5.4a Underlying principles

Both academic advisers (AAs) and departmental tutors (DTs), the latter in particular, will see the 'exceptions to the rule' and the 'one-off' situations that make giving general advice difficult. However, there are five general principles that AAs and DTs should bear in mind:

  1. AAs and DTs have a duty of care for their students. Even when situations are complex and difficult there is a moral and possibly a legal obligation to act to protect the safety and welfare of students in the School. 
  2. Secondly, remember that students have a right to confidentiality under the Data Protection Act (DPA). This does not mean that AAs and DTs cannot seek advice, as this is often vital. However, care should be taken when discussing student cases with other colleagues. Concens should not be circulated about a named student (be it by phone, email or other form of correspondence) without their consent to members of staff who do not need this information to carry out their duties. Any information disclosed remains the personal data of the student and may be recovered under a subject-access request. Keep any disclosed information factual and only disclose to the specific staff member(s) who really need to know the information. If uncertain about who to disclose to, AAs and DTs can contact the Disability and Well-being Service (see Section 1.5 for details) for advice before making the disclosure. In exceptional circumstances (concern for the student's personal safety or safety of others) confidentiality should be broken.

  3. Thirdly, DTs and AAs should not attempt to work beyond their own professional competence, and are strongly encouraged to seek specialist advice and support from colleagues at the School who have responsibilities for student health and welfare and regulatory issues. Any decisions regarding a student's academic progress need to be set in the context of their disability/health/well-being. Furthermore, such considerations must be weighed up to ensure equity of treatment, as well as ensuring that academic standards are upheld.

  4. DTs and AAs should endeavour to keep records of difficult circumstances, as these may need to be referred to in future audit trails should anything go wrong. However, information on named individuals should be kept actual, and staff nneed to be aware that personal records held may be subject to DPA regulations.

  5. Work safely! On the whole, LSE is a safe working environment, but staff may be subject to stress; handling complex student cases can be one such stressor. Staff should not feel they have to carry the burden alone. If a situation has caused stress and upset, staff support services (eg staff counsellor or employee-relations staff in HR) should be made aware of the situation.