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Personal tutoring

The traditional form of one-to-one personal tutoring is in decline as increasing student numbers make it uneconomic. The role and function of tutors is also increasingly questioned: in some institutions they are concerned solely with academic aspects, in others pastoral and in some, both. Nevertheless, whatever the differences in their specific roles, all universities retain them in some form or other and the data that was obtained for the Student expectations, experiences and reflections on the first year practice focused project, which was part of The First Year Experience Enhancement Theme, confirmed their value in the eyes of students.

For more details on academic advisers and personal tutoring, which includes research evidence on the effectiveness of student support. It may be that the form of tutoring will change. For instance, at Glasgow Caledonian University, each school has an Academic Development Tutor (ADT), whose job it is to provide proactive support to students.

The ADTs assist academic staff and other colleagues in their efforts to improve student engagement, progression and retention across all levels of existing undergraduate programmes, through pre and post-entry activities. Across most schools there is a particular focus on enhancing and supporting the first-year experience. The ADT is the first point of contact for student support within the schools. Articulating students are contacted by the ADT pre-entry through visits to colleges in order to build a relationship from an early stage.

For current students, the ADT operates a system of individualised academic support but additional structured enhancement activities are also undertaken. There are variations within the roles in order to meet the particular needs of Schools and their body of students, for example some schools actively encourage 'drop-ins' while for other schools this approach has not proved feasible.

Some schools do not make a clear separation between academic issues and the personal issues affecting academic performance in the support provided by the ADT, while other schools make a distinction between the provision of academic support by the ADT and the provision of pastoral support by central services. The skills and qualifications of the ADTs determine the extent to which they are engaged in pastoral, as well as academic, support.

Academic support that is provided 'just in time' is explored in the Flexible Delivery Theme and both that Theme and Responding to Student Needs emphasise the value of PDP in relationship to personal tutoring.

In the Personalisation strand of The First Year Enhancement Theme, case study 1 describes the way the Open University is using tutor support in different ways in order to tailor teaching and learning support to the needs of individual students.

The personalisation of support is mediated through proactive tutor-to-student contact, by telephone, at key times when students are particularly likely to be vulnerable or at risk. Personalised learning support is tailored around the individual student, thus enabling students to identify their own learning needs, manage their learning more effectively and take responsibility for their own progress.

The back-up to personalised contact is the provision of extensive electronic resources and the creation of dedicated online homes for different subjects. For another example of a modified personal tutor system that requires tutors to be 'personal development tutors' working to develop e-portfolios and other aspects of social and academic life see case study 3.

The Transition to and during the first year strand argued for proactive student support and quoted the example of the School of Computing at the University of the West of Scotland, which has created a 'Student Liaison Officer' who acts as a 'one stop shop' for all students. Read more about proactive student support.