting with each Second Year advisee in the autumn term and another one-to-one meeting in the spring term.
  10. Support overlaps to some extent with 3.4 Monitoring Student Progression and Achievement. After examination boards, students will have meetings with a Progress Advisor (usually different from the Academic Advisor) to receive details and discuss options/difficulties.

3. MSc students

The procedure to be followed is a time-compressed version of the scheme for undergraduates.

Additionally, as acknowledged in the document just referred to, Advisors can ask their Advisees to see them. This is expected to happen during the first few weeks of the autumn term, to suit the needs of students, but certainly to effect an introduction to the advisory scheme.

It is expected that because of the very varied backgrounds and experience of MSc students they will need and expect different things of their Advisors than undergraduates. Advisors should, therefore, adjust their response to suit their Advisees.

4. The role of Academic Advisors

Some University guidance on the role of Personal Tutors is contained in the Code of Practice for Personal Tutoring and Academic Feedback.

If you are an Academic Advisor, what does this entail?

  • You should see your First and Second Year advisees at least twice a term as outlined above. See also the next section.
  • The role of the Academic Advisor should NOT involve a counselling or welfare role. In particular, even though you may be very helpful, sympathetic, etc., the problems are that staff can give inconsistent and sometimes wrong advice (and they should sometimes not give advice at all since it can have legal ramifications) and the Welfare Team don't get to hear about it. The role of the advisor is to give academic advice on difficulties with the university, with study, with other lecturers, etc.
  • You MUST keep a record of attendance a the timetabled Advisorial Sessions and return this to the School Office.
  • You MUST also keep a record of each and every visit outside the timetabled hour. If any student does have a problem then you should get them to fill in the form in the Student Handbook -- there is also a section for the advisor to fill in. The records must find their way to the School Office, who will pass on information to the Welfare Team. Don't leave the information in your office -- it's no use there.

The student support scheme in the School is designed to encourage self-reliance. Students must be probed if they seem clueless about what modules they are registered for, what exams they are scheduled to take, etc. They must not be allowed to drift along in a cloud of intellectual vagueness or assume we will tell them everything.

5. Availability to Students

It is School policy that you put a notice on your door with details of your availability, and that this should include both the scheduled meetings with First and Second Year advisees and at least one 'office hour' when you are available in your office to see any student. If you offer only one office hour, it is good practice to start at half past the hour so that it spans two lecture slots, thus increasing compatibility with students' timetables. Additional arrangements should be made for project supervisees; either extra timetabled slots or individual appointments.

The information on your door should be repeated in a file called timetable.html in your public_html directory; it will then automatically be linked into the School web site.

Your office hour should as far as possible be chosen to provide a reasonable opportunity for students to be able to come. If you have to cancel or change your office hour, you should ensure that this is made clear via the notice on your door and your online timetable.

Advisorials and office hours should normally be re-scheduled rather than cancelled.

6. Summary

The duties of Academic Advisors are:

  1. To give academic advice to students (including such issues such as study techniques, progression, spending a year in industry, and other special circumstances).
  2. To ensure that pastoral matters are always referred on to the Welfare Team
  3. To be available for at least one office hour a week at time(s) displayed on their office doors (and normally repeated in an on-line timetable) and to hold timetabled advisorials sessions as outlined above.
  4. To keep brief records of all meetings for the purpose of substantiating claims in mitigation, and/or for other personal matters (e.g. as the basis for writing references for jobs). Form(s) to aid in this process are distributed to Advisors.
  5. If required, to participate in feedback and progression meetings with their students after examination results are available.

The duties of the Welfare Team are:

  1. To provide publicized access hours -- one hour per day -- for students to seek help on a 'drop-in' basis.
  2. To provide an opportunity for the discussion of a pastoral problem, and to ensure that a student knows where they should go for professional help.
  3. To provide immediate/emergency pastoral help if the student requests it, even whilst warning the student of lack of professional training.
  4. To advise students on appropriate procedures where pastoral concerns impinge on academic study (for example, role of medical information in connection with examination mitigations deliberations).

The Senior Tutor has primary responsibility for disciplinary matters:

  1. Disciplinary matters can arise as a consequence of a pastoral matter or elsewhere. All but very trivial cases should be referred to the Senior Tutor or another member of the Student Development & Support Team; serious cases should always be referred to the Senior Tutor.
  2. The Senior Tutor is responsible for interacting with the student(s) specifically involved in a disciplinary matter, and/or with the student community generally.