Julia Kelly, Chair of the Senior Tutor Forum and Language Teaching Fellow in Modern Languages
The Senior Tutor Forum provides information sharing opportunities to colleagues involved with Academic Support, including Personal Academic Tutors.
“The role of Personal Academic Tutor is fundamental to the University’s student support and advice network. The University has a range of support available through Student Services, Enabling Services, Library and Academic Skills, and Careers and Employability; but it can sometimes be daunting for students to navigate their way and they may feel worried about asking for help. Personal Academic Tutors play a crucial role in signposting to appropriate services and encouraging their tutees to access support when necessary.
“When allocated a Personal Academic Tutor, students are matched to another member of the academic community and, as far as possible, this relationship is maintained throughout the student’s time at university. Through fostering a safe and confidential relationship with their tutees, the Personal Academic Tutor provides valuable academic advice, guidance and insights from a particular subject area, and supports tutees in matters related to their academic work and progress, referring them to other sources of support when necessary. They may be the first point of contact for pastoral issues and can signpost tutees to appropriate support, liaising with the Senior Tutor, who provides a broader support role. Personal Academic tutors maintain regular contact with their tutees, usually meeting at least once each semester.
Seeing how students develop throughout their time with us is very rewarding. For me, the most fulfilling part of my role is helping students succeed in overcoming difficulties. It is always a proud moment when you see students at graduation, knowing that for some of them it has been a difficult path. I see playing a part in supporting them to achieve their goals as a privilege.
Jane Stephenson, Associate Director, University Library
Within her role, Jane heads up the Academic Skills Hub.
“The Academic Skills Hub is a walk-in service based at the Hartley Library for all levels of students offering advice and referral to Personal Academic Tutors and other University services. It also includes an appointment-based writing support service on all aspects of writing. Library Academic Skills support also includes access to our website, with a range of online resources, bitesize training sessions, workshops and academic skills book collections.
“I lead and support frontline teams at all our site libraries and specialist staff in the Academic Skills Hub to provide sustainable, accessible and high-quality academic skills support. This enhances our students’ university experience and enables them to reach their potential at Southampton and beyond, by providing a support framework for their independent study. I work with SUSU, academic staff and professional services staff to improve awareness of academic skills support and ensure that the service is developed to meet the current and changing needs of the curriculum, staff and students.
As well as delivering advice to staff and students, my team and I contribute strategically to the development of academic support in the University. The role is satisfying as I feel I am contributing to developing and shaping a service, which makes a real difference to students in reaching their potential and making the best of their academic studies. It is also fulfilling to work collaboratively with University colleagues and be a part of improving the student experience.
Samuel Dedman, Vice-President Education, University of Southampton Students’ Union (SUSU)
“At the Students’ Union, we provide academic support for students in quite a few ways. The most obvious example is the Advice Centre, which offers free, independent and confidential support to all students on a range of topics, including academic queries. We also work with other groups, such as Senior Tutors and the Library, to host events and provide advice to improve their academic support provision.
“As Vice-President Education at SUSU, I am primarily involved with the academic experience of all our students. My role covers everything from ensuring there are enough study spaces for students, to reviewing academic policy, and that is before we even mention overseeing the Academic Representative structure. Each year this structure seeks to elect around 900 student representatives from across the institution, train them and help them to make positive change within their faculty, school or department.
For me, this role is all about making things better for all of our students. I really believe that we make a positive difference to the experience of each student at this University – and that’s what makes it satisfying for me. I think the role, and indeed the Union’s representation structures across the board, are important because they give students an incredibly powerful voice, as well as access to some good support and information networks.