Accessibility statement

Helping with problems

You are likely to be your supervisee’s first point of contact for academic problems and for personal problems that may impact on their studies.

You may not have encountered some circumstances your students encounter or they may appear trivial to you.

Don't pre-judge - take time to listen, understand, explain and advise or signpost.

Session checklist

Your ‘duty of care’ means you need to take an active role in assessing the seriousness of any of the problems your students may bring to you but you are not expected to have all the answers. Use the signposting section for resources, help and advice for your supervisee.

Some students will tell you when they are having difficulties. Others keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves. We want to make sure all students get the help they need. Look out for changes. Do they seem different? Is there a difference in their work? Has their attendance dropped? Are they behaving in a way that indicates there is something wrong?

If the answer is yes, then see if they can express any difficulties they are having. Just ask "How are you? Are you sleeping? Are you eating? Are you okay?".

You'll find more guidance in the e-learning package developed by the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust (CWMT). It aims to give non-specialist staff the skills, knowledge and confidence to offer a first line of support to students who may have mental health issues.

Take a look at the advice for supporting a student with mental health or psychological difficulties and contact the Open Door Duty Practitioner if appropriate.

You should know the basics of some of the more important policies and procedures around academic conduct, assessment and progression. These include:

International students with progression issues must consult with the Immigration Advice Service to avoid visa problems.

You should discuss applying for exceptional circumstances with your supervisee BEFORE the assessment to ensure it is a valid claim, supported by evidence. You can also discuss cases with the Chair of the Exceptional Circumstances affecting Assessment (ECA) committee if you are unsure. You should be aware of when exceptional circumstances will not apply and, if so, encourage your students to make a plan to catch up with or improve on work they are struggling to deliver. 

The Study Skills Hub highlights services that help with academic integrity and academic skills, including the Writing and Language Skills Centre and the Maths Skills Centre.

There are a number of common challenges that students frequently need support with. Understand what these are and the typical times of year or circumstances when these might arise.

Never commit to full confidentiality. You may need to share information within the University (ie. Open Door or College Welfare team). However, you must be careful not to share information outside the University. See the advice on talking to students' family and friends and the University's data protection rules.


By being there to listen to and support your supervisee, you will be helping to achieve the following outcomes for students:

  • You are likely to be your supervisee’s first point of contact for academic and pastoral help and advice. Knowing that they have a point of contact enables students to settle in and become more secure and engaged in their studies and life at York, which should encourage better academic results earlier.
  • By recognising signs and reassuring students about common problems and normal academic and personal challenges, you can help to reduce any negative impact on their studies.
  • By signposting to more specialist support, you are giving students the opportunity to receive the appropriate level of self-help resources or professional support. Getting the right support early improves the chances of students staying and doing well in their studies, promoting both retention and academic success.
  • Supervision sessions should encourage students to take a more mature approach to communicating difficulties and to take responsibility for accepting suggestions for resolution on board.
  • By being aware of key policies and procedures, you can ensure timely submission of any necessary applications to avoid your supervisees having difficulties resulting in poor grades or late submissions. This will help maintain or improve their academic performance.