Enhancing Quality in the M.Pharm Degree Programme: Optimisation of the Personal Tutor System

Michael H. Sosabowski, Alison M. Bratt, Katie Herson, George W.J. Olivier, Rachel Sawers, Susan Taylor, Anne-Marie Zahoui, Stephen P. Denyer


Personal tutoring (PT) systems operating in Higher education (HE) generally aim to offer support, infor- mation and advice to students concerning many areas in their university life, both the pedagogical and the personal. This article considers the methodologies and perceptions of a PT system for 4-year Master of Pharmacy (M.Pharm) undergraduate students within the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences at the University of Brighton.

The 2000/2001 Level 1 and Level 2 M.Pharm cohorts were surveyed with respect to their perceptions of the personal tutor system. These perceptions are reported in this work. The majority of students made zero or one visits to their assigned personal tutor each academic year. Overall positive student perceptions concerning the effectiveness of the PT system is reported, with most students reporting that they found their allocated personal tutor helpful. Most students stated that they felt able to request a change of personal tutor under any circumstances without fear of any negative consequence, a key attribute of the system.

Students described the PT system as a means of listening to personal problems, to review status of academic progress and to act as an initial point of contact between the students and the University. Yet the students did not acknowledge some of its key functions. The PT was not described as a means to discuss learning and assessment strategies, deploy information on course and exam regulations and help in choosing modules (as well as assistance in gaining access to support services).

The results of this study provide us with a framework by which the current system may be improved. Results suggest that its focus now must be on enhancing staff dedication to the provision of a quality service, training support to staff in the skills of PT, instituting a minimum number of PT sessions-per-academic year and broad- ening student knowledge of the multi-dimensional role of the personal tutor. It is also concluded that the one-size-fits-all model does not fit all and that a flexible model for tutoring is more likely to satisfy the requirements of the student body as a whole.




Personal tutor; Student support; Counselling; Student welfare; Pharmacy undergraduates

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