Shout out for 'mumsie' tutors
The Higher Education Policy Institute and Advance HE has recently published one of the biggest annual reviews of students in UK universities. It says that two thirds of students want universities to warn parents if they have a mental health crisis. As an associate lecturer and personal tutor to PR and marketing students in Manchester, I would love to see universities liaise more with parents.
For many young people the transition from home to university is immense. They are leaving behind their friends, possibly a partner and the security of living with parents which means managing basics such as cooking, washing, ironing, shopping and juggling budgets. They will have to negotiate their way around a new city and, of course, there is University life itself, where students must manage their own study time and the freedom they never had at college.
While the majority of students do manage that transition well, in my experience there is a significant majority who, for whatever reason, will get lost.
“I was convinced I would find friends in my Halls,” said a student recently. “I didn’t and I was on the phone to my mum every single night.”
Another boy said: “I’m from a small town where everyone knows everyone else. I found Manchester quite threatening and never feel safe at night so I don’t go out.”
One student told me: “I was really ill in my first year and literally couldn’t get out bed for three days. I realised that if I had died, nobody would have noticed!”
On paper at least, 18-year olds are adults and therefore this major move and any issues it may cause is their business. One colleague warned me of the dangers of being too ‘Mumsie’ with first year students when I first started teaching. However, I think some, (not all), students appreciate a bit of tender loving care now and again.
Universities do have welfare officers that students can speak to but I still keep my eye out for the student who sits on their own or somebody who misses a few tutorials. I have, on more than one occasion comforted and/or chatted to young people who may be struggling with home sickness or isolation and pointed them in the direction of the relevant support.
Many universities are now asking students if they would like to ‘opt-in’ to a scheme that allows the uni to contact their parents if there are concerns and take up is huge.
My son is off to University in September and I really hope there is a ‘Mumsie’ tutor on his course who has the time to chat if he needs it.