We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Learning and Teaching Handbook

Principles for Student Support


1. Significant change in our student profile is underway as a result of the growth in the numbers of postgraduate and international students, the increase of students with disabilities and the development of distance taught and distance learning programmes. Student support must recognise and address the needs of our increasingly diverse student community.


2. Approaches to induction will recognise and address the fact that induction is an ongoing process that extends beyond the first two weeks of a student's programme of study. Effective induction is crucial to ensuring that students are supported throughout their time at the University. Formal induction processes will be put in place in all departments and colleges.

3. Induction for new students will cover all aspects of the student experience including an academic induction that addresses the skills required to read for a degree in the student's chosen subject area(s) and a college induction which amongst other things covers student support within colleges and access to Specialist student services.

Academic support and guidance

4. Provision for developing academic literacy and study skills will form an ongoing part of the academic support provided by our departments, and will also be provided via the centrally-coordinated academic skills programme. This will be supported by a University level generic skills audit for all incoming students.

5. All taught students will be appointed an Academic Adviser in their academic departments, who will be responsible for providing academic support and guidance - by which we mean providing feedback and advice on a student's overall academic performance and progress (including performance in examinations), and advice and guidance on study choices - throughout a student's programme of study. An Academic Adviser will offer their advisees the opportunity of individual meetings at key stages in the programme of study (these will depend on such factors as the stage and mode of study but for example is likely to include initial induction; in connection with module choice; and to provide feedback on overall academic progress and performance including feedback on examinations), and be available for consultation (for example through publicised office hours).

6. Academic Advisers will be members of academic staff, and will normally be responsible for providing academic support and guidance throughout a student's programme of study (noting that alternative arrangements will be need to be made when an academic adviser is on research leave). The number of advisees per academic adviser will be such that the adviser knows each of them personally.

7. The workload of academic advisers will be recognised and included in departmental workload models.

8. All Academic Advisers will be available to act as a student's academic referee for applications for employment or further study, although students may approach other members of academic staff (for example their dissertation supervisor) for academic references.

9. Each department will maintain a written statement of the key elements of its academic adviser system (or systems, if different approaches are adopted at undergraduate and postgraduate levels). Departmental academic adviser systems will be aligned to Principles 5, 6 and 8 above and will be subject to approval by the relevant Faculty Education Committee and by Education Committee. Monitoring of the arrangements for academic support will be carried out through consideration of student performance and student feedback (such as the results of the National Student Survey) at departmental and institutional level and through periodic reviews of departments. Education Committee will have ultimate responsibility for assuring the provision of academic support to students.

Pastoral support

10. College Principals have the ultimate responsibility for assuring the provision of pastoral support to students (by which we mean support in relation to personal or financial matters and personal circumstances that affect academic studies). College Principals will identify a principal point of contact on all pastoral support matters. In consultation with the PVC&DW (as advised by Colleges’ Board) Education Committee will set out core provision in these areas and College Principals will be responsible for ensuring arrangements are in place for their delivery.

11. The monitoring of the arrangements for pastoral support will be carried out through College Review and the Student Experience Sub-Committee's oversight of the student experience in colleges.

12. Departments will nominate a principal point of contact for colleges.

Personal development

13. The personal development of our students is fundamental to a Durham education in order that graduates are well-prepared for their future lives and employment. In part personal development derives from college life and extra-curricular activities, but it also derives from our academic modules and programmes; by the same token academic development is grounded essentially in study in academic departments, but is enhanced by extra-curricular and college-based opportunities for the exercise of critical thinking and intellectual enquiry. Personal development is promoted through our academic departments, Experience Durham, Durham Students' Union, colleges and college student common rooms. The provision of opportunities for personal development is therefore the responsibility of both academic departments and colleges. Students are responsible for taking up these opportunities to further their personal development.

14. Academic departments are responsible for that aspect of personal development that derives from student acquisition of generic and transferable skills within our modules and programmes (in accordance with principles 6 to 10 of the University's underlying principles for the development of the taught curriculum), and through the provision of academic support and guidance (as laid out in principles 4 to 8 above).

15. Colleges are responsible for encouraging those aspects of personal development including leadership, shared responsibility, initiative and enterprise that arise through students’ participatory and representative roles in social, recreational, cultural and sporting activities within Colleges. The exact model for delivery of this may vary. The monitoring of the arrangements for personal development will be carried out through College Review subject to Student Experience Sub-Committee's oversight.

Specialist student services

16. Specialist student services will provide support, specialist knowledge and expert advice in their respective areas. This expertise will be drawn on by departments and colleges, by referring specific issues to these services and by seeking their professional advice in these areas.

17 Specialist student services will review their provision from the perspective of the student, to ensure that their support to students is delivered quickly, effectively and efficiently.

18. Relevant Specialist Student Services (for example CEEC, Disability Support Services) will ensure that they have a named member of staff in their service who acts as a main point of contact for colleagues in departments and colleges. Departments and colleges will nominate a main point of contact for Specialist Services.

Underpinning structures

19. Clear mechanisms will be put in place to ensure effective liaison between academic departments, colleges and Specialist Student Services, in order to ensure co-ordination of student support. While the particular form of these mechanisms may differ according to the specific situation/issue mechanisms must be clear, and transparent and accessible information about them will be provided.