UCL Medical School


Personal Tutors: Years 4 - 6

The clinical years are again a big step up from non-clinical years and year 4s in particular will feel the pressure of the transition. Year 5s and 6s will also be looking towards their life beyond Medical School and may well be daunted by what lies ahead. Personal Tutors to later year students are usually clinicians themselves who are hopefully able to help allay their fears and offer advice for the future. 

Things to Talk About

It's a good idea to have a brief plan ahead of meeting with your tutees as to what you plan to discuss and the outcomes you would like to have. Contact should aim to include a review of progress, specific topics highlighted in the Personal Tutor calendar, relevant pastoral advice, course and career progression and any follow-up from previous discussions.  Students should be invited to raise any achievements or concerns.

Below are some suggestions for topics of discussion.

Year 4

  • reflecting on last year, discussion on moving into clinical years and any concerns this may bring
  • Exam preparation and revision help
  • Results discussion

Year 5 

  • Reflecting on last year and discussion of results
  • Identifying any issues or blocks to success
  • Preparation for exams and revision help
  • Electives
  • Careers advice

Year 6

  • Reflecting on last year and discussion of results
  • Preparing for the UKFPO and being a referee
  • Identifying any issues or blocks to success
  • Preparation for exams and revision help
  • Electives
  • Careers advice

See below for more examples in Students In Difficulty.

Managing each meeting 

Explain your role as a Personal Tutor and what you expect of them. It may be a good idea to make a plan of what you will discuss together. Make the student feel welcome and demonstrate you are interested in what they have to say.

Listen carefully and ask open questions to help them explore how they are feeling more. It may be helpful at the end of the session to discuss when you may have another, or to make it clear who should next contact who.  

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Help a Student Reach Their Potential

Every student should have a point of contact who can provide guidance and support relating to academic, personal & professional development.

Personal Tutors should help their tutees make the most of their time at UCL; developing study skills; exam preparations; elective plans; and advice for Foundation posts.

Personal Tutors are well placed to encourage students to think of their own professional development though applying for prizes and awards, developing their curriculum vitae or participating in extracurricular activities. 

Sometimes, Personal Tutors may need to help their tutees gain the right work-life balance. Some students need encouragement to make time for extra-curricular opportunities alongside their studies, while other tutees may need help in prioritising their studies. 

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Programme Outline

When you log into ASR you will have access to the Curriculum Map which breaks down the programme for each of the years. From here you can gain an overview of each of your tutees’ proposed learning outcomes to help assist with your discussions. 

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Careers / NHS FP

As the students enter their clinical years they will be beginning to think about their future path in medicine and may turn to their Personal Tutor for information and advice. Personal Tutors should be prepared to offer planning tools, tips and information to help prepare them for a career in medicine and the decisions for their future career pathway.

Medical students are also able to access dedicated careers advisors and appointments through the UCL careers service, bookable here:

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Student in Difficulty

For most of the time, the majority of medical students cope well with the demands of university life and the MBBS programme. However, there are inevitably periods when the going gets tough for some, when they get themselves into academic or personal difficulties or encounter situations that undermine their confidence and capabilities.

The Personal Tutor is often the first point of contact for students, and it is important that tutees are aware of the role of the Personal Tutor and the limitations to what a tutor can do before referring a student to a more specialised source of support.

Academic difficulties

Some students fail some things; this is not unexpected.

They may ask your advice when they fail, get low scores or are ranked in a low decile. Personal Tutors should give accurate advice and support on assessment related matters; in these situations, you may wish to help your tutee set some objectives for improvement and encouragement in developing an independent style of learning. Student Support will meet with students who significantly fail summative examinations. 

Where a student does not progress to the next year of study it is normal practice for the Personal Tutor to continue to provide support until they successfully progress or leave the programme. These students usually require additional supervision and support from the Site Senior Personal Tutors or Divisional Tutor's Office team, especially in cases of interruption or withdrawal.  In these circumstances you will be kept abreast of developments.

Health & wellbeing difficulties 

Students may ask for help and advice for a range of personal problems. These can range from difficulties with accommodation and financial hardship to acute physical/mental illness. Clinical staff are often approached for confidential medical advice (for tutees and their extended family). Many issues can be successfully managed locally and Personal Tutors are encouraged to provide sensible advice, guidance and follow-up, if needed. 

Where a tutee is struggling, Personal Tutors should direct the students to specialist support or guidance. UCL and UCLMS offer an extensive range of advisers and student support services including counsellors, careers advisers, disability advisers and migration/housing/money/ welfare specialists. 

Crucially, the Personal Tutor is in a unique position to signpost to these services and can discuss how difficulties may impact on the student’s studies and progression.

If you have a concern you should speak to your Site Senior Personal Tutor, or contact medsch.personaltutors@ucl.ac.uk, in the first instance. If it's serious, you can copy in the Divisional Tutor's Office (medsch.divisional-tutor@ucl.ac.uk) or speak to the Deputy Divisional Tutor for referral into the Divisional Tutor's Office. You should get student consent before doing so, except in serious cases (see below). The inbox is monitored daily and the Divisional Tutor's Office is responsible for the welfare of students enrolled on the programme, in line with MBBS regulations.

Useful Resources

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Students with Disabilities

UCLMS welcomes disabled students and will make reasonable adjustments to support disabled students on the medical programme. The aim is to promote and implement an inclusive learning and teaching environment, allowing students to study as independently as possible during their time at UCLMS . Personal tutors should be aware of UCLMS policy regarding students with disabilities, the role of Statements of Reasonable Adjustments (SORAs) and Support Cards, and be prepared to discuss means of support available.

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Personal Tutoring at UCLMS aims to provide continuity and enable the tutor to provide advice based on a relatively lengthy experience and understanding of individual students. Trust and sensitive handling of information is an important aspect of this relationship. 

However, Personal Tutors are reminded they represent UCL Medical School and the relationship is not that of a doctor-patient or employer-employee.  It is usual for issues raised through contacts to be included in meeting notes, but this must be by mutual agreement (except where fitness to practise or danger to self or others is concerned).

You must not divulge student information to external parties (including parents) without explicit written consent from the student. All such enquiries should be referred to the Academic Lead for Personal Tutors.

Personal Tutors’ reports may be used by UCLMS in determining issues of progression and in considering in-course performance at Examiners’ meetings.  

If a tutor is unsure how to respond to a situation, they should discuss the matter with the Senior Site Personal Tutors in the first instance.

Where a tutor still feels unable to deal with issues raised or has serious concerns about a student’s health or wellbeing, the student should be referred to the Deputy Divisional Tutor, via medsch.divisional-tutor@ucl.ac.uk. The situation can then be discussed and if needed, the student referred for an appointment with a member of the Divisional Tutor's Office for further advice and support.

Useful links

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Support for Personal Tutors

There will be times when tutors will encounter very challenging situations or have a tutee experiencing very serious circumstances sometimes leading to concerns over their safety. This can sometimes be stressful and distressing for the tutor. Confidential support is available and tutors are encouraged to contact their Site Senior Personal Tutors for advice and support in the first instance.

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