Lightning Talks

Sarah L Bennett (University College London )
Sally P Laurie (University of Northampton)
Elizabeth Vokes (University of Northampton)
Nisha S Dhanda (University of Birmingham Dubai)

Tuesday, April 9, 2024 9:00 AM - 9:45 AM

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Session Outline

Personal Tutoring at one UK Medical School – what do students want?

Sarah L Bennett (University College London )


Personal tutor (PT) programmes are a crucial source of support employed by Higher Education institutions (Swain, 2008; Attwood, 2009) and a well-structured PT programme can be influential in student success (Woods, 2022).

At Medical School, the complexity of a lengthy course and the fact that tutors are often NHS staff, mean that it can be challenging to deliver continuity and knowledgeable support.

At our own institution student feedback suggested that there was great variability in student experience of the PT programme and generally poor engagement from both tutors and students and we therefore embarked upon an evaluation of our PT programme. In order to collate authentic feedback, this was a collaborative project between staff and students, with the overall aim of creating new training resources for our personal tutors and with a view to updating our current PT structure.


We began our study by reflecting on informal discussions at termly Student-Staff Consultative Committee meetings alongside Student Evaluation Questionnaire feedback to gather current themes relating to PT-Tutee relationships.

Alongside circulating a survey, we conducted student-led focus groups with tutors and students to identify their expectations and needs regarding PT. The themes were used to create educational resources regarding tutor and tutee expectations as well as helping to review the overall PT programme structure.


Across all years, mixed feedback with regards to overall experience was evident. In part, this was felt to be due to inadequate communication about the programme’s purpose and format. Misunderstanding amongst both students and tutors surrounding the tutor’s exact role, and their position within the wider support services available was also identified. A further disconnect between practising clinicians and university procedures translated into differences in their approach to personal tutoring, and the overall knowledge and accessibility of tutors to students.

Among students there are differences in opinion with regards to the most important aspects of a PT-tutee relationship, however, most students agree that a tutor who knows them well is the priority. The research project helped us to implement a new guide to Personal tutoring, monthly PT newsletters and seminars, and to provide a better means of monitoring tutor and student engagement with the process through online appointment notes. We will discuss these within the presentation.


Within UK Medical Schools robust PT programmes have an important place. Clear student and tutor expectations should be clearly outlined at the beginning of term to help facilitate better engagement. Additionally providing tutor training sessions alongside dedicated MBBS resources will reduce variability in student experience. To make certain the PT programme meets students’ needs regularly collating feedback and implementing change will overall improve the support provided.

Experience of using the UKAT PAT/ Advising Journey Planning Game

Sally P Laurie (University of Northampton); Elizabeth Vokes (University of Northampton)

In this lightning talk, we present an outline of a structured programme of personal tutoring for UK based taught postgraduate international students(TPGIS) that aims to personalise the learning experience, engage students with their studies, and enhance their success within and beyond higher education. The programme is located in an Integrated Learner Support Model. We will reflect on the experience of using the UKAT’s Advising Journey design game, to develop an outline personal tutoring programme that maps meaningful student support interventions to relevant points in the student journey.

Academics and TPGI students participate in a workshop facilitated by UKAT in January 24. The session brought together academic staff who have considerable experience of supporting TPGI students, recent and current UK based TPGI students provided a lived experience viewpoint on issues discussed during the session.

Training PATs at a branch campus - the highs and lows

Nisha S Dhanda (University of Birmingham Dubai)

Personal Academic Tutors (PAT) play a pivotal role in supporting students throughout their academic journey, fostering their personal and intellectual growth (Gidman, 2001). To ensure that academics are well-equipped to excel in their role as a PAT, training and relevant resources are necessary (Augustus et al., 2023). We know that the tutoring process is impactful to the student’s journey and should therefore be taken seriously (Yale, 2020). As a Senior Tutor across a university branch campus, I oversee Personal Academic Tutoring for 38 different undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. There are many discipline-specific approaches towards tutoring that specific schools or colleges adopt but a uniform approach is necessary as a starting point for a branch campus. Therefore, there is greater emphasis on the context of the campus (geographically and culturally) rather than the specific subjects taught in relation to personal academic tutoring.

Staff were provided with generic training on the meaning and importance of being a PAT, alongside specific scenarios that could occur with students. They were asked to work through the scenarios in small groups and then discuss their solutions or decision-making processes with the wider group. This training activity elicited a lot of discussion, debate and emotions which was helpful for other PATs to consider and process. The activity was followed by “elevator-pitch” style presentations for the professional services support staff members across the campus, reminding PATs how and when to refer students to them.

The training session was positively evaluated and followed by a drop-in opportunity from myself as Senior Tutor for any additional queries or clarifications PATs may have had. In addition, a community of practice has now been established amongst PATs where common scenarios are shared and there is a safe space for debriefing and off loading the mental pressures of being a PAT.

The session will discuss the training components available for PATs at the branch campus, and how the community of practice has been established.

This session addresses the following competencies of the UKAT Professional Framework for Advising and Tutoring
C4 - Expected outcomes of academic advising and tutoring
C5 - How equitable and inclusive environments are created and maintained
P4 - Understand the implications of quality assurance and quality enhancement, and engage in on-going evaluation and development of advising and tutoring practice
C3 - Academic advising and tutoring approaches and strategies
C5 - How equitable and inclusive environments are created and maintained
C3 - Academic advising and tutoring approaches and strategies
I1 - HE Provider mission, vision, values, and culture