College Advisors Handbook

Introduction

Thank you for your interest in participating in the college advisor program. Your service is sincerely appreciated. This role is important in helping mainly 1st year students to settle in at Lancaster

This short document will explain the role of a college advisor, and support services that you will find helpful in your work with your students. Please note that queries related to college specific matters should be directed to the Fylde Senior Advisor

Since the beginning of the university, considerable effort has been made to ensure that no student should fail for non-academic reasons. Accordingly, a number of support systems were put in place. It was felt necessary that every student should have a Senior Member to whom they could turn for advice and support when dealing with their department, university authorities or any outside organisation. This person was to be his or her college advisor.

Role of the Senior Advisor

The Senior Advisor is responsible for co-coordinating the College advisor system and some of the Senior Advisor’s responsibilities include the recruitment of tutors, allocation of students to advisors, college loans and travel grants etc.

Role of a College Advisor

College advisors may be members of the academic or administrative staff of the University or an experienced post-graduate student. The role of a college advisor is to offer support and advice, explain university policy and procedure, or sometimes just to listen. A friendly face and an ability to listen can often resolve issues before they become major ones. You will find that interacting with students in this way is rarely onerous or time-consuming, but very rewarding as you will be a source of guidance and support.

Developing a good relationship with your students is important, as this will help them to feel more comfortable about coming forward to ask for assistance when they are facing difficulties. Further, it should be emphasised that a good relationship is established through regular contact. Whenever a student experiences a problem, difficulty, or general uncertainty, their college advisor can be their automatic first port of call.

There is no question of college advisors being specialists. In the case of serious issues that require attention beyond your expertise, students should be referred to the appropriate specialists including academic tutors, Student Based Services, university financial advisers, and so forth. A list of resources is provided in this handbook. In many cases, however, lending a sympathetic ear will be sufficient to calm a student’s fears.

The role of a college advisor is not confirmed to addressing student problems, but supporting the student in his or her transition throughout university life. Therefore, it is important to make known to your students  that they can also share with you achieved goals and successes. Further, the role of a college advisor is also to ensure that student development occurs in a holistic manner. To that end, be sure to address the academic, personal, and social aspects of your students. You will likely find that one area of their life has a direct impact on the others.

Suggestions and common issues

Encourage your students to interact early on with other students in their corridor, classmates, and fellow college members. Also encourage students to socialise by attending a variety of events such as college meetings, the Freshers’ Fair, and activities held in the college. The greater the interaction with other students, the easier a student will be able to transition and find satisfaction with university life.

First year students often have little knowledge of how to budget responsibly on the limited funding available to them. You can assist your students by helping them to develop and carefully consider their budgeting. This is something that can form part of a meeting for your students in the first few weeks of the academic year. Guidance is also available from LUSU where students can pick up leaflets on how to prepare a budget and seek professional guidance from a debt counsellor. Student Based Services also produced information on personal budgeting. Finally, consult with your college office to find what types of financial support (loans, bursaries, etc.) are available to students.

If the department feels that a student is falling behind in their studies through non-attendance or failure to produce coursework, it will send a warning letter, copied to the Senior Tutor. The Senior Tutor will forward any letters or reports regarding your students to you. You should invite the student concerned to meet you to discuss the issues and identify any support you may be able to provide. If, for some reason, you are unable to see your student at this time you should inform the Senior Advisor who will then meet with the student in your place. Failure to respond to the warning letter will lead to an interview with the relevant Director of Studies. This is not a punitive measure—it is an attempt to warn the student that they are in danger of failing and that if they are prepared to follow an agreed recovery plan they can still catch up. If a student fails to respond to persistent warnings, then he or she will be deemed to be in bad academic standing and referred to the Standing Academic Committee, which has the power to recommend exclusion from the University. Departments define “bad academic standing” as:

  • Attendance: less than 70% of compulsory elements attended.
  • Coursework submission: less than 80% coursework submitted.

If one of your students encounters serious academic difficulty, they may be required to attend a Review or Appeals  Committee or the Standing Academic Committee, or to see the Vice- Chancellor. At these meetings, students are permitted to have someone in attendance to assist them in navigating through the various  procedures and requirements. As the student’s personal advisor you may be asked to help the student. The student may only need guidance or he or she may ask you to accompany them to the meeting. Additionally, your awareness and input concerning the student’s issues may lend insight to the case. Your responsibility as the student’s advisor is primarily to represent the student’s case, not the University’s; you are there to assist the student to face their appeal and make their case. Prior to any appeal meetings, it is of the utmost importance that you have discussed the case thoroughly with your student. Feel free to contact your Senior advisor for advice in preparation of any appeals.

Intercalation is an official period when students are allowed to interrupt their degree studies and temporarily leave the campus. Due to the way courses are structured at Lancaster University, the absence is usually for a whole year. The student’s academic departments will be required to state that there is a high probability that the necessary courses will be available in the following year, an important point to check particularly if intercalation starts mid-way through the session. Another vital check is that the student is in good academic standing (up to date with all coursework or has firm arrangement to submit anything missing).

The most common grounds for applying for intercalation are:

  • Major medical or mental health complications
  • Domestic or family disruption
  • Severe financial difficulties
  • Temporary loss of ability to pursue academic work Industrial/Job experience within a student’s  degree studies (rare circumstances)

Intercalation is granted only if there is a reasonable expectation that after a year these difficulties cease to exist or have subsided to a tolerable level.  Intercalation is not granted when it is believed that students will not return. In that case, the student should consider withdrawal from the University.  The procedure for permission to intercalate begins with arranging an appointment with Student Based Services in University House. The Health Centre and/or University Counselling Service may submit supporting evidence to the Intercalation Committee if the student wishes.

Please keep the Senior Advisor informed of any substantial issues that may require additional consultation. The Senior Advisor is in regular contact with the College Administrator, and both function to provide advice and support for college Advisor. Many colleges have Assistant Senior Advisors in the event the Senior Tutor is unavailable.

Referral guide

While you will be able to address most of your student’s concerns, the following is intended for queries that may require the advice of a specialist, following the students consent. You may wish to contact someone to discuss the matter, or you may want to refer the tutee to a specialist directly.
Information on this can be found in the Whom to Contact?  handbook.

Please be advised that the Senior Advisor, Shelagh Walsh and the College Administrator, Sue Summers are available at any time to help and advise you if you have any queries or concerns at all.

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