Advice for Personal Tutors
Key messages to give your students, and advice on when to refer them to us. Writing references for your students.
You are a key influencer in your students’ time here. Encourage them to engage with their personal and career development from first year. Leaving it all until year 4 or 5 is too late and good habits early on will help them fulfil their potential.
We have developed the Careers Compass with this in mind. Signpost your students to the Careers Compass during your discussions and encourage them to follow its suggestions for action.
As Personal Tutor you will be asked to supply references for your students and graduates. These guidelines will help you ensure best practice and avoid any pitfalls.
The reference must be accurate, fair and transparent. You should avoid making unsubstantiated or potentially misleading statements. Keep the information fact based and support your claims with evidence. Avoid supposition and use qualifying statements if needed, e.g. ‘To the best of my knowledge’. Many employers will issue a reference pro-forma, but you may be asked to provide an open reference. If so, you are advised to follow the guidance below.
What to include
- The capacity in which you know the student
- Confirmation of dates of study, degree subject, relevant grades and related modules
- Notable academic achievements: awards, bursaries, competitions
- Comments on the student’s academic ability, personal qualities, skills and suitability for the role
- Participation in extra or co-curricular activities
- Internships and work experience
- Focus on positive points where possible. Discuss any concerns with the student beforehand
What to exclude
- Opinion or personal comments that are irrelevant to the position
- Defamatory statements
- Information relating to a student’s health or mental state, ethnic origin, religious belief or sexual orientation
Managing the process
- Raise the subject with students early in their penultimate year. Encourage students to keep you informed of their career plans – ask them to share their CV or application(s) and details of jobs or postgraduate courses
- Respond to reference requests within the agreed timeframe
- Avoid giving telephone references where possible. It is best to have a written record
- Maintain a consistent format to avoid allegations of favouritism
- Store references in the appropriate place
Although there is no statutory duty to supply references, it is established practice at Edinburgh for personal tutors to fulfil this role. If you are unable, uncomfortable, or unwilling to provide a reference please inform the student (or graduate) as soon as possible, clearly stipulating your reasons
The legal context
- You do not need the student’s consent to provide a reference. The legal basis is *performance of a contract” as the student wishes to enter into an employment contract. It’s the same for giving references for students making an application for further study. That is also “steps taken towards a contract” so the legal basis is the same
- You must not provide confidential references, only a reference you would be prepared to share with the student
- There is a legal obligation to use due care when compiling a reference in order to ensure its accuracy
- As references involve the sharing, handling and disclosure of personal data, they are subject to the General Data Protection Regulation
This information was provided by Dr Rena Gertz, (PC.dp), Data Protection Officer, University of Edinburgh, who confirmed it will be provided to students too
Encourage them to be “career curious”. Echo our message that early career exploration is a good investment, even if they are unsure of their career direction
Prompt them to take action as this will avoid panic and overload in later years
Highlight the benefits of extra-curricular or co-curricular activity, part-time or summer work to start building experience
Remind them to make use of us – we can help them find internships, refine their options and build their networks
Stress the value of making informed decisions – going to alumni events, employer sessions and careers fairs will all help
Check how their plans are developing. Remind them that closing dates for graduate schemes and postgraduate study can be very early in Semester 1
Suggest a 1:1 consultation if they are confused, stuck, or trying to weigh up their options
Reassure them we can offer continued support beyond graduation
Encourage your students to:
Explore a curated range of diverse development opportunities in MyDevelopmentHub
Use the self-help resources on our website and in Learn. These resources (film and text) and toolkits cover a range of topics including discovering what’s out there, finding work experience and writing CVs
Attend webinars, workshops, fairs and events, meet employers and alumni
Access job adverts (part-time, internships and graduate vacancies)
Take advantage of the 1:1 support we offer
Information and advice drop-ins (University of Edinburgh login)
Get feedback on applications and personal statements, and arrange a practice interview
Refer students to book an appointment with us if they:
want to explore possible options or weigh up different options
want to discuss how they can recognise and develop their skillset
need help finding and using careers information
are confused or a bit stuck in their thinking
need advice on gaining specific experience
are having doubts or anxiety about their degree choice, choosing to leave their course – or having to do so.
Students can book an appointment themselves. However, in some circumstances you may feel it’s more appropriate to approach us directly (with the student’s permission). You can contact the link consultant for your School or do this via your School Support team
This model, developed using career learning theory, underpins all we do. It serves as a tool for students to use as a reflective document, or as a planning resource to set actions and chart progress in key development areas at each stage of their time at university.
The names we have given to these key areas are:
Discover what’s out there
Make it happen
See our suggestions of actions which students can take throughout their time here to develop in each of these areas.