Referees and references

Information on references including how many references you will have to provide, who you should ask, what information you need to provide and references for postgraduate study.


Providing references 

How many references?  

Two references will normally be enough. For most of you, this should be one academic reference, and one from an employer. It’s most common for an employer to take up references after a final interview or once a provisional job offer has been made.  

You only need to supply references when the employer asks you for them. You don’t usually have to include references in your CV, but you may be asked to put details of referees on an application form.  

You should provide full contact details for your referees:   

  • name  

  • job title  

  • email   

  • phone number 


Academic reference  

As a student you may request references from University staff for a range of purposes. This information is a guide to how those requests will be handled, depending on the type of reference required.

Types of Reference Request

There are 3 main types of requests:

  • Proof of Student Status (For property references etc)
  • References for Employers/Voluntary Work, which can be one or more of:
    • Proof of attendance/degree classification – Covers confirmation of programme of study, attendance dates and attendance record
    • Demonstration of specific competencies & suitability for role
  • Academic References, e.g. for Further Study (MSc or PhD), academic or research internship or Research Grants

See the Guidance section below for information specific to each of these types of request.

Principles for responding to a Reference Request

Where any member of staff is approached and requested to provide a reference, they will ensure that they:

  • Are fully transparent with you in how they are meeting that request, including if they are unable to provide a reference within time with appropriate and acceptable reasons
  • Have considered any implications of the University’s Equality and Diversity policy
  • Have considered the guidance we provide for University staff on providing references

What should you provide?

Initial contact - You are always responsible for initiating a reference request, using this guidance to help you identify a suitable individual. This may vary depending on the type of reference you require.

Time -

  • Staff must be given a reasonable window of time to complete references
  • You bear responsibility for following up any unanswered requests
  • If you submit a request with a very short turnaround time then you may well receive a polite response saying, “I am unable to provide the reference within this time frame”.

Follow-up - If reference not supplied within agreed timeframe, then you are required to email asking for a progress update.

Additionally, where there are

Specific Competencies -

A competency is a skill or ability the employer has stated you need to perform the job.  Where there are specific competencies to be evidenced you should provide

  • A list of competencies you think you have met, and how (unless this is already clearly covered in your CV)
  • A current copy of your CV
  • A copy of the job description or information on your further programme of studies


Not all references need to be provided by academic staff. Some references can be provided by professional services staff, such as Student Advisers, or you can request them yourself using the electronic documents service. The types of references and the best route to providing each of those are explained below.

The same information is shown in a table, here:


Employer/professional reference  

Your employer reference should be written by someone who knows you well enough to write about you and to comment on your suitability for the)role you are applying for.   

This may be:  

  • your line manager from a part-time job  

  • an employer you worked for during the summer   

  • an industry professional who knows your character and capabilities, such as a mentor, or even a client 

You can choose referees best placed to comment on your suitability for a particular role but employers often specify that one of your referees must be your current employer.  

If you don’t have any recent work experience you could ask:  

  • the coordinator/supervisor of your voluntary work  

  • the manager or coach of your sports team  

  • the director of your drama group or similar  

  • an employer you had work experience with while at school, or a family friend  

Always make sure you ask permission to name someone as a referee. If you have an interview, let them know that they may be contacted and do remember to thank them.  

Please make sure that you contact your referees in plenty of time and that you give them all the information needed. 


What information should I give to my referees?  

You should provide your referee with enough information to write a detailed reference, including:  

  • a copy of your CV   

  • details of the job (or course/s) you’re applying for   

  • your motivation for pursuing the role 

  • the qualifications, skills and experience you have that make you an ideal candidate 

If you haven’t been in contact with your referee for some time, e.g. since graduating or moving jobs, you should also let them know what you’ve been doing during that period.


The following resource on Careers Service Plus explains how you can get the best results from your references:

Get the best results from your references (UoE log in required)