Changing Student Demand for Tutorial Support

October 28, 2014

(Extracted from a draft working paper)

One might expect this diversity in provision in Higher Education to be reflected in the personal tutoring support provided however there is remarkably little difference in the way in which support for students is organised and delivered. It suggest that there is value in unshackling support systems from existing language and historical practices.

There are variations in the terminology used according to country, nature of the institution, and indeed discipline. Mentoring and ‘pastoral care’ appears to be the preferred term in nursing and medicine where is academic ‘tutor’ takes preference in humanities disciplines. Much of the UK literature insists on contrasting institutional tutoring systems against the benchmark of the ‘Oxbridge model’. Since the concept of a personal tutor was introduced into higher education clearly students are less homogeneous body than they might once had deemed to be.

Recent figures from the Santander group suggest that more than 22% of students choose to remain living in the family home with 66% citing cost as the main reason (Marsh, 2014). Another recent survey of 1000 students by Education Phase puts the figure of those at home at 23%, and suggests that on average students travelled 91 miles between home and University to attend studies (Arnett, 2014). This suggests that the idea of the non-residential commuter institution is becoming more common with a consequence of increased ‘blended-learning’ delivery.

An NUS report in October 2013 also suggested that 2% of students had sought counselling services in the previous year but 20% of students consider themselves to have a mental health issue with 13% having had suicidal thoughts. 92% of respondents in the NUS survey suggested they had experienced ‘mental distress’ with the main causes cited as coursework related (65%), exams (54%) and financial difficulties (47%). Over 25% of those surveyed had not shared their concerns with anyone and only 10% accessing the services provided by their institution (Froio, 2013).

Another significant emerging trends is for students to be working as an increased proportion of their time alongside study. A survey of 2128 students found 45% having a part-time job and 13% in full-time employment, much of which continues during term time as well as vacations. Most cite the need to earn money although it is interesting that 53% suggest that students identify their future employment prospects as a prime motivation (Gil, 2014). Universities typically suggest a limit between 10 and 15 hours of part-time work a week during term time some institutions attempt to prohibit students from working at all. Other restrictions on work face the increasing proportion of international students (UKCISA, 2013).

In 2012 – 13 the gender split of the HEI student population was 56.2% female and 43.8% male. But even a glance at the data begins to suggest the need for different models of support. The gender balance for part-time students were 60.5% female and 39.5% male, for full-time and sandwich students the split was 54.5% female and 45.5% male. We might expect there to be significant differences in the support provided for part-time students and that this might also address gender differences. For non-EU domiciled students, often referred to as ‘international’ students, the overall gender gap is less significant 49.2% female and 50.8% male. However if we look at other undergraduate study (other than towards achievement of a degree) there are interesting variations, female students make up 65.3% of those studying part-time as opposed to 34.7 of male students. Even before we explore the differences in age and domestic circumstance it is clear that there will be differences in the needs of students at different levels. Add to that complexity we might also include the 598,000 students who are studying wholly overseas but either registered at UK HEI or working towards an award given by a UK HEI in 2012-13 (

Clearly our HEIs represent incredibly diverse communities of learning and existing mechanisms for socialization and support are challenged by this heterogeneous student body. The ‘ideal’ of the Oxbridge College Tutor has persisted and much effort and resource is committed to try and replicate it regardless of contextual realities. What are the alternative approaches


Arnett, G. (2014, August 18). Students travel an average of 91 miles from home to attend university. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Froio, N. (2013, October 10). Number of university students seeking counselling rises 33%. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Gil, N. (2014, August 11). One in seven students work full-time while they study. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Marsh, S. (2014, August 26). Rise of the live-at-home student commuter. The Guardian. Retrieved from

UKCISA. (2013, August 23). UKCISA – Working during your studies. Retrieved October 26, 2014, from–more/Working-during-your-studies/

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