Personal and Academic Support System (PASS) and Interventions with at risk students in the School of Life Sciences, Oxford Brookes University


Dr Sue Robbins, School of Life Sciences, Brookes Teaching Fellow

The topic of the paper

PASS offers a model for enhancing support at School level for Year 1 undergraduates that can make direct (or facilitate through referral) effective interventions to tackle lack of engagement, underachievement and failure. It gives structure and focus to the Personal Tutor-Tutee relationship through tutorials given during the course of the year by each Personal Tutor for their personal tutor group

Why it is of concern

PASS connects Personal Tutoring to a School-based structure that can devise individual action plans at School level for ‘at risk’ students, directly support some, and triage and facilitate the referral of others who need additional support. This support is provided through mentoring, study skills tutoring and personal counselling.

The aim is to use the whole structure of support to reduce the attrition rate of the Year 1 UG intake for the School and manage constructively the transfer and withdrawal of those students for whom the course is not appropriate.

What was done (methods)

Identification of under-engaged, underachieving and failing students through Personal Tutors’ observations and outcomes of academic assessment at the end of semester 1 allows for targeted help through effective intervention. Failing students were interviewed and individual action plans designed to facilitate academic recovery.

What are the main outcomes

This project is still in progress and quantitative data in terms of students’ results will not be available until mid June. The impressive qualitative outcome is visible improvement in student morale. Students responded to personal contact and being held accountable. They spoke of encouragement in knowing that ‘somebody cares’. Stresses importance of face-to-face meetings, which is the philosophy of PASS.