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Pastoral support in higher education: a survey of university provision and students’ perceptions of it

Hunter, Nicola

Pastoral support in higher education: a survey of university provision and students’ perceptions of it Thumbnail


Nicola Hunter


Jonathan Parker


This thesis examines how students perceive pastoral support in universities and suggests changes to pastoral care which can make the support more personal and effective. ‘Pastoral support’ and ‘personal tutoring’ are terms commonly used in higher education but with a poor understanding of their nature, purpose and outcomes and an evident lack of consistency in delivery within universities.
Research in personal tutoring and pastoral care focuses primarily on the personal tutor and structures of university delivery. The personal tutor role is often seen by academic staff as low status and often under resourced. Many staff are poorly equipped to deliver the complex range of mentoring and support required, which has a much wider remit in terms of managing student retention, progression, attainment and autonomy.
This thesis explores the literature on defining the roles of personal tutors and pastoral support and the challenges facing students. It adopts a mixed method approach, including an online survey, focus groups and interviews with staff and students. This trangulated design, using data collected in 2016, involved students and staff at Harper Adams University (HAU) and Keele University (KU). The research includes an evaluation of the universities’ policy and support structures for personal tutoring and additional service provision. The primary focus was on the students’ perceptions of the service provided and takes a critical realist approach to evaluating this provision.
The research provides a rich sample of quantitative and qualitative data evaluating the student experience. Whilst most views are positive, some shortfalls in delivery and management are evident. Keele University students appear to use support services more than HAU, but the service is rated better at HAU. The mixed results from this research show what happens in institutions with different support structures and cultures and raises some important questions about how pastoral support is effectively delivered.

Thesis Type Thesis
Publication Date 2021-06
Publicly Available Date Jul 10, 2023
Additional Information Embargo on access until 1 June 2023 - The thesis is due for publication, or the author is actively seeking to publish this material. For access to the hard copy thesis, check the University Library catalogue.


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