This page focuses on the element ‘Student support system’. While not part of the formal curriculum, it has a critical and complementary role in the areas of student development, employability, and careers. Description A student support system that is motivating and supportive in the way that: personal and professional development is handled; career discussions are enabled; and further opportunities and services promoted and signposted. Relevance for student development, employability, and careers Staff do not need to be careers and employability experts in order to have an important and positive role in students’ development, employability, and careers. Staff involved in supporting students can ask and seed questions about students’ thinking and activity in these areas; this is an effective way to encourage all students to engage. Signposting to expert resources such as the Careers Service, ensures these questions and conversations can have a supported and meaningful next step. Tips and things to consider Below you will find some key tips and guidance to consider when incorporating student development, employability and career related topics in the student support system. Practical tips Encouraging and seeding questions is more important than being an expert We are all busy and have different pressures so there is no reason or expectation that you become an expert on careers and employability. Rather, you can support your students by seeding questions around careers, co- and extra-curricular activities and signposting to relevant professional services, as well as encouraging your students to engage and develop areas they are interested in. While signposting is an essential tool, concrete examples are valuable It can be very valuable to be aware of careers events hosted within your school, or have concrete examples of individuals and their trajectories, for example past tutees. When thinking about the sorts of examples you can provide, or people you can connect students with, consider how relevant and relatable they are – it might be more valuable to hear from a recent graduate working their first job, compared to a successful professional who graduated 30 years ago, even if both can be helpful. Be sensitive to students' hopes and fears and provide appropriate support Sometimes students need to be encouraged to think about their careers, and supported in setting goals and taking steps towards achieving them. In other cases, it may be that students need reassurance: they don't need to panic and can take steps to keep options open. Be specific, ideally pointing to named individuals Send students to a specific place and, where appropriate, to a named individual such as your school's designated Careers Consultant. Adding examples of how they have helped other students can normalise and minimise any apprehension, and reassure them of the relevance and value. At a programme level, it can be beneficial to introduce the Careers Consultant at key transition points, for example induction events. Encourage students to reflect on how the work they are doing supports their employability Students develop and learn throughout their time at university. If you are involved in student support, either one-to-one or in groups, you can support your students with reflective questions to help surface how they are personally and professionally developing through their courses and co- and extra-curricular activities. Highlighting the benefit and relevance of these, for example to applications, CVs and interviews for either jobs or further studies, can boost students’ confidence and the value they see in such activities. Help and encourage students to identify personal circumstances early Some students may be in situations that can shape their future options, for example some students are on visas that affect what they can do. Encourage them to identify these earlier rather than later. Consider having the Careers Service input at student support training At a school level, it can be valuable to engage the Careers Service and other professional services staff to input on how best to support your students regarding student development, employability, and careers. For specific guidance on how to support your students see links below: For a group session (pdf) Advice for staff supporting taught students Examples of practice in the University of Edinburgh There is diverse practice across the University that can be used to stimulate thinking about what is possible in your setting. Below is a link to a range of relevant practice from the Teaching Matters blog. The examples come from multiple parts of the student experience and relate either partially or substantially to this element. New articles are automatically added so check back in the future to discover some of the latest practice. Teaching Matters: relevant articles Further reading and external perspectives The references below provide some background on this element as well as some of the external drivers and motivations for including it. Overview There is a wide variety of models for effective student support and many pressures for individual staff members in these systems. The references below bring together perspectives on how student support systems or equivalent are a unique opportunity to work with students on their personal development planning (PDP). The references also highlight how both students and institutional systems expect staff to be willing and effective in signposting to other support services. Lastly, we also see how the University and most individual schools emphasise the desire for the student support system to develop our students and prompt questions about careers. Further reading Reference Description University of Edinburgh (2019) Strategy 2030. Strategy 2030 The University focuses on the development of its students and Strategy 2030 highlights that the institution should be ‘a place of transformation and of self-improvement’ where we ‘support each other’s development and career progress’. Employability Consultancy, University of Edinburgh (2019). Curriculum mapping: student development, employability and careers. Curriculum Mapping 2018/19 This mapping of the University of Edinburgh's undergraduate curriculum included the provision by personal tutors regarding PDP and careers (at a minimum actively signposting resources and support). While there was variability within the University’s schools in the extent to which individual personal tutors actively engaged with these topics, most of the schools’ Personal Tutor Statements referenced prompting students to talk about careers. McIntosh, E. & Grey, D (2017). Career advice: how to be an effective personal tutor. Times Higher Education. Article (may require log-in) In this article, the authors follow-up a presentation on personal tutors at the Higher Education Academy's annual conference with practical advice. Two key points are outlined: 'Effective tutoring acknowledges the “whole student”, both their academic and pastoral needs. Many confuse personal tutoring with providing tea and sympathy. Successful tutoring approaches, however, recognise the importance of skilled interpersonal conversations that explore both academic and personal goals, as well as the reality that students currently face' 'Personal tutoring is also about referral – we should only advise and guide within the limits of our own expertise. It is important to listen to students, provide advice to the best of our ability and work alongside specialist support services to get students the support that they require. Active referral means facilitating a referral properly, rather than just recommending things and sending the student away to deal with something by themselves – often they won’t.' Stevenson, N. (2006). Integrating personal tutoring with personal development planning. The Higher Education Academy. In this paper the author talks about the great opportunity of using personal tutor conversations to work with students on PDP. This allows staff to take a more holistic view of the student and thereby proactively support them to recognise and articulate achievements. Before describing a case study at the author's own university, the paper addresses models of personal tutors, most of which emphasise the importance of facilitating students' personal development. National Union of Students (NUS) (2011). Charter on personal tutors. Charter This charter is created in response to the National Student Survey, and highlights students' desires of personal tutors. One of the ten key points is that personal tutoring should support both academic and personal development. It is suggested that the academic and personal developmental element does not need to come from the same individuals, but should be supported within a personal tutor system. Moreover, one key attribute that the NUS found important for a personal tutor is the ability to signpost well to other services. Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (2009). Personal development planning: guidance for institutional policy and practice in higher education. QAA's website with link to report In its quality code, the QAA sets out that providers of higher education should include places for personal and professional development. As a part of this delivery, QAA highlights the importance of embedding PDP into the university experience. Personal tutors systems are suggested as one place where PDP can be tackled.