Tutorials: the issuing of extensions issue

Posted on September 28th, 2011 by Bernie Russell

We’ve had plenty of discussion about how best to arrange our tutorial support system, and within this, about who should hand out extensions. Have we got extensions right? I’m not sure.

Our guidance
Here’s the guidance we’re working to:

For extensions, these can only be signed off by the level tutor/prog leader. So, in order to keep it simple for students, it may be that [academic tutors] end up helping them with the extension forms, but then asking them to get [the level tutor] to sign it. (Notwithstanding student confidentiality, we may need to liaise with [the level tutor] over dates etc.)

Handbook
The Handbook for Academic Tutors says that academic tutors should be “the first line of contact for advice and support on academic matters”. It also says that academic tutors should be notified about absences, and goes into great (and very helpful) detail about providing support for students on a whole range of issues.

Given this clear sense of the role of the academic tutor, it seems odd that that tutor can’t deal with extensions. These will certainly be one of the main problems students will expect their tutor to deal with.

So we have a system where a student comes to us to solve this problem – and we listen carefully to them, then we send them away with a form to find another tutor.

Confidentiality
Our guidance mentions confidentiality, and that could be an issue here as well. If the level tutor is to do anything other than rubberstamp the form, they’ll have to know the reason for the extension; that means the academic tutor has to tell them – which could entail a breach of confidentiality; or the students does – which may be something they’d rather not do.

Numbers
And give that we have +150 level one students to deal with, is it a good idea to leave this to one person?

I’ve argued that it isn’t. It should be the academic tutor who hands out extensions. The students should see their academic tutor as the go-to person when they have a problem. And the tutor should solve that problem whenever possible, and not pass it up the line.

Rules
So who’s right? The majority view is with our current guidance, and obviously, that’s what we’re working to.

But as it happens, both could be wrong. The difficulty in resolving this is that what’s set out in the handbook differs from what’s set out in the regulations; and neither quite matches our guidance.

Here’s the handbook version:

…the tutor should…provide…direct guidance, including the agreement of appropriate assessment extensions…

This is from the regulations:

In order to ensure consistency in application, a programme may identify one person to approve extensions, either for the programme overall or for each level of the programme.

Both make sense. I prefer the handbook version myself. I can see the strength of the point about consistency. But I think our tutorial system should be based on the principle that the buck stops with the tutor.

However, if we go for consistency, then we have to make sure all our policies match up.

So…one for the Student Experience Committee?

(Er…yes…I’m passing this to someone else to fix…)

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One Response to “Tutorials: the issuing of extensions issue”

  1. Some interesting thoughts Bernie. I think the tutor suyste actually helps to direct students through the maze of people they need to deal with whilst at university and that probably means extensions too. I think there is an argument to leave it as it is because the level tutor can maintain a consistency in giving an extension.

    For example we may have two students with different academic tutors. One wants an extension because they weren’t feeling very well and couldn’t complete the assignment and an extension is granted. Another has the same problem but the tutor wants to see a letter from the doctor and documentary evidence. (You can insert a variety of similar problems, this is just for example). Personal Tutors will face a variety of requests and excuses but a Level Tutor (or whoever is granting extensions) will have a greater overall picture of what is happening.

    John

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