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Guidance for Personal Tutors

A quick guide providing key advice for academic staff who are personal tutors.

Role of a personal tutor

As a personal tutor your role is to act as a personalised point of contact, supporting the academic and personal development of your students as outlined in QA33. The aim is to build a relationship with tutees that can provide guidance regarding academic progression, pastoral care, signposting to support services, and references. Sometimes life can impact on our students’ capacity to study, pastoral care means providing information, guidance and support, not counselling.

Please view the Professional Boundaries Working Group's Statement of Expectations for Personal Tutoring which sets out expectations and responsibilities for the Tutor and the Tutee to create a professional, safe and effective personal tutoring relationship.

The Senior Tutor in each Department provides support to personal tutors including guidance on scheduling and operation of tutorial sessions and evaluation of the departmental personal tutorial system. If you are a new personal tutor, contact your Senior Tutor to ensure you have received appropriate information and training for the role. There is a training checklist available online.

Meeting with students

As outlined in QA33, Personal Tutors are required to:

  • arrange to meet with their tutees at least three times during the student’s first semester on a programme, and
  • offer at least one tutorial per semester at other times (for the remainder of their tutees time studying at Bath)

This is a minimum requirement and applies to all undergraduate and postgraduate taught students. Personal Tutors may increase the number of meetings as appropriate to reflect contextual aspects such as a tutee’s return from placement/study year abroad or break in studies.

Although for on-campus students face-to-face meetings are preferable, other means of communication such as email, telephone or Teams video calls can be utilised if the student is absent (e.g. on placement). While meetings may be held in small group format, Personal Tutors will be required to explicitly offer all tutees the opportunity to meet individually at least once a semester.

Five steps for tutorial meetings

When you meet with a student, remember these five steps:

1. Recognise

Be alert to any worries that students may have and invite them to discuss any issues with you. Notice changes in performance, behaviour or appearance but be careful not to make assumptions – there can be many reasons for such changes. Take seriously any concerns raised by other students, colleagues or parents, bearing in mind confidentiality requirements. Refer to the Signs and indicators that a student might be struggling guidance.

If in doubt about whether concern is warranted, please contact the Student Support Advice Line on 4321 for guidance.

2. Respond

Raise any concerns with the student directly (in a confidential space). Students in difficulty often find it hard to ask for help so they will usually welcome your enquiry. When talking with a student, listen to what they tell you and reflect back what you understand. Acknowledge the feelings behind what they have told you but be clear about the boundaries of your role. Take your time in considering how best to address the student’s needs and refer to the Information for Staff resources for guidance. Often a student will have a range of concerns and it can be useful to help them to prioritise one action to start with.

Consider whether a student’s health, wellbeing or behaviour is impacting on their ability to engage with university life as a whole or their ability to progress academically; if you think this might be a factor, refer to the Health, Wellbeing & Support for Study policy and procedure and you may consider instigating a Stage 1 Support for Study meeting. Contact the Staff Advice line via 4321 or email for further confidential advice. If the student is distressed or behaving strangely refer to the Distressed Student fact sheet for guidance.

3. Signpost

Check whether the student is already seeing Student Support or a GP and if they are, encourage them to make contact. If not, it is useful to refer the student to the Student Support Advice Team. Student Support Advice are available every day of the year, and no appointment is needed. Sometimes the student will need your support to visit Student Support, or they may wish to get in touch online, they can fill out a form, or students can email Students can also call 01225 383838 and speak with a Student Support Advisor. Follow up with them later to check that their needs have been met.

If the student refuses to seek help despite your encouragement we are not able to force them, but if you think there is a risk to the student or to others you must contact Student Support (x4321) for advice (out of office hours ring Security on 01225 383 999).

4. Reflect

It is useful to reflect on how we might improve our capacity to provide pastoral care and improve the student experience. Here are some helpful hints for creating an approachable environment where students feel safe to seek support:

  • Help students to feel that they ‘belong’ and will be supported - talk openly about wellbeing and mental health, and ask routinely how students are getting on with their studies and beyond
  • Include visual signposting for support services within your department spaces
  • Check for and read Disability Access Plans on SAMIS
  • Encourage students to seek help early
  • Be accessible to students but manage the boundaries of your role
  • Include support information in your email signature or out-of-office, so that students have details for support even at times when you’re away from work
  • Remember that often, all you need to do is listen
  • Attend Student Support Staff Training

5. Record

Record brief notes on your meetings with students using SAMIS Student Notes. This will:

  • ensure coordination of pastoral care
  • reduce risks to the student and the institution
  • provide a record of our services to students to use in investigating complaints etc.
  • help you remember key issues when you next see them

It is good practice and less work to document the meeting in the form of an email to the student which can be sent via the Student Notes system and therefore saves automatically. This approach is very transparent to the student and reinforces any actions that you have agreed, avoiding any misunderstandings later.



Be clear about the extent of support and level of confidentiality you can offer tutees. If you think there is a risk to the student or to others you must contact Student Support for advice. It is good practice to outline this in the first meeting with your tutees, including the fact you will take some brief notes and record these in the SAMIS Student Notes system for your records. These notes will only be accessed by other key staff on a need-to-know basis, normally to offer the student further advice or guidance in your absence. When you think information needs to be shared, it is good practice to be open and include the student: usually, if a student is aware of what information you’re sharing, and with who specifically, they are accepting of this.

3rd parties:

It is not uncommon for personal tutors to be contacted by 3rd parties (i.e., parents or friends) who are worried about a student. While it is useful to listen to and acknowledge their concerns, personal information must not be disclosed to third parties without the consent of the student. See Guidance on Student Confidentiality.


If a student informs you that they do not wish to attend a meeting, record this on their notes and suggest they contact you in the future if their needs change. If a student fails to respond to several requests to meet over a 2-week period or longer, discuss with your Director of Studies, especially if you have any concerns. It might be that the student is already in contact with the Director of Studies or Unit Conveners and receiving adequate advice/guidance. However, if this is not the case, you or the Director of Studies may need to investigate further and telephone the student. Further guidance is available:

Again, make sure you document attempts to contact the student on SAMIS Student Notes.


Personal Tutors should communicate to students that if they fail to attend meetings, they may not know them well enough to provide any more than a confirmation of their student status and duration of studies.

If a student refuses help

Sometimes you may be aware of a student’s concerns but the student refuses to discuss them or refuses to accept any help to resolve them. Check whether the student is already seeing Student Support or a GP. If so, encourage the student to get in touch with them. The student may prefer to seek independent advice or support from the Students’ Union. If you have any concerns about a student and how you should support them, contact the Student Support Advice Line via 4321 or for a confidential discussion.

If the student refuses to seek help despite your encouragement we are not able to force them to seek help unless it is an emergency. If you need urgent or emergency support please call the emergency services on 999 and notify University Security via 01225 383 999. Again, document this on SAMIS Student Notes.

Further advice

Student Support have further advice and guidance for staff available on our web pages:

Contact us

If you have any questions about how you should support a student, or you need further guidance, please get in touch.

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