Signposting and referral

One very important skill in personal tutoring is to recognise when a student’s needs go beyond your capacity to support that tutee directly. You also need to know what services are available to provide the support they require.

I think the point of having a personal tutor is to capture those that may fall through the gaps.

Student, History.

As personal tutor, you are expected to keep within the bounds of that role, whatever your other skillset may be. For example, should you be a qualified counsellor or medical practitioner, you do not engage in a full counselling relationship with; or make diagnoses of; or offer treatment to your students. In these circumstances, your role is to signpost or refer.

Signposting involves asking if the student has considered certain services, and making a suggestion of which services are best suited for their need. The handout Signposting for Personal Tutors provides a handy reference of where to signpost for the most common concerns raised by students on both academic and personal matters.

The Students’ Union’s new LeicsTalk service has an impressive library of support services, many of which are local services for specific issues. Be sure to follow up with your student to make sure they don’t get caught in a ‘signposting maze’, which can be frustrating and a barrier to getting the support they want.

A referral is a more formal recommendation whereby you and tutee agree for you to pass their details on to a service who will then make contact with the student. This should be done only for services that accept referrals, and where the student is in need of more support in accessing these services. Referrals must be made with the tutee’s permission. The only exception is where you feel that the student is at risk of harm to themselves, others or the institution, in which case you will need to act promptly and it is legitimate to break confidentiality.


In November 2018, the University launched ‘Report and Support’ – a new online disclosure tool, designed for students to tell the University about something they have witnessed or experienced that concerns or distresses them. You can help your students report an incident here.

Guidance for staff is also available here