Personal tutorials for all

Developing students

The personal tutorial system at UCL should not just be seen as a "safety net" for students who are struggling or experiencing difficulty.

Personal tutorials are intended to facilitate students' development and to help them become independent learners. Personal Tutors sit in a unique position outside of the formal course of study, enabling them to help students make sense of what they are learning and to synthesise the various aspects of university life. This promotes critical reflection in students and assists their self-efficacy by helping them recognise what they have achieved.

"My Personal Tutor encourages and advises different methods of achieving my goals and suggests various people I could contact to further my experience and learning"

- UCL Student, Population Health Sciences

Independent Learners

It could be argued that the foremost goal of higher education is to create independent learners. What exactly independent learning means can vary between people, disciplines and contexts. In essence it refers to a student's ability to effectively plan their learning. To do this they need to understand the requirements of study and know what is expected of them.

The Personal Tutor plays a key role in this process by:

  • Asking them direct questions about how they learn
  • Discussing what being an independent learner means and how this fits in with the learning that is expected of them at university and specific to their discipline and culture
  • Discussing with students strategies to help them develop and monitor their own learning
  • Helping them develop confidence in their abilities as learners
  • Listening to, and giving feedback on, their learning progress
  • Motivating and inspiring students to want to learn

International Students

The concept of independent learning can be very alien to some of our international students. Taking the time, early on, to explicitly tell them what is expected of them as students at a UK higher education institution is extremely important to ensuring that they have every opportunity to succeed.

Being independent does not mean going it alone

Being an independent learner does not mean going it alone at university and students should not misunderstand this. Students at UCL are expected to operate with a degree of autonomy and a large amount of studying on their own is required. However, it also mean utilising the support available to them and part of the role of the personal tutor can be helping them get the support they need at the right time.

Further reading:

Personal Tutors as role models

As an academic member of staff you have been through the higher education system yourself and are an expert in your field. Students can be intimidated by academic staff but this is mostly because they are inspired by them. Use that life experience in tutorials to help guide your tutees on their academic journeys.

"As doctors and professors, I feel these tutors have SO much experience we can learn from...We have so much yet to learn and experience, and guidance and advice is useful."

UCL Student, School of Pharmacy

Personal tutorials are an opportunity for you to talk to your tutees about your own career trajectory, to talk about your work and your passion and inspire them in their own work. They are interested in hearing about what you have done and take advice or guidance based on your experiences.

However it is also important to remember that Higher Education is constantly changing and what was possible for you is not necessarily the reality for our current cohort of students. Be mindful of the challenges that they face in today's climate as distinct from your own.


This website offers ideas and resources to help you deliver tutorials that aid students' development at university. See these sections for more ideas:

Page last modified on 07 aug 13 14:26