Concerned about a student

Concerned about a student
1. What do I do if I'm concerned about a student?

Student in crisis

If you think the student is in Crisis or in an Emergency, suggest that the student goes to the Accident and Emergency Department of their local Hospital OR dial 999 and ask for an Ambulance. Alternatively, the student should contact their GP Practice and ask for an Emergency Appointment. When the GP Practice is closed, the student should telephone NHS 24 on 111 (NHS out-of-hours).

There is also a Guide from SAMH about how to ask about suicide.

Keep an eye out for indicators

There can be many different indicators that a student is experiencing difficulties eg. the student might tell you directly or you might realise that they are having attendance difficulties from Student Records. The student might also be demonstrating low mood or erratic behaviour or you might notice that their appearance or demeanour is different to how you normally see them.

Don't keep it to yourself

If you feel any concern having spoken to a student, definitely don't keep it to yourself. Depending on the nature and level of your concern, you could either discuss this with your Senior Personal Tutor in your school or refer the student to other services at the University.

Watch for signal Something as apparently simple as a student seeking an extension for an assignment can be an indicator of an underlying or emerging problem.

You should be alert to any early suggestions that a student may be experiencing difficulty.

Refer to expert colleagues

There may be times when you wish to refer a student onto someone else, perhaps about a problem when you don’t feel competent to offer advice.

If you are concerned about a student’s well-being, you should refer them to the Student Advice & Support Office on the second floor of the Students' Union Building in the first instance, or seek guidance from that office yourself, if that is more appropriate, by email; your message will be checked by the colleague on duty. If appropriate, mark your message 'Urgent' and the colleague will get back to you. Routes of referral for a wide range of issues are also provided in the Student Help Guide.

If you feel that a student might benefit from longer term counselling, the following Guidance from the Counselling Service explains how you might discuss that with them.

Students can also be referred to the Chaplaincy for a confidential discussion on any personal matter.

Know your boundaries

Sometimes a student’s behaviour to you might cause you to feel uncomfortable (eg. if they are threatening, or flirtatious).

Different members of the University staff will have different boundaries in terms of their relationships with students. There is no 'one size fits all'.

Guidance on steps you can take if you are worried about a student has been produced to assist you. If you would like to discuss your concerns with someone in Student Advice & Support, please call Ext. 3935

2. Confidentiality: What should I do if a student's parent contacts me and asks for information about their offspring?

Students at the University are above the age of consent and therefore it is a matter of statute that no personal information about students is divulged even to parents. This can result in anxiety for the parents, so it should be explained sensitively that it is standard practice across UK Universities, that in terms of the Data Protection Act 2018, their offspring is an adult data subject whose personal data cannot be released to anyone without the prior written consent of that data subject.

A parent should ask their offspring to give the University express written consent to authorise release of their personal data to one or both of the parents (or to any other person) and, only upon receipt of that instruction, and proof of identity of the requester, will the University release that personal data.

Guide explaining confidentiality and boundaries.

3. Confidentiality: If a situation arises which is drastic, who do I go to with breaking confidentiality?


On matters of confidentiality students should be made aware that personal tutors are approachable at any time should an issue arise. If in any doubt, always seek advice from Student Support before knowingly breaching confidentiality.

Guide explaining confidentiality and boundaries.

4. What do I do if a student shares with me that they have a disability, including any Specific Learning Difference or long term medical condition?

If a student discloses a disability to you, it is worth first checking with them if they have formally informed the University of this and already have some support in place.

If not (eg. they tell you that you are the first person they have told), you should advise them to contact the Student Advice & Support Office in the Students' Union Building, for a confidential discussion about their particular circumstances. If they appear to be uncomfortable with this, you should offer to make that initial contact on their behalf (

Any confidentiality request from the student should be respected and recorded.

5. What should I do if a student indicates that they are considering withdrawing from study or would like to take a break?

As a Personal Tutor you may wish to explore their reasons for withdrawing and explore their options and support which may be available.

Refer the student to the Duty Registry Officer in the Infohub who can give appropriate advice on withdrawing from studies and the possibility of readmission at a later date.

You may also wish to consult the Retention Lead and the Student Progress Convenor in your School who could guide you on how best to support the student and as to the possibilities available.  There can be a lot more flexibility than the student might expect.

6. Where do I refer students if I can't answer their questions?

In broad terms, if a student has queries or difficulties relating to administration (ID Cards, making payments to the University, Student Records, Accommodation and Registry Advice), please refer them to Infohub. For more personal difficulties (disabilities, financial worries, personal issues, visa renewals), refer them to Student Advice & Support.

Have a look at the Support & Advice pages on this website or use the Student Help Guide

7. What do I do if a student wants to make a complaint?

The University of Aberdeen is committed to enhancing the experience of our students. 

We aim to ensure that our teaching, support services and Students’ Association activities provide positive experiences and opportunities for our students. 

If we are to achieve that aim, it is important that we know what is and is not working. We endeavour to listen to student concerns and to ensure they are dealt with appropriately.


The University recognises that there will be occasions when students will wish to raise concerns about issues relating to their experience at the University. We strongly encourage and indeed expect students to try to find a way to resolve problems quickly at local level in the first instance. However we appreciate that sometimes this may not be possible for a variety of reasons, and the University has a student complaint procedure through which students can raise complaints relating to their experience at the University. You can refer a student to the relevant procedure here.

8. In the rare event of a problematic relationship between a tutor and a student, will it be possible for the student and / or tutor to request a transfer?

Yes, but the Senior Personal Tutors should be approached in the first instance if there is a problem and a resolution cannot be found. Students can be reallocated Personal Tutors in exceptional circumstances.

9. If students, as a group, perceive and are unhappy about their Personal Tutor's lack of enthusiasm and / or support, what resources will they have for complaint?

As above, Students should speak to the Senior Personal Tutor, Head of School and / or email who will seek to address the situation.

10. What do I do if a student has experienced harassment, bullying or sexual assault?

See the resources here Online Reporting Tool | About | The University of Aberdeen ( including the online reporting tool. 

11. I am really worried about wars and conflicts throughout the world and how they may be affecting students

The key thing is to be aware that there are many wars and conflicts, some of which not all of us will be aware. Students may also be affected by a situation which might not seem immediately aparent from e.g. their nationality or address. Do be sensitive to this, allow students to speak if they would like to do this, and be aware that can always offer specialist support and also guidance about financial support.

You may also want to share the link below to the Counselling self-help guides which touch on anxiety, worry and major events.

12. Absence

The University Absence Policy provides (note 7) that in certain circumstances, it may also be appropriate for a personal tutor (or equivalent) to liaise with a School on a students’ behalf. Such circumstances can include instances where a student has been in regular contact with a personal tutor (or equivalent) over a period of time such that the students’ personal circumstances are well-known to the personal tutor.