Academic Support at University

Posted in: Undergraduate

Starting at University was very unnerving to me; I knew it’d be much harder than school, but I didn’t expect the level of support that I ended up receiving at Bath. The University offers lots of opportunities for skills enhancement and academic support, especially in my first year of study.

My first port of call for many issues was my personal tutor. This is a member of staff in my department who acts as a point of contact not only for academic advice, such as advice on transitioning up to University level education, but also personal matters such as issues to do with health and wellbeing. In my first two years, we had weekly meetings, discussing problem sheet questions and problems with the lecture notes. It was a bit easier to ask questions to her than asking the lecturers, which seemed a bit daunting at the time. Personal tutors can also provide references for placements and jobs in the future, which was an extra reason to attend the weekly meetings.

While my personal tutor helps me with departmental issues, working towards a degree demands a lot of skills, including academic skills, digital skills, and one a lot of people worry about: maths! I work with the Mathematics Resource Centre, or MASH (Mathematics and Statistics Help). What we offer for everyone is a weekly drop-in session where you can talk one-on-one with a tutor about any mathematical issues you may encounter. It’s expected that for less mathematical programmes, you may not have studied A-Level maths, or it may be buried far back in your memory. The role of the MASH drop-in is to break down and simplify maths and statistics problems that may crop up in whatever application you are studying, so it won’t be a problem if you’re not completely familiar with maths.

There are also drop-ins specifically for maths students in their first year, which I attended in my first year and help to run now. Many departments offer something similar to this, for example sessions called PAL (peer assisted learning). The idea of these sessions is that students can bring in whatever problem sheet questions or queries about the lectures they want, and older students will do their best to help. The sessions are quite informal, and you can even just come in and work without asking any questions. Problem sheets set by lecturers will be designed to challenge you, so the MASH tutors will break down the lecture content and offer support so that the problems are more manageable. As a first-year, it was helpful to hear from students who had studied and taken exams on the content. Their perspective provided a different angle compared to the lecturers.

Despite how hard University seems at first, there are plenty of opportunities for support, beyond just for maths as I’ve detailed in this article. The skills centre helps with a wide range of skills, including academic writing, foreign languages, and developing coding skills. The availability of all of these programmes has been really comforting to me as I navigate through my degree.

Posted in: Undergraduate


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