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Session 3E

Paper 1

Supporting post-graduate students – the role of the personal tutor

Amanda Fancourt - Senior Lecturer | City Law School

The role of the personal tutor is integral to student support at both academic and pastoral levels. The paper to be presented will address this, through discussion of findings of research into the role especially in relation to post-graduate students.

Legal education is available at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, with an academic, vocational or professional focus. Consequently, students are faced with complex and challenging transitions into new ways of study, subjects, and institutions (Tobbell and O’Donnell 2013). How do they deal with these transitions and what support do they seek?

I will describe a qualitative study that sought to illuminate the role of the personal tutor in supporting students on the professional post-graduate programme for intending solicitors, the Legal Practice Course (LPC), on which I am a lecturer and personal tutor. The project reviewed studies and early guides on personal tutoring (Earwaker 1992; Thomas and Hixenbaugh 2006; Laycock and Wisdom 2009; Yale 2017). It was however evident that previous research has not considered the differences between undergraduate and postgraduate support needs across disciplines, and indeed there is little research into support for law students.

My research questions asked what it is like to become a postgraduate student on the LPC, and how support offered by personal tutors to such students is perceived. Data collection involved semi-structured interviews with seven LPC students and two tutors. Findings showed three key elements: the assumption of student responsibility for seeking support (in comparison to the undergraduate stage), the quality of relationships (including accessibility of the personal tutor), and dealing with transitions, both from one course to another and within the LPC itself.

The emergence of these issues and a clear need to explore transitions with students and tutors will contribute to my role as Law School senior personal tutor and to any university-wide review of personal tutoring policy particularly in relation to post-graduates.

This session will provide an opportunity for cross-discipline discussion of experiences and to draw out the more generic issue of institutional recognition of post-graduate support needs.

The session will begin with an outline of the research project and its rationale. Key findings will be presented, and the delegates will be invited to contribute their own experiences during the course of the presentation.

The aim is for delegates to be able to reflect on the issues presented and exchange experiences, with a view to identifying issues common across disciplines.


Earwaker, J. (1992) Helping and Supporting Students. Rethinking the Issues. (London: SRHE)

Laycock, M. and Wisdom, J. (2009) Personal tutoring in higher education – where now and where next? A literature review and recommendations. SEDA Special.London: Staff and Educational Development Association

Thomas, L. and Hixenbaugh, P. (eds) (2006) Personal tutoring in higher education. Stoke on Trent: Trentham Books

Tobbell, J and O’Donnell, V. L. (2013) ‘Transition to postgraduate study: postgraduate ecological systems and identity’. Cambridge Journal of Education. 43:1, pp123-138.

Yale, A. (2017) ‘The personal tutor-student relationship: student expectations and experiences of personal tutoring in higher education’. Journal of Further and Higher Education, pp1-12. Published online 26 September 2017.

Paper 2

March to Success: Enabling Students to Succeed in the School of Mathematics, Computer Science and Engineering.

Lara Silvers - Associate Dean for Student Experience | School of Mathematics, Computer Science and Engineering

We will present details of a specific programme of events that have been designed for first year students to help to increase their engagement with other students, staff, and development activities provided by the University.

Improving student engagement and belonging has been argued to improve student retention and success (Thomas, 2012) and in the School of Mathematics, Computer Science and Engineering at City, University of London, we want our students to be as successful as possible during their degree and also when the time comes to search for graduate employment.  It has been stated that students must make the most of the opportunities that are available to them at University in order improve their graduate employability (Dandridge, 2018) and so we want to maximize the uptake of such activities.

Further, as it is a long-established principle of good practice to help students to succeed though engagement between students and staff outside of normal lectures (Chickering and Gamson, 1987) we wanted to seek a new route to connect staff and students. Therefore, we decided to start a new initiative for year 1 students, which we called March to Success, to increase engagement with other students, staff, and developmental activities. The March to Success programme was designed to include a variety of different activities including a number of workshops and themed lunches.

Here we will discuss our approach when planning our March to Success programme.  We will focus on the structure of the engagements over the month of March and the style of delivery. We will discuss the success of the programme in its first year as well as what we have learned to take forward when running this event in future years.


This session will be a traditional talk for 20 minutes. Attendees will hear about the motivation, the approach taken, and the success of the initiative. We will discuss the engagement with the initiative through the numbers that registered for each event and we will compare the available data for some of the activities with data from last year, when they were not offered these events as part of a programme.


Chickering, A. W., Gamson, Z. F., 1987. Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AHHE Bulletin, pp. 3-7.

Dandridge, N. 2018. Nicola Dandridge: Improving graduate employability. Office for Students News,

Blog and Events. Available at [Accessed 3rd March 2019]

Thomas, L., 2012. Building student engagement and belonging in Higher Education at a time of change: Final report from the What works? Student retention and success programme. London: Universities UK.