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Professional Boundaries Working Group (PBWG)

PBWG was formed in late 2018 to explore issues in relation to staff-student boundaries and their importance in a changing environment and create peer guidance

Formation, Approach and Aims of the PBWG

The Professional Boundaries Working Group (PBWG) was established from a request for members by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Learning & Teaching) from which a diverse group of academic staff was selected who were from a range of different levels of post from all across the University.

Its aims were to:

  • Explore and understand issues as academics in relation to staff-student boundaries and their importance in a changing environment

  • Create guidelines and guidance for academic staff to use help them develop and maintain appropriate professional boundaries between staff and students

  • Ensure that guidance is practical and directly shaped by lived experience rather than a more abstract policy development

  • Consider other interventions that might improve how we manage these boundaries

The group was sponsored by Professor Peter Lambert, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Learning & Teaching) and in its meetings was facilitated by Peter Eley, Deputy Director (HR Services) and Georgina Brown, Head of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion and supported by Jenny Medland, Project Manager (Learning, Teaching & Student Experience).

The group met between September 2018 and March 2020 and considered a range of key topics related to staff / student boundaries. In each meeting of the Working Group expert witnesses were called to present on recent and changing practice in a particular area and to be questioned by the group.

From this evidence, and its questioning, consideration and discussion by the group, a number of peer-to-peer guidance documents and tools were created and a range of feedback and proposals on ways of improving University practice were provided. Examples of University policies where this feedback and proposals for improvement were provided included the Dignity & Respect Policy, Dignity & Respect Procedure and Social Media Policy.

In addition individual group members have supported important informal interventions to change the practice of academic staff around in situations identified from informal dignity and respect reports and student complaints.

Peer-to-Peer Guidance and Tools created by the PBWG

Please follow below the links to the guidance and tools created by the Professional Boundaries Working Group:

1. Statement of Expectations for Personal Tutoring

Please view the PBWG'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.

2. The Risk Assessment Tool for designing Staff-Student Events and Social Spaces

Please use the Social Spaces & Events - Risk Assessment Tool to consider the risks of blurring boundaries. From this assessment, reflect on any changes that could be made to reduce risks and ensure professional boundaries while still enabling an engaging event or social space.

3. Template Wording for a Conference Code of Conduct

Please view the PBWG's Code of Conduct for an Academic Conference which sets out the standards of behaviour expected for those attending a conference and the consequences if they breach these expectations and standards. This generic template document can be incorporated into the communications sent to all attendees so that they are aware in advance of what is expected.

4. Professional Boundaries Guidance for Academic Staff

This PBWG guidance document sets out peer-to-peer guidance on professional boundaries for academic staff, bringing together the work of the Professional Boundaries Working Group (PBWG)


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