Students Slam Tutor Changes: Derwent Replaces Student Tutor System With Single Graduate Tutor

COLLEGE TUTORS play a critical role in on campus mental health support. Providing pastoral support for students who may come to the tutors with any welfare issues they may have and lend a sympathetic ear that is able to signpost them to further help. In addition to welfare support, the college tutors also assist in organising and supporting college events.

Until now, all college tutors are required to be post graduate students working part time while studying for their degrees. Recently however, the Derwent tutor system has seen drastic changes. Rather than a team of five post graduate students, the Derwent College team have opted to recruit a single full time graduate tutor paid 15k a year which has raised concerns among many across the campus.

The changes to the Derwent Tutor system came as a surprise to many, including the College’s own JCRC. When contacted by Vision, Derwent Chair Rachel Moore told us that ‘Nothing of the sort has been proposed to us’. Another Derwent JCRC member who wished to remain anonymous told us: ‘I’m surprised that the students haven’t been consulted at all. In addition to this they expressed concern for the reduction in tutor numbers from five to one and it’s efficacy stating that it’s ‘a lot of students for one individual to try and build personal relationships with.’

Many YUSU liberation Officers expressed to Vision their unhappiness with the changes, having concerns for the welfare of Derwent students. YUSU Women’s Officer, Michaela Tharby expressed her worry at the reduction in the numbers of tutors in Derwent telling Vision ‘The key to accessibility is diversity of options: it is worrying that there will be only one tutor available. If someone feels uncomfortable talking to a man about a specific issue, for example about unexpected pregnancy or sexual violence, this means they would be unable to engage with the whole tutor system. Reduction in tutors seems counterintuitive to the strong welfare options Derwent needs.’

Disabled Student Officer, Aisling Musson joined the chorus of disapproval over the lack of student consultation on the changes to the Derwent tutor system telling Vision that: ‘I find it quite irresponsible that these changes are being pushed through without consultation with students, and in quite an underhanded manner – DSN [Disabled Students Network] asked about these proposed changes earlier in the year and were reassured that they weren’t going to happen so it’s quite a bit of a let down to find out that Derwent has tried to sidestep consultation with the students this change will affect most.’

Vision emailed the Derwent College Team and the Director of Colleges, Rob Aitken about the changes to the Derwent tutor system. Rob Aitken replied and when asked to justify these changes told Vision that ‘a graduate tutor may be more flexible in their ability to respond to the needs of students in College’.

When asked about how the new system will impact students in the day to day, Vision was told: ‘Derwent College are committed to providing the same level of support to students as other Colleges including the commitment of the College team to welcome all new students individually and to see students in need of support on the same or next working day.’

When asked if the new tutor will receive different training to the system currently in place, it was explained to Vision that the new tutor would actually receive more training: ‘The graduate tutor does have more greater responsibilities than any individual postgraduate tutor, as well as more extensive time commitments, so will receive additional training. He/she will of course receive similar training on core skills for the role such as active listening, workshop facilitation, etc.’ though he did not expand on what this additional training would consist of.

YUSU Community and Wellbeing Officer, Dom Smithies, wrote an opinion piece on the matter for York Vision.