ST9 – A Year in the Life of a University Student Support & Guidance Tutor

Room C – Tuesday 09:00-10:00

Melanie Gill

School of Education, University of Brighton

Mel is a principal lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Brighton and the Student Support & Guidance Tutor for the School. She is also a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Mel was a primary teacher and youth worker before joining the University in 2000.


This presentation explores and expands on data collected during 2013-14 in my Student Support & Guidance Tutor role for the School of Education at the University of Brighton. Most students’ issues are focused on stress and mental health, or learning support /dyslexia but many more issues will also be discussed. The focus will be on the first year experience.


This is my sixth year as the Student Support & Guidance Tutor for the School of Education and this role comprises 0.5 of my Principal Lecturer post, with the other 0.5 encompassing a wider ‘Student Engagement Coordinator’ role as well as my teaching role. The SSGT role is split between offering individual one-to-one support and guidance, and facilitating voluntarily attended, group, academic writing support sessions. The support and guidance offered is often related to academic needs but also helps students manage and enhance their general wellbeing so that they can be as successful as possible whilst at University. The focus is on first year students, but is available to all. The role often involves supporting students to engage with Student Services to access the Disability & Dyslexia team or Counselling and Wellbeing team.

This research relates only to individual contact with students. In 2013/14 there were approx 2000 students enrolled in the School of Education and I had individual contact with 229, over 10% of the total. Data was gathered using online questionnaires and feedback from follow – up emails. This is the fifth year data has been gathered and trends are now able to be analysed. I will discuss the importance of providing support in the first year, to help ensure success and retention in the following years.

Most students’ issues are focused on stress and mental health, or learning support /dyslexia in line with last year. I found that more students this year had multiple and/or more serious issues and needed repeat appointments/contact. Numbers thinking about withdrawing or taking a break from their studies have increased by a quarter on last year. In many cases I have been able to offer support and guidance myself, but for others I have found it necessary to suggest referrals to Student Services or other staff.

It was   It was encouraging to find that 5 out of the 28 online survey respondents (18%) stated that they had considered withdrawal from their course, but stayed on due to support from the SSGT. Another 2 gave similar feedback via emailed comments, implying that at least 7 students had been retained who might otherwise have withdrawn. This has huge financial implications in the current climate.

For the EFYE presentation I will focus mostly on first year student issues.

Background references:

Bartram, B (2009) “Student Support in Higher Education: Understandings, Implications and Challenges” Higher Education Quarterly Vol 63, No 3, July 2009, pp 308-314.Oxford, Blackwell.

Gill, M. (2012) “Two Years On: Student Support & Guidance in the School of Education” R.Ed, Vol 4, No 1, March 2012, pp 9-14. School of Education, University of Brighton.

Jacklin. A, and Le Riche. P, (2009) “Reconceptualising student support: from ‘support’ to ‘supportive’” Studies in Higher Education, 34:7, 735-749 [Online] Available: [Access date: 25.11.14]

McChlery, S and Wilkie, J (2009) “Pastoral support to undergraduates in higher education” International Journal of Management Education 8 (1) pp23-35.

Morosanu, L, Handley, K, O’Donovan, B. (2010) “Seeking support: researching first ‐ year students’ experiences of coping with academic life” Higher Education Research & Development Vol. 29, Iss. 6, 2010 [Online] Available: [Access date 25/11/14]

Morgan, M. (Ed) (2013) Supporting Student Diversity in Higher Education: A Practical Guide. London, Routledge.

Wilcox. P, Winn. S, and Fyvie Gauld, M. (2005) ‘“It was nothing to do with the university, it was just the people”: the role of social support in the first year experience of higher education’ Studies in Higher Education, Vol. 30(6): 707-722

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