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P. Parker

City University London (UNITED KINGDOM)
This paper will focus on empirical research undertaken with both personal tutors and students as part of a review of our institutional policy on personal tutoring. In addition the paper will outline what happened as result of the findings and future planned developments.

We know that personal tutoring is important for student support and success as well as retention (Hixenbaugh 2006 ) and that many of our students value this relationship and see their tutor as a first point of contact for support (Thomas et al., 2010) and would prefer to turn to them for advice rather than other services (Thomas, 2012). However we also knew that some personal tutors and students had some concerns about the system and so we wanted to collect some data from both groups to identify both good practice and areas to develop.

We set up an across institution group to oversee the project of revising the personal tutor policy which is chaired by the author of this abstract. Following the granting of ethical approval for our study using Lincoln and Guba’s (1985) naturalistic inquiry approach we started to collect data. We undertook a mix of individual interviews and focus groups with 19 personal tutors and focus groups with 22 students. In addition we analysed data from nominations for our Student Voice award scheme for personal tutors. This data was then all analysed using a thematic approach.

The findings showed that there was some excellent practice with students noting personal tutor communication skills and approachability were key to them feeling supported. Students who had good personal relationships noted that this was also due to their personal tutors being interested in their development but also challenging them to explore further their development and future study plans. Whilst it was clear that the majority of students felt supported there were some areas where development could lead to the system being enhanced. These included exploring the allocation of personal tutors and workload variability, identifying specific activities for tutorials meetings, clarifying what the role is and is not, listing what should be kept as personal tutor records and providing some further staff development.

The findings were used to revise some aspects of the personal tutoring policy but also to develop a web page for staff and students, review the current process of recording personal tutorials and develop further staff development and guidance.

[1] Hixenbaugh P (2006) ‘Relationships and retention’ Academic Exchange issue 4 Summer HEA
[2] Lincoln Y S & Guba E G (1985) Naturalistic Inquiry London Sage Publications
[3] Thomas, L. (2012). Building student engagement and belonging in higher education at a time of change: final report from the what works? student retention & success course. Retrieved from
[4] Thomas, L., Storan, J., Wylie, V., Berzins, K., Harley, P., Linley, R. & Rawson, A. (2010) Review of widening participation strategic assessments 2009. Ormskirk: Action on Access, Retrieved from