Students: handle with more care

May 26, 1995

Academic departments should take more responsibility for helping their students, instead of assuming that this is the preserve of "experts", according to a student adviser.

Heather Lloyd, chief adviser of studies in Glasgow University's arts faculty, was speaking at a workshop on student well-being, organised by Stephen Johnson, Glasgow's director of residential, catering and business services, and George Gordon, of Strathclyde University's centre for academic practice.

Mr Johnson said the emphasis should be on student well-being rather than student welfare, and on playing an active role in finding out about student needs.

Dr Lloyd argued that departments had a key role to play, and said she was disappointed by notices on tutors' doors saying they were available to see students for 15 minutes every second Tuesday. She said: "Even in these days of the research assessment exercise, the ordinary lecturer has got to be encouraged to put students first, to be prepared to push away what they are doing when a student comes to their door."

Scottish universities are fortunate in having a well-established adviser of studies system but Dr Lloyd added: "But advisers could do a lot to give common-sense academic advice. I think we are getting too much into the mode that only experts can talk about certain aspects."

Professor Gordon said traditional support systems which had existed through halls of residence and strong student societies had weakened with the growth in student numbers and increasing pessimism over job prospects.

But Mr Johnson said some students found it difficult if they felt they were being judged, and likened a study skills centre to a VD clinic. "You can have your worst problem sorted out with discretion, return to your GP, and it's not on your record."

A conference on student well-being is planned for next year. Details: Professor George Gordon, Strathclyde University's centre for academic practice, 0141 552 4400.

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