Knowing your limitations

In order to be effective as a Personal Tutor, you need to know the limits of your knowledge. Familiarise yourself with Senate Regulations and Academic Codes of Practice so that you can advise your tutees appropriately about common issues such as mitigating circumstances, re-assessment, module choices and transfer between programmes. If in doubt about any of the regulations – ask. Use your role as a Personal Tutor as an opportunity to find out the University’s systems.

You also need to think through where your responsibility for your tutees ends. It is important to recognise that sometimes, your tutees will need more support than you are able to provide. Tutees who experience acute crises or unplanned incidents may need signposting or referring to specialist services (see section on Signposting and Referral) and you should guard against offering help yourself even if you have expertise/experience in the area.

The unique nature of the relationship between personal tutor and student can make these boundaries difficult to judge. Expectations of both student and tutor will vary with individual circumstances and experiences. It is important to think about the message that your behaviour will give to the student it, for example, you give out your home or mobile telephone number, lend a student money or invite them to your home. The key is to decide what feels appropriate to you and that you recognise the potential consequences of breaching any of those boundaries that you put in place.”

Neville, 2007.

Tutees who become increasing dependent can also test the boundaries of your relationship. Whilst the Learning Strategy urges communication with students to be ‘engaging, informative and positive’, this is balanced with having ‘mutual respect’. Your interactions with your tutees can be friendly but you are not required to befriend your tutees.

If you feel that tutees are beginning to request over-frequent meetings, send numerous emails or act inappropriately towards you, discuss it with the senior tutor in your Department as soon as possible. It is important that you maintain your own safety and well-being and you should seek support from your senior tutor immediately if you have concerns.

If you are feeling anxious, distressed or uncomfortable with issues raised by your tutee, then you are invited to seek support from the staff wellbeing team.