Why have Academic Advisers?

  • There is now a substantial body of research evidence that suggests that academic guidance can:

    • enhance the student experience
    • improve the academic success of students
    • encourage students to prepare for employment and careers beyond university
    • promote a sense of belonging to a disciplinary community.

    Students do experience planned disciplinary-specific academic guidance through their programmes of study, however, this form of guidance tends to be cohort-focused rather than individual student-focused. The Academic Adviser (or Personal Tutor) is commonly understood as complementing, rather than replacing, curriculum-based academic guidance by focusing on the holistic development of the individual student.

    The research literature on academic guidance (e.g. Malik, 2000; Mottarella et al, 2004; Broadbridge, 1996) suggests the significance of the sustained relationship that Academic Advisers have with their advisees. Advisers who are proactive and meet regularly with their advisees (Kuh, 2008; Hattie, 2009) are likely to be successful in supporting students to:

    • reflect on how their studies are progressing
    • extend their conceptions of learning, study skills, metacognition and self-critical awareness
    • formulate and review their plans for employment and career aspirations
    • communicate effectively with academics within their discipline

    Whilst most Universities have systems akin to our Academic Adviser schemes, the Select Committee of Public Accounts urge Universities to pay more attention to this area of activity. The Select Committee report (2008) notes:

    Some students feel that academic and pastoral support is limited and does not meet their needs. Universities should give personal tutoring a sufficiently high priority, with training and support to help tutors to be fully effective in their role. Reward systems for academic staff should give sufficient recognition to performance in respect of personal tuition

    The case 'for' Academic Advisers is very convincing, yet it has to be recognised that the one-to-one nature of the Adviser/advisee relationship makes any university-wide Academic Adviser scheme very resource hungry. Thus, a successful Academic Advisers' scheme will be one that carefully balances the costs and benefits.

    Academic Advising:
    Daniel Hoy

    Daniel Hoey, a combined studies student, talks about the value of an Academic Adviser's guidance.

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    Academic Advising:
    Lyn Bibbings

    Lyn Bibbings, Academic Adviser in the Business and Management Department in the Business Faculty, on supporting students through their time at university.

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    Broadbridge, A. (1996). Academic advising - traditional or developmental approaches?: Student perspectives. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 24(1), 97-111.

    Hattie, J. (2009). The Black Box of Tertiary Assessment: An Impending Revolution. In L. H. Meyer, S. Davidson, H. Anderson, R. Fletcher, P.M. Johnston, & M. Rees (Eds.), Tertiary Assessment & Higher Education Student Outcomes: Policy, Practice & Research (pp.259-275). Wellington, New Zealand: Ako Aotearoa

    Kuh, G. D., Cruce, T. M., Shoup, R., Kinzie, J., & Gonyea, R. M. (2008). Unmasking the effects of student engagement on first-year college grades and persistence. The Journal of Higher Education, 79(5), 540-563.

    Malik, S. (2000). Students, tutors and relationships: the ingredients of a successful student support scheme. Medical Education, 34(8), 635-641.

    Mottarella, K. E., Fritzsche, B. A., & Cerabino, K. C. (2004). What do students want in advising? A policy capturing study. NACADA Journal, 24(1), 48-61.