Lightning Talks

Sarah L Bennett (University College London )
Anisha Bharat Jethwa (University College London )

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 ); Anisha Bharat Jethwa (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.

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