Launching its first charter on academic support, the union has made 10 recommendations on how institutions can help students get to grips with academic life. It calls for a process of "ongoing induction" to help them adapt to the demands of each year, with other students used to mentor those needing support.
More information on academic support provision should also be made available to university applicants, the NUS said.
The charter, published on 26 January, says students should have access to independent advice throughout their studies, as well as academic support mentors to advise them on how they can improve their grades.
Academic support was highlighted as an area in need of improvement in the National Student Survey 2011: 77 per cent of respondents said they were satisfied with the academic support they received, compared with an overall satisfaction score of 83 per cent.
Usman Ali, vice-president (higher education) at the NUS, said: "It is important that induction isn't seen as being just for the first two weeks of the first year, but spread throughout the full year. It should also support students as they make the sometimes harder transition to years two and three."
He added that students are "increasingly expecting a personalised relationship with their institution, and academic support is integral to this".
Other charter recommendations include greater recognition and resources for staff and students involved in academic support, and more intervention if students continually skip classes as this may be a sign that they are struggling.
Students should also have access to informal "social learning spaces" to encourage them to work together, the charter suggests.