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 of 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.

Why might you need this?    

To prove your student status to banks, landlords and similar. 

How can you get this?   

Self-service certification of matriculation - Available On-demand via MyEd.  

Access your MyEd Student Self-service channel here: 

Read more about the official documents available to you: ​​​​​​​​​​Official Documents | The University of Edinburgh 

Who is responsible for doing this? 

You are. 


Available on demand. 

Why might you need this? 

This may be required by recruiters or admissions departments for further study. 

How can you get this?    

Self-service – Academic Statement, Award conferred. Available On-demand via MyEd 

Access your MyEd Student Self-service channel here: 

Read more about the official documents available to you: ​​​​​​​​​​Official Documents | The University of Edinburgh 

Who is responsible for doing this? 

You are. 


Available on demand. 

Why might you need this? 

To provide a short, factual reference for job or internship application (if you are applying for an academic research internship see the section below) 

How can you get this?  

When requesting a reference for a job or internship application you should approach your Student Adviser (or Postgraduate Research Supervisor) and provide: 

  • Details of the position and competencies required for it 
  • Any deadlines set by the employer for receipt of references 
  • Your current CV and cover letter or support statement if relevant (it is recommended you have a regularly updated version) 

What your Student Adviser (or Postgraduate Research Supervisor) will do: 

  1. Access your student record (EUCLID) to check course and programme details relevant to the competencies the employer has specified 

  1. They may approach an appropriate academic colleague for additional information (only where they cannot do so from their own knowledge of you) 

  1. Produce draft reference and submit to relevant academic for verification and signing 

  1. Keep you updated on progress of reference and expected timescales 

Who is responsible for doing this? 

You/ Your Student Adviser/ Academic.


Meet agreed deadline.

You are likely to need an academic reference for the applications listed below and should start planning for that early:

  • PGT application (postgraduate study) 
  • PhD  application 
  • Professional  postgraduate qualifications 
  • Research or academic Internships 
  • Industry Projects & Placements 
  • Scholarships 
  • Funding and awards 


The key is identifying the purpose of the reference, the level of detail needed, and then approaching the university staff member best suited to provide the type of reference sought. Think about who can highlight your relevant qualities and tailor comments to the specific context. If you are on an accredited course, these will often have additional, specific requirements about suitable references. In that case, contact your School/Deanery for more information.

Who should you ask? 

· Select an academic staff member who knows your academic abilities best. This could be a dissertation supervisor, a course organiser or lecturer, or a Cohort Lead 

· Ideally choose someone you've interacted with frequently who can speak directly to your skills, qualities and fit for the application at hand 

· Provide them your CV, transcripts, application information, and description of the course, job or opportunity you are applying for 

When should you ask? 

· Always give notice of at least 2 weeks. You should not assume the academic will be available at short notice, as they may be on leave, on sabbatical or attending conferences 

· If you are applying for more than one position, the academic may only be able to provide a limited number of tailored references therefore please be mindful of this when submitting your request. 

If you have further questions: 

· Reach out to your Student Adviser if you are still unsure about what kind of reference you need, or the process in your School/Deanery. 


To meet agreed deadline (which must be reasonable).

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)