Personal tutoring

What is personal tutoring for?

Personal tutors help you with your academic and personal development whilst you are at university. That might not sound important, but it’s crucial support during your studies. Your personal tutor will know you and how you learn; and will help you get the most out of your studies. Personal tutors help in many ways:

  • they are someone you can talk things through with when you’re feeling lost or behind;
  • they can give advice on how to juggle your studies with health (or other) problems;
  • they can help you access extra-curricular activities;
  • they can help you find the right student service and help you liaise with them.

Every student at Bristol is different: you might have different circumstances, different learning styles or different strengths and weaknesses to those around you. Whilst a degree course can’t cater for every student's taste, the support you receive from your personal tutor should be just that: personal, set up to help you.

You are likely to meet your Personal Tutor during Welcome Week. We recommend that ahead of this meeting you note down any particular things that you’d like to discuss in a Personal Development Plan (PDP) portfolio. What are you looking forward to? Are there any things that you are unsure about? What skills would you like to develop during your time here?

Your department/school may ask you to complete pre-set development work during personal tutor sessions. This is intended for your benefit, it is up to you whether you complete it. The terms of your relationship should be an agreement between you and your tutor, and you should feel free to talk to your tutor about the kind of help that you need.

How does it work?

There are three different elements to academic support across the University. These might be combined differently in some departments/schools, but each of these roles should be there in some form. If you’re on a professional course, eg medicine, these roles might have different titles but the support described should still be available to you.

Academic personal tutor

Your academic personal tutor is your main contact within the department/school throughout your studies, and can offer advice on both academic and personal matters. This person should know you reasonably well, keep an eye on how you’re doing, meet you regularly, and be there if you need to arrange an individual appointment. They should also be your first source of advice for things like:

  • feedback received on work
  • study skills
  • option choices
  • information about your course
  • references
  • anything else you feel relevant.

Usually, you’ll have the same academic personal tutor throughout your time at Bristol, unless this is not possible, or you request otherwise.

Your personal tutor will arrange contact with you. This might be by way of small groups or one-to-one meetings (or a mixture of the two), depending on your course of study. As a minimum you should expect:

  • at least six meetings during your first year
  • at least four meetings in every other year
  • at least one meeting a year on a purely one-to-one basis.

You should feel free to contact your personal tutor at any time outside of the scheduled contact times.

Senior tutor

The senior tutor is an academic in your department/school who provides additional support if you need it. Your personal tutor may ask you to see the senior tutor if you have issues that are likely to significantly affect progress with your studies without targeted support, help, and guidance. The senior tutor takes the lead on personal tutoring in their department/school, supports personal tutors and will be knowledgeable about alternative sources of support.

As the person overseeing personal tutoring in your department/school, you may wish to see the senior tutor if you have an issue with the provision of academic support or feel that you need to change your personal tutor for any reason.

Administrative support

Not all students feel comfortable discussing things that might have an impact on their studies with academic staff who are teaching them or assessing their work. If you feel you can’t approach a member of the academic staff, a member of your department/school’s administrative team will be designated as an alternative, confidential source of advice. Please remember that all members of University staff are committed to supporting you and helping ensure your studies are successful.

I don’t get on with my personal tutor –what should I do?

A small number of students will genuinely find they cannot get on with their personal tutor, or that their personal tutor cannot provide the support they need academically. If this is the case, approach the senior tutor in your department/school, who will deal with the situation sensitively whilst ensuring you receive the support you need.

There’s an issue I don’t want to discuss with my personal tutor – where can I go?

There is support for students in lots of different places.

If you’re uncomfortable speaking to your personal tutor, the senior tutor should be happy to discuss your concerns.

If it’s something you’d rather not discuss with an academic, there will be a designated member of administrative staff who you can talk to.

If you need advice and are uncomfortable talking with anyone in your department/school the Students’ Union operates a confidential and independent advice centre, Just Ask.

I’m not sure sessions with my personal tutor are helpful, what can I do?

Academic support is designed to help you. You should never feel unable to seek advice and support from your personal tutor if, for example, you haven’t completed a task set at a previous meeting.

If you feel the support you are getting isn’t helpful, discuss this respectfully but openly with your personal tutor. Alternatively, you can talk to your senior tutor.

If you’re uncomfortable raising an issue about what your school provides for you, your student representative can raise issues confidentially on your behalf at Staff Student Liaison Committee meetings, which are meetings between staff and course reps, usually held at least once a term.

Academic support and personal tutoring is about making sure you have someone you can rely on in the University to support you. Please take advantage of, and engage with, these support opportunities. Don’t suffer in silence or hope a problem will work itself out – most of the time it doesn’t.

Students' Union

If you feel you need to go beyond your department/school entirely, the Students’ Union's Just Ask service offers free, independent, confidential advice from a team of professional, full-time advisers.

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