Academic Quality Handbook
- Full Handbook Contents
- 1 - Teaching and Learning at the University of Aberdeen: An Overview
- 2 - Quality Assurance in Higher Education: An Overview
- 3 - The Assurance and Enhancement of Academic Quality and Standards in Teaching and Learning
- 4 - Student Recruitment and Admissions
- 5 - Student Guidance and Learner Support
- 6 - Teaching and Learning Policies and Academic Administration
- 7 - Assessment and Examination Policies and Practices : Taught Courses and Programmes
- 8 - Research Students
- 9 - External Examining: Taught Courses and Programmes
- 10 - Collaborative Arrangements: Quality Assurance Procedures
- 11 - Academic Support Services and Resources
Section 5 - Student Guidance and Learner Support
This Section of the Academic Quality Handbook should be of general interest to all students, and of particular interest to staff involved in the provision of support to students.
5.1.1 The Student Charter is a guide to the services provided by the University and indicates in which University documentation a prospective student, a current student or a graduate can find more detailed information about those services.
5.2.1 The Student Affairs Directorate aims to provide appropriate services to students which will support their physical, psychological, emotional and professional needs throughout their University life, thus optimising their student experience and enabling them to realise their full potential. The Directorate consists of 4 areas: Careers Service, Hospitality Services, Sport & Recreation Services, Student Support Services. Each of these four areas previously worked independently to service the needs of students (and staff). In August 2002, the four distinct areas were brought together under the umbrella of Student Affairs to enhance, through mutual support and in collaboration with the Students’ Association, the provision already in place. More information on each area is provided elsewhere in this Handbook.
5.3.1 The University recognises that a well-developed system of student support is vital to students' ability to gain the best from their studies. A comprehensive range of student support services is provided, brief details of which are given below. The University’s home Web pages carry up-to-date information at: www.abdn.ac.uk/central/students/
5.3.2 The Director of Student Support Services acts as line-manager for a range of support services, including: University Counselling Service, Chaplaincy, Wardenial staff and the Student Advice and Support Office. The Director is co-located with the Student Advice and Support Office, which includes the Student Advice Officer, International Student Advisers and the Student Support Officer/Disabilities Adviser.
5.3.3 Student Support staff liaise with members of the academic staff, with office-bearers of the Students’ Association and with representatives of relevant outside organisations. Student complaints on non-academic matters are received by the Director.
5.3.4 Student support also forms part of the portfolio of a Vice-Principal, who works closely with the Director. The Vice-Principal is advised by, and attends, the University’s Student Affairs Committee, a Standing Committee of Court and Senate which includes Court and Senate representatives.
5.3.5 The Student Affairs Committee has two sub-committees: the Student Support Sub-Committee; the Wardens and Residences Liaison Group. These sub-committees meet once a term and make recommendations to the Student Affairs Committee, as appropriate.
5.3.6 Feedback from the student body regarding the University's support services is obtained via the student representatives on the above-named committees. Individual service areas conduct surveys of users’ views (e.g. Counselling and Sport & Recreation) and the issue of more systematic feedback is actively being addressed by the Director in discussion with service heads and the student representatives.
5.4.1 For regulatory and administrative purposes, each student is under the aegis of the Quality Assurance Committee [Section 3 refers]. This committee is responsible also for maintaining an appropriate system of student academic and personal support.
Advisers of Studies
5.5.1 The cornerstone to the University’s support services for undergraduate students is the allocation of each student to an Adviser of Studies (or Regent in the case of medical students). The Advisers of Studies Job Description is provided in Appendix 5.1.
5.5.2 While the Quality Assurance Committee has overall responsibility for the advising/student support system, the day-to-day student administration for each Area of Study is undertaken by the Registry, in conjunction with relevant Director of Undergraduate Programmes.
5.5.3 All students have a meeting with their Adviser at the beginning of the session to have their curriculum approved. Details of these appointments are provided to students during the Summer vacation with their Joining Instructions (Section 6 refers).
5.5.4 Advisers are expected not only to give curricular advice but also to be available to give guidance to students on other issues they may wish to raise, referring them to more specialist agencies where this seems appropriate. Advisers are also provided with a handbook approved by the Quality Assurance Committee, which contains an explanation of degree regulations, University policies and procedures, information and contact numbers for the specialist support agencies: accommodation, careers, chaplaincies, financial and grants problems, health, language tuition (including English for overseas students), legal advice, the SA, student welfare, etc. and, in some Areas of Study, subject specific information.
5.5.5 Students who are reported as ‘at risk’ through the system for monitoring students’ progress (Section 6, sub-section 6.6 refers) will be referred to their Adviser where there are academic issues which need to be discussed.
5.5.6 Students who have been deemed withdrawn from two or more courses in the Winter Term (Section 6, sub-section 6.13 refers) are asked to meet either their Adviser and/or the Directors of Undergraduate Programmes in early January to discuss their progress.
5.5.7 Advisers are also informed by the Registry if any of their advisees are “at risk” of failing to satisfy the end-of-year progress requirements as a consequence of their performance in the first half-session examinations. Students “at risk” are asked to meet their Adviser in February/March to discuss their position. Advisers must submit a First Half-Session Progress Report form after meeting an advisee to indicate any arrangements in regard to remedial or other support or guidance.
5.5.8 Student feedback on the use and success of the advising system was introduced formally in 1997/98 via an Advising Questionnaire approved by the University Committee on Teaching and Learning. The questionnaire has since been modified to reflect the requirements of individual areas of study.
5.5.9 In Medicine, a Regent system operates to provide non-academic support for undergraduate medical students. A job description for the role of Regent is available from the College of Life Sciences & Medicine Office.
5.6.1 Since most postgraduate students are based predominantly in a single School, all postgraduate students, whether they are following a taught programme of study or are registered for a research degree, are assigned a supervisor by their parent School, who is responsible for providing guidance and learner support.
5.7.1 The responsibilities of the teaching staff, Heads of School, and supervisors of research students, and also the responsibilities of students, are outlined in three Codes of Practice which are appended:-
- Appendix 5.2: Code of Practice on Undergraduate Teaching
- Appendix 5.3: Code of Practice: Postgraduate Taught Students
- Appendix 5.4: Code of Practice: Postgraduate Research Students
5.8.1 Students receive a University e-mail account as part of the University's e-registration process. Students are advised, on admission, that the University will normally use e-mail to communicate during term-time. They are informed that it is their responsibility to check their e-mail on a regular basis and to ensure regular house keeping of their e-mail inbox. Students are informed that failure to check their e-mail or failure to receive e-mail due to being over quota or due to non-delivery of an e-mail forwarded to a non-University e-mail account will not be accepted as a ground for appeal (see section 5.25).
- access their academic record including course enrolments, qualifications and prizes
- update their personal details (including address details)
- see details of their Teaching and Examination Timetables
- access their examination results
- apply for August re-assessments (resits)
- see details of books they have on loan from the Library
- view their Finance account with the University
- read important messages relayed to them via the Message Board
5.9.1 Details of student accommodation are described below. The University guarantees a place in Halls for all first year students and all students in University-managed properties have access to a well-developed system of wardenial support. Each hall site has a team of Wardens, headed by a Senior Warden. Wardenial staff attend an annual induction course and receive in-service training each term on topics of current concern (e.g. mental health, drugs, sudden deaths). Wardenial staff meet on a weekly basis with their respective Senior Wardens, and each Hall has either a Junior Common Room or a Residents Committee, which seeks student users’ views.
5.10.1 The student voice is an important element in developing our welfare services and the Students’ Association makes a vital contribution to policy and practice in this area. Altogether there are six sabbatical officers: students given leave from their studies to look after students’ interests or, more commonly taking up office after Graduation. The Vice-President (Welfare & Equal Opportunities) will act on any student's behalf on academic matters such as academic appeals and appeals to a Students’ Progress Committee, and may accompany students to disciplinary appeal hearings if asked. Further details on the activity of the AUSA can be accessed via their Web pages.
5.10.2 Under the terms of the Education Act 1994, students may exercise the right not to be a member of the Students’ Association as set out in paragraph 22(2)(c) of the Act (see Appendix 5.24). Students wishing to exercise this right should contact the Assistant Registrar (Student Information Systems) for further information.
5.11.1 As part of the Student Advisory Service, the Student Advice Officer provides free, confidential and independent advice about problems with grants, finance, housing, legal issues, University procedures, immigration, DSS benefits, etc. The Money Advice Officer, located in the SRC offices of the Students’ Association (SA), provides independent assistance with personal budgeting, debt management, and general financial advice. The SA’s Joblink provides counselling on term-time employment and keeps lists of vacancies and work opportunities.
5.12.1 The University operates a system of Class Representatives, which is co-ordinated by the AUSA. They are nominated by the students, and generally one class representative is identified for each course at undergraduate level and at least one for each programme at postgraduate level.
5.12.2 Class representatives are the main point of contact between the student body and the teachers with respect to a particular course, and will be members of the relevant School Staff:Student Liaison Committee. Training for class representatives is provided by the Students’ Association in liaison with the national Student Participation in Quality Scotland (SPARQS) service.
5.13.1 The University welcomes students with disabilities and is committed to improving access to its courses, facilities, buildings and social life. It is University policy to consider applications from students with disabilities on the same grounds as apply to all candidates. The University's Disabilities Adviser is part of the Student Advisory Service.
5.13.2 It is also policy to take specific disabilities, including dyslexia, into account when making arrangements for teaching and learning, and the assessment of a student’s performance. The onus is on a student to notify the University (through their Adviser of Studies, Student Support Officer or the Registry) at the earliest opportunity. Each School has a Disabilities Co-ordinator who is responsible for ensuring that arrangements for students studying in their School, as notified to them by the Registry or Student Support Services, are implemented.
5.13.3 Details on arrangements for students with disabilities can be found in the Undergraduate and Postgraduate Prospectuses, and in the University’s Disability Statement (Appendix 5.5), which takes account of the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act, 1995. Prospective students are welcome to contact the Student Support Officer for informal discussion.
- Appendix 5.5: Information for Students with Disabilities and Medical Conditions (Disability Statement)
- Appendix 5.6: Policy on permitting disabled students to tape-record lectures
- Appendix 5.7: Flow Chart on procedures for students with disabilities and medical conditions
- Appendix 5.8: Procedures for Students with Disabilities
- Appendix 5.9: Recommendations Concerning Students with Dyslexia
5.13.5 Examination arrangements for candidates with disabilities are summarised in Section 7.
5.14.1The University’s Sport and Exercise Team consists of highly qualified and experienced staff including sports scientists and physical education teachers who provide excellent sporting and health and fitness-related services for students. The team provides first-class instruction of exercise classes, from Pilates through to specialist sports conditioning, for all levels of participant. The team also boasts a diverse range of sporting expertise, including Strength and Conditioning (coaching for the Scottish and Grampian Institutes of Sport), extensive experience in coaching a variety of sports from recreational to elite level. The ream also works closely with student sports clubs and the AUSA’s Sports Council.
Aberdeen Sports Village, a new £28 million flagship sports facility has now opened, in partnership with Aberdeen City Council and supported by sportscotland. These first-class sports facilities, backed up with an array of excellent services, provide the ideal venue for a range of activities, available to all students, at all levels.
Facilities in the Sports Village include:
- Full size indoor football pitch
- Indoor athletics area (135m running straight with throwing and jumping areas)
- Large sports hall
- 4 squash courts (2 glass backed)
- Large fitness suite and performance gymnasium
- 2 studios
- 400 metre indoor athletics track and stadium
- Floodlit water based hockey pitch
- Performance and Wellbeing Centre (with physiotherapy clinic)
- Créche, café and spectator seating
The Sports & Exercise Team provide exercise classes that cater for a wide range of tastes and levels of ability, from novice to advanced, including lunchtime and evening classes such as aerobics, circuits, sports conditioning, boxfit, body conditioning, step and studio cycling.
5.14.3 Other available facilities include: King’s Pavilion and Playing Fields – the King’s Pavilion contains a swimming pool and changing facilities. The attractive outdoor playing fields boast two rugby pitches, a lacrosse pitch, an artificial cricket wicket, as well as a single tennis court and three additional courts which double as a floodlit training area during winter: Balgownie Playing Fields (situated two miles from the King’s campus in the Bridge of Don) play host to football and shinty teams, providing extensive pitches and changing rooms: Hillhead Centre (situated appropriate one mile from King’s Campus next to Hillhead Halls of Residence) has an exclusive stadium grass football pitch, full-sized sand-dressed synthetic pitch and an impressive sports pavilion: Boathouse on the banks of the River Dee which serves the thriving rowing club: Climbing bothy in Royal Deeside.
5.15.1 The aim of the Rocking Horse Nursery is to provide nursery facilities for the children of staff and students. It operates on a non-profit, cost-covering basis. There are currently 47 full and part-time places for children aged 0-5 and places are split approximately half and half between the children of staff and students. The Nursery is supervised by professional, qualified staff, who report to a Board of Trustees which includes within its membership the President of the Students’ Association. The Nursery’s telephone extension is 3400.
5.16.1 The Old Aberdeen Medical Practice is provided by a group of local general practitioners. It is maintained by four doctors and support staff who offer full medical treatment under the National Health Service. Consultations with medical staff can generally be accommodated within 24 hours of seeking an appointment and a 24 hour emergency service is operated. A part-time psychiatrist is attached to the Practice and there is frequent liaison with clinical psychologists and mental health specialists and voluntary organisations.
5.17.1 The University's full-time Chaplain is committed to serving the whole University community, irrespective of individual religious outlook. The Chaplain offers student support in terms of spiritual needs and, by means of liaison with the Hospital Chaplain, also visits students who have been admitted to hospital. There is also a number of Honorary Chaplains, appointed by denominations to serve the interests of their students. Inter-faith dialogue is actively pursued by the Chaplaincy, which also holds information for local and national support for other faiths. A prayer room is provided for Muslim students and a Mosque is located nearby in the Spital. The Catholic Diocese supports a full-time Chaplain to RC students from its Chaplaincy in the High Street. During term, the University Chapel provides Sunday services for all members of the community.
5.18.1 The Counselling Service provides counselling for students and staff and offers support in addressing issues such as eating disorders, relationship and family matters, etc. The Counselling Service also runs workshops on topics such as Assertiveness, Relaxation, and Coping with Exams, which are free and open to any student.
5.19.1 Starting University is an exciting experience, meeting new people, new friends, the first taste of living independently. The University has around 2,500 spaces to offer all categories of students, which are controlled by the Student Accommodation Office, part of the University’s Student Support Services. There is a wide range of student accommodation comprising Halls with meals, self-catering with shared facilities, and self-catering with en-suite facilities.
- Affordable, accessible, value for money accommodation
- A community build with a real focus on the full living experience as a student.
5.20.1 The Careers Service is located on the 2nd floor of The Hub in Elphinstone Road (extension 3601). The main aims of the Service are as follows:-
- to support academic departments in providing careers modular programmes for their students, and to assist in the development of transferable skills;
- to give practical support to students and graduates by providing guidance in reaching decisions about careers, information about the wide range of occupations and postgraduate courses open to them, and assistance in finding employment; and to provide a standalone careers module accessible to all students;
- to offer students and employers an efficient recruitment service, to inform employers about the University, and to market the University to them;
- to keep the University and its academic staff informed about the first destinations of its graduates, and the state of the market for graduate employment.
5.20.2 The Service maintains Careers Information Rooms which house a wide range of material on occupations, postgraduate research and training, and employment opportunities. In particular, the Company Information Room contains an extensive range of recruitment literature from major employers of graduates. The facilities include a computer-aided guidance programme, software and a video and photocopying room. One careers adviser has particular responsibility for students with disabilities and there is an information section in the Main Information Room for such students. There may also be a careers adviser appointed with responsibility for international students.
5.20.3 The Service produces a regularly updated Web page4, designed to inform students about its activities - details of career talks, the November Careers Fair, Milkrounds, vacation work opportunities, postgraduate course/awards details etc. Vacancy Bulletins are also produced for finalists and recent graduates on a regular basis in an e-mail.
5.20.4 A range of workshops are offered by the Service, mainly during the autumn and spring terms. These include: Practice Psychometric Tests, and Second Interview Exercises, CV Writing, Application Forms, Interview Technique and Teaching as a Career.
5.20.6 Comprehensive details of the Careers Service and the facilities it provides can also be accessed via its Web pages.
5.21.1 The Registry is in day-to-day contact with students and provides a range of advice and information in regard to student loans and tuition fees, financial assistance, progress, examinations, awards and degree regulations, graduation and appeals procedures. Staff may also refer students to other support services.
5.21.2 Details of various aspects of student academic administration undertaken by the Registry are provided in Section 6, Section 7 and Section 8. The main responsibilities of the Section’s various offices are summarised in Section 11. Further details of the services and facilities can be accessed via the Registry’s Web pages.
5.22.1 The Student Learning Service (SLS) provides support for students wishing to enhance their study skills. SLS runs workshops and advice sessions and provides online resources covering topics such as note taking, assignment/essay writing, presentation skills, time management and exam preparation. The Student Learning Service also works with academic staff to provide students with ‘in-course’ study skills training.
5.23.1 All non-native English-speaking students are welcome to consult the English Language Co-ordinator in the Language Centre. English language-related enquiries are also welcome from members of the academic and administrative staff.
5.23.2 The annual four-week Intensive Course in English for Academic Study is based in the Language Centre and runs immediately prior to the start of the academic year. There is a similar one-week course in January for those students commencing their studies at the start of the second semester. These courses concentrate on developing specific academic skills and introducing students to the cultural and social aspects of academic life.
5.23.3 The minimum entry level for the August/September course is an aggregate score of 5.5 in the British Council IELTS test or 525 in the TOEFL test. As the course is skills-focused, students who are above this level will still find the course challenging. Students whose overall competence is below this mark or whose ability in any one of the four skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking is considerably below this mark will have to improve their general English skills in order to be accepted by the University. The University Language Centre runs Foundation Courses and a Summer School which aim to improve general language competence.
5.23.4 Where there has been insufficient progress over the four weeks to reach an overall IELTS equivalent score of 6.00 (the University English language entry requirement) students will be strongly advised to attend further term-time classes.
5.23.5 Courses/workshops/tutorials are run throughout the academic year on academic writing and communication skills in particular, and individual support offered to post-graduate students writing up theses and dissertations during the second semester.
5.23.6 A level 2 module (15 credits) “English as an International Language: Communication Skills for Study and Professional Development” is offered in the first semester for undergraduate students whose first language is not English and aims to develop communicative ability in line with ALTE level 4 (competent user). The minimum entry level is the equivalent of IELTS 6.00
5.23.7 In addition, there are courses for the Cambridge First Certificate, Advanced and Proficiency examinations, courses in Business English and preparation weeks for the IELTS examination. Fees are payable for these courses.
5.24.3 Further information on the services are detailed in Section 11, sub-section 11.2, which includes details of the various Help and Information desks, as well as who to contact concerning the services offered. On-line information can also be obtained by accessing the DIT web pages for computing services and Library and Historic Collections Web pages.
5.25.1 Further details on students’ progress and academic appeals, and complaints and student discipline are provided in Section 6 [sub-sections 6.13 and 6.14, respectively]. The following appendices refer:-
- Appendix 5.15: Code of Practice on Student Discipline
- Appendix 5.16: Procedures for Dealing with Allegations of Plagiarism against Graduates of the University
- Appendix 5.17a: Policy on Undergraduate Student Progress
- Appendix 5.17e: Guidance Notes on Undergraduate Student Progress
- Appendix 5.18a: Policy on Academic Appeals
- Appendix 5.18c: Academic Appeals to the Senate: Form for submission
- Appendix 5.20: Status of Students Pending the Outcome of Consideration of (a) an Academic Appeal; (b) Representations Against Discontinuance of Attendance/Suspension or Termination of Studies/Termination of Candidature for an Award; or (c) a Complaint
- Appendix 5.21: The Payment of Expenses Incurred by a Successful Appellant or Complainant: Guidance Note
5.26.1 Universities cherish freedom of speech and the responsible expression of all opinions. There are many formal and informal channels of communication within the University through which students can make their views known to academic staff and to the University authorities. AUSA represents the interests of students on University decision-making bodies, and will advise individuals how best to make their views heard if informal approaches seem not to have worked. Students also elect the Rector every three years. He or she holds one of the most senior positions in the University, chairs the University Court, and has a special responsibility to look after student interests. The Rector or his/her Assessor (representative) can be contacted through the Students’ Association. Regular surgeries are normally held during term-time.
5.26.2 Any complaint about a prospective student’s contacts with the University, including non-academic complaints about the Undergraduate and Postgraduate Prospectuses, should be addressed to the Senior Vice-Principal, University Office, King’s College, Aberdeen, AB24 3FX.
5.26.3 The method for registered students to make an academic or a non-academic complaint is set out in the University’s Policy on Appeals and Complaints and accompanying Guidance Notes [Appendix 5.18a].