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3.1 Postgraduate Tutors


The Postgraduate Tutors and their roles

The Postgraduate Tutors are: Dr Ronita Bardhan, Dr Joseph BitneyDr Jörg HausteinDr David Smith and Professor Robert Tasker, who collectively have a wide range of experience of most aspects of University and College life. On admission to the College, postgraduate students are allocated to one of these Postgraduate Tutors. Postgraduates typically retain the same Tutor during their studies at Selwyn.

Your Tutor is your official link with the University and is responsible for sorting out problems you encounter with the College’s formal requirements, your course, examinations or dissertations. They do not have day-to-day responsibility for your academic progress: that lies with your Supervisor. They will, however, receive copies of reports written by Supervisors and will certainly take an interest in your overall academic progress. Most of the time, however, your Tutor’s function will be pastoral and advisory.

Postgraduate Tutors are available to see you as you require. Generally, it is best to email them and make an appointment during normal working hours. In an emergency or outside normal hours, you may contact your Tutor via the Porters who will usually be able to put you in touch by telephone.

As a new postgraduate student you will be invited to meet your Tutor simply to say hello and introduce yourself. We strongly encourage you to accept this invitation, especially if you are new to Selwyn. However, there are also social events, particularly at the start of the academic year, which will give you an opportunity to meet in person. This contributes to building up a personal rapport between you. This helps if you subsequently wish to meet your Tutor to discuss academic work, or personal, financial or health issues that may arise.

Students studying for Master’s degrees are required to meet with their Tutor at least three times during the academic year (two years for part-time students); once at the start of the academic year and once around the time of the break between the first two Terms (i.e., Michaelmas and Lent Terms). Whether you meet before or after the Christmas break may depend on coursework deadlines and examination dates. Students who have progressed into their doctoral studies are encouraged to stay in contact with their Tutors. Of course, Tutors remain available to support and advise their students at other times.

The Postgraduate Tutors are an important part of the pastoral team at Selwyn. They work alongside the Senior Tutor, Chaplain, the College Nurse and MCR Officers to help students make the most of the academic and social opportunities that Cambridge offers. Our pastoral system is deliberately designed to provide a number of people and routes by which students can access support and advice. Specifically, if there is a matter which a student would rather discuss with a Tutor other than their own, they are welcome to consult another Tutor or member of the pastoral team. If a student is dissatisfied with their Tutor, then the matter should be raised, in confidence, with the Senior Tutor. The Senior Tutor, the Chaplain and the College Nurse assist Tutors in both their formal and pastoral roles as well as being available to students. A Tutor’s duties and responsibilities can be summarized as follows:

3.1.1 Roles of the Tutor

Postgraduate Tutors have both formal and pastoral roles.

In the formal role the Tutor is an official point of contact between the student, the University and the College. For example, requests to intermit, for extensions to formal deadlines, to sit examinations under special conditions, or appeals or complaints about the conduct of examinations may be initiated via a student’s Tutor. At the College level, a student’s Tutor would be expected to represent them in any disciplinary hearings. Requests to the College for financial support or for other grants are normally passed via the Tutor. Finally, some applications for employment or scholarships will require a reference from a Tutor.

In the pastoral role Tutors offer support and guidance to help students make the most of their time in Cambridge. Their role is to listen, discuss and, if appropriate, suggest courses of action on all matters to do with a student’s welfare. Tutors have a wide experience of both the College and University, and are able to recommend other sources of help for students (for example the University Counselling Service or the Accessibility & Disability Resource Centre). They can also advise in cases of financial difficulty. Postgraduate Tutors are always separate from a student’s academic Supervisor, and can provide an alternative source of advice on difficulties that might be interfering with a student’s academic work.

Tutors are not trained counsellors or mental health professionals: they are therefore neither qualified nor able to take on a therapeutic role. However, they can help students to find appropriate help, for example by accessing services provided by the University or the Health Service.

Mutual Expectations 

A postgraduate student can expect their Tutor to:

⦁ be ready to listen, to discuss and to offer advice, all from an informed and sympathetic view point;

⦁ take a general interest in their academic work and other activities, and in the process get to know them better;

⦁ offer hospitality and arrange social events;

⦁ make themselves available, responding within two working days to a request for a meeting;

⦁ respond within two working days to emails or other messages;

⦁ provide references (provided reasonable notice is given*), and follow up on any enquiries or requests for help. (Sometimes, the Tutor may not be the best person to provide a reference. For academic and some job applications a Supervisor may be better. However, your Tutor will be happy to advise you on this.)

⦁ be well-informed about University and College procedures, sources of advice and information, and how to access these services;

⦁ in an emergency to make themselves available at short notice, either to speak on the telephone or meet face-to-face.

It is important to understand that Tutors are busy academics with many demands on their time. There are thus limits on the times that they can be available and the amount of time that they can spend with particular students.

A Tutor can expect their Tutorial pupils to:

⦁ respond to email or other messages within two working days;

⦁ attend a face-to-face meeting requested with reasonable notice, and in an emergency without delay.

Students will find that it is worthwhile to put some effort into establishing a rapport with their Tutor so as to facilitate communication and understanding between both parties.

3.1.2 Confidentiality

A postgraduate student can speak to their Tutor in confidence. However, for a Tutor to provide the best help or advice, it may be necessary for them to discuss issues with others within the pastoral team (e.g. the Chaplain, the Senior Tutor, the Nurse, a professional from the Counselling Service). Often this can be done without revealing the name of the student, although if this is not possible, the Tutor will seek permission to reveal particular confidences solely for that purpose. For very serious matters, e.g. where a student or others may be at serious risk, the Tutor may need to take others into his or her confidence even without explicit permission.

Postgraduate students with pre-existing conditions that may affect them during their time in Cambridge, are recommended to reveal this, in confidence, to their Tutor, so that these may be taken into account should the need subsequently arise.

3.1.3 The Tutorial Office

Most Postgraduate Students will already have met Mrs Samantha Carr, who is responsible for many of the day-to-day administrative matters that concern our postgraduate students. Sam is based in the Tutorial Office in Ann’s Court provides administrative and moral support to the Postgraduate Tutors in their role. Sam has many years of experience assisting Selwyn postgraduates, is unfailingly helpful and usually a very good place to start for help on administrative matters.