Agony aunt

June 25, 1999

One of my tutees overloads herself with extracurricular work, which she says is essential for her career development. As a result, she never meets my deadlines. How do I treat her fairly?

Time management is a transferable skill that should be learnt in the years spent at university, so it is important to discuss the situation with this student.

* JOANNA DE GROOT - Institute for Learning and Teaching

A You need to make it clear that not managing time well has its consequences, but that you are willing to support her in learning how to strike a balance. Encourage the student to take responsibility for her decisions. Emphasise that she is free to do what she wants with her time, but ensure that she makes her decisions in full knowledge of possible consequences. Make it clear that she is not just inconveniencing you, but that she is letting down her colleagues by not turning in work on time.

There should be a departmental code of practice, so refer to it to evoke the correct response. Being a bad time-keeper is something that future employers will want to know about, so the student must be aware that it might be mentioned in assessments or references.

* STEVE BOTTOMS, Lecturer, department of film, theatre and television studies, University of Glasgow.

I subscribe to the romantic view that a university should develop the whole person. However, the student is there to get a degree, and if her academic work suffers as a result of extracurricular work, you should help her to find a happy medium.

Often it is the non-academic work, such as working on a student newspaper or stage-managing theatre productions, that is ultimately more useful in gaining work than writing an essay. Although the university experience is important, it should not be allowed to take over on all levels. The student must be made aware that her decision is a trade-off.

This student must realise that by spending longer on her work she could improve her marks - if she wants to. The decision to jeopardise a first-class degree in favour of extracurricular commitments has to be made in full knowledge of the consequences.

* VAL BUTCHER, Principal adviser for higher education and employment Leeds University.

This student needs help with time management. Do not discourage her from carrying out a reasonable amount of extracurricular activities, as they will equip her with skills essential in a career, such as communication, problem-solving and interpersonal skills or team-building.

Many employers say that they do not just want to hear about your non-academic activities, but that they want to know what you have learnt from them and how you can apply your knowledge to your current situation. Encourage this student to reflect on her experiences. Make sure your student is not involved in extra activities in a mindless way, as this not only means that she will not enjoy them but also that she will not gain anything from them.

Show your student how she can apply these skills effectively to her academic work. She needs to leave university with a good degree and getting the work in on time is an absolute. Never accept that a person just cannot seem to meet deadlines. The key is not what you do, but what you learn from it. Time management is a useful academic and personal skill that will enhance employment opportunities. Potential employers will like the fact that she has evidence that she has used her time at university efficiently.

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