As a parent, do you feel your DC's Uni "should" communicate with you?

(395 Posts)
UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Wed 26-Jun-13 19:20:45

A general question really, I work for a uni and we regularly get complaints from parents that we should have told them stuff.

But, the student is an adult and the contract is between the student and the university, even if parents are paying the fees/living allowance.

In some cases we would be breaking confidentiality by informing parents (e.g. Health issues), in others, I just think it's odd that parents get involved (e.g. student not picked for sports team).

Would appreciate some views/experiences smile

NotFluffy Wed 26-Jun-13 19:25:21

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

partyondude Wed 26-Jun-13 19:25:32

I would have been appalled if my uni had gone behind my back and communicated with my parents.
I went to uni in Scotland and a reasonable number of my friends were 17 (left after highest, didn't do sys) and I'm not aware that the uni communicated with their parents either.

VinegarDrinker Wed 26-Jun-13 19:25:51

God, no.

Ginderella Wed 26-Jun-13 19:27:11

As a parent, I wouldn't expect DS's uni to contact me. DS is over 18, and an adult.

Perhaps the parents that complain are a wee bit controlling and are finding it hard to let their children go?

I would rather not know what DS is up to! smile

redrubyshoes Wed 26-Jun-13 19:29:31

My friend is a Uni lecturer and is shocked that in the last ten years he has seen a massive increase in parents phoning to check up/interfere/battle on behalf of their DCs.

Their DC's are ADULTS and make their own choices. That might be getting pissed and not doing any work - the DC's are adults and if they choose to piss away their parents money that is between them and NOT the Uni/College.

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Wed 26-Jun-13 19:33:59

Ah, unanimous so far, phew!

I know the logic and the rules but a couple of things have come up recently that made me wobble a bit.

We get caught in the middle of the student and the parent sometimes, e.g. student is failing but tells parent they're doing fine, first parent hears of it is when the invite to graduation doesn't turn up...

I think that in certain circumstances there should be communication from the uni. I am not saying about the sports team or any daft helicopter parent issues, but if there is a concern about a students health, including mental health, then I think that the parent would want to know so that they can support in any way they can.

I have one DD at uni at the moment and I have contacted them after a serious sexual assault and I wanted to know how they were supporting her through this time (especially as we were on the other side of the world living at the time, so could not be there for her physically) They were really unhelpful and I was made to feel as if I was interfering.

Another DD is considering uni for September. Our concern is that she has a history of MH problems and we know that this might not be the best environment for her to be in. I would want to know if she was struggling and slipping into a depression, but have no confidence that I would be told. My fear is then that I would get a phone call when things were too late for her.

I totally understand that they are adults and need their own independence and to be treated with confidentiality, but I am still their mum!!

GrimmaTheNome Wed 26-Jun-13 19:40:10

What 'stuff' do these parents think you should have told them? confused

Other than in some cases of MH issues, its up to young adults to decide what they communicate to their parents.

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Wed 26-Jun-13 19:54:12

PositiveAttitude I'm so sorry about your DD.

Re MH, I don't know the ins and outs but I imagine that the student has a right to confidentiality on all health issues. If they miss a load of lectures the lecturer won't necessarily know whether it's depression or too much partying.

If it is depression, do they have the authority to tell the parents? What if it does more harm than good?

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Wed 26-Jun-13 19:55:53

Grimma I don't want to give specifics as it is my current job, but they are similar to the types of questions parents would ask a teacher at secondary school.

redrubyshoes Wed 26-Jun-13 20:13:53

Ok Op I don't want to be the bearer of bad news here but................your child is now an adult and in charge of their own destiny. If MH issues are a problem then you need to set up a game plan to deal with them. Outside of Uni/College as well as in.

I deal with 600 students and about 5% of them take up 60% of my time. I will ALWAYS listen and get help for them.

Self harming/anorexia/bulimia/drug abuse/depression you name it. Yep it is sad and awful and every other name you can choose................but I have 595 other students who deal with parental loss/accidents/disabilities etc as an adult and seek appropriate treatment as they would outside an educational establishment.

Yes, I see the issue and I can see that it is not up to the lecturer to know if it is depression or too much partying. I can see everyone's point of view here and I do agree with you.
My point of view is purely from a MH issue. The natural of the illness is that if DD is slipping she will not communicate her thoughts to me and so my fear is that she would be suicidal before I knew anything was going on. I do still think that someone should look out for her enough to be able to help her before she got to that point.

Regarding our other DD - I only contacted because I was 7500 miles away from her and she needed some victim support. I only contacted once - never again!

On the other hand when I was at uni I would have gone mad if my parents had been told anything about my life! I wanted to make my decisions and bad choices by myself and knew that I also had to live with the consequences.

I certainly do not agree with the parents contacting unis for all sorts of minor things that the students should get on and live with themselves. They are out in the big wide world and need to know that bad things happen and life is just not fair all the time.

morethanpotatoprints Wed 26-Jun-13 20:21:30

Definitely not, and surely its a breach of confidentiality.
When teaching post 16 we had to have a signed contract to allow us to inform parents of anything.
Also my ds1 and 2 would have been mortified if I had known the ins and outs of what they got up to at College and Uni.
They are adults.
Sorry OP but these parents are off their heads. grin

pointydog Wed 26-Jun-13 20:27:22

No, obv

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Wed 26-Jun-13 20:27:24

RedRubyShoes - I'm not the parent of a student, I'm on the receiving end of the parents' complaints.

MH is really a tough issue, and it's so common amongst young people.

Not at my uni, but I heard one parent complain that his son missed out on a field trip - yes, because he was too pissed to be allowed on the plane - and wanted a partial refund of fees.

Delayingtactic Wed 26-Jun-13 20:28:31

Nope they're adults and it is not up to the uni to be informing the parents of anything! I can appreciate the worry with mental health concerns but it is identical to any other health concern and as such the uni should not breach confidentiality.

morethanpotatoprints Wed 26-Jun-13 20:28:43

Sorry, I meant to add, unless things have changed a lot in the past couple of years the procedure we had to follow was something like this.

Student appearing unwell or missing lectures concerns from friends etc, a red warning given to form tutor/ Head of year. They arrange a meeting with student. Then if need be student offered counselling or other relevant support. If it is felt that parents should be contacted, this is explained to student who then either agrees or disagrees with parental involvement. First signing a declaration giving the college/uni permission to contact.

redrubyshoes Wed 26-Jun-13 20:29:39


Sorry. Yep I am your side of the complaints. Just jumped in like a helicopter parent. blush

SingingSands Wed 26-Jun-13 20:30:11

I agree that the students are adults and it is their contract with the University, not the parents. I also think this message needs to be reiterated to some students, particularly those of whom are happy to bleat to mummy and daddy when they don't get their way.

But when it comes to safeguarding issues, the lines are not so clear. I don't think parents should be made to feel as though they are "interfering" when trying to work with Uni's - interfering is actually part of the parenting job description - but I think, overall, parents would appreciate more clarity between students/Unis and themselves. Perhaps the name and contact details of a pastoral care team who would liaise with parents on such issues? I appreciate that this might already exist, I'm some years off my own DC heading to Uni.

lljkk Wed 26-Jun-13 20:31:47

When my parents were paying, I would have thought that reasonable. Not after I started paying for fees myself.

Numberlock Wed 26-Jun-13 20:32:30

we regularly get complaints from parents that we should have told them stuff

Jesus Christ, at what point these days do adult children ever have to grow up? What between this thread and the one about the girl not liking having a summer job in the US... When do some parents let them stand on their own two feet?

hellhasnofurylikeahungrywoman Wed 26-Jun-13 20:33:55

Hell no. DD is an adult, unless there was a concern about her mental health I would not expect her uni to enter into any conversations with me.

allnewtaketwo Wed 26-Jun-13 20:34:02

Not at all in my opinion.

But I still can't get quite to grips with how my DSSs mother will let him go to university out of her control sight. She will be one of the parents you speak of, without a doubt

Tincletoes Wed 26-Jun-13 20:39:47

Hmmm. I was all ready to jump in and say absolutely not. However, if in 10 years I am paying £9,000 a year to a university who then don't tell me my DS isn't turning up to any lectures or tutorials, I will be a bit pissed off. Missing some to the extent it doesn't matter - I wouldn't care. Missing everything and certain to fail - I would!

Numberlock Wed 26-Jun-13 20:41:50

Why would you pay the £9K tuition fees up front though Tincle?

Lilymaid Wed 26-Jun-13 20:41:57

We've only been in contact with university when we contacted its welfare officer to be aware of DS2's serious illness which might have resulted in DS2 having to abandon his studies for a few months. As DS2 was lying in hospital at the time, I don't think that was over parenting. authorities then knew of situation and were able to discuss options with DS2

allnewtaketwo Wed 26-Jun-13 20:42:54

I think that's a rocky road though. If you're prepared to pay, surely it's not on a performance basis. I can sort of see what you mean about not turning up at all, but where do you draw the line? Say you think they can achieve a first but they're getting average 2:2. Do you feel more of a right to challenge them because youre paying?

redrubyshoes Wed 26-Jun-13 20:45:03


Your child is wasting YOUR money. He is an adult and accountable to YOU and himself and not the college or university.

Shallishanti Wed 26-Jun-13 20:50:08

really, though, your child has chosen to go to university and should take responsibility for fees, that's why we have loans
then they will appreciate what they are paying for and make sure they get the best out of it
OP, I have had 3 DCs at uni and would not dream of pestering like you describe. I do wonder if it is parents who are paying who feel entitled to do this?

hernow Wed 26-Jun-13 20:53:53

Gosh RedRubyShoes hope you manage to listen to your students better than you just did the OP!

Back to the OP - I would class myself as a parent who makes a big effort to let her DC make their own decisions and it never occurred to me that I could possibly ring the uni up - am shocked and surprised to hear it goes on. I guess some take the attitude that they are still paying for their DC/adult but even then I would expect and hope DC/adult would learn to keep communication going and when they do not I would worry but then I would worry even if they managed to tell me everything as that's just me. Poor students whose parents ring up the uni!!

Numberlock Wed 26-Jun-13 20:54:05

Why would you even pay the fees in advance though given that they only re-pay when they start to work, ie between 3 and 6 years later depending on the course?

Was that a stealth boast?

morethanpotatoprints Wed 26-Jun-13 20:55:10


If your dc ruined his education it would have nothing to do with you, whether you had paid or not. Parents aren't expected to pay fees, nor do they enter into any contract with the Uni. The grown up student does, in their own right.

God, no. I'd feel I'd failed as a parent if I was still helicoptering my adult children.

DramaAlpaca Wed 26-Jun-13 20:57:26

My BIL is a lecturer & head of department at a university & he regularly gets parents contacting him to ask about their student offspring.

There have been occasions when the student they are calling about has in fact dropped out but has neglected to tell their parents, which puts BlL in a rather difficult position as of course he is unable to tell them anything due to confidentiality.

He also gets calls from "helicopter parents" who are unhappy about their offspring's results and are calling the university to complain!

creamteas Wed 26-Jun-13 21:00:26

As a personal tutor I deal with a huge range of issues as you can imagine, but we have excellent support systems on campus and in the vast majority of cases, there is adequate support regardless of what the family knows.

We have quite clear guidance about when we can break confidentiality and this is when we believe that the student is at serious risk of harm, but often this means calling external support (like the mental health crisis team) rather than family.

This is because we can't be sure that involving the family would actually support the student anyway. I have had cases where parents have refused to sign student loan forms so as to try and force their children off their chosen degree courses. We can't know what the situation is like at home.

I also have had emails and phone calls from parents demanding information, and the numbers of parents on open days is getting ridiculous. Sometimes we even get parents without the potential applicants hmm.

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Wed 26-Jun-13 21:02:32

Yes DramaAlpaca (great name) - there are students who drop out / take a gap and neglect to tell the parents. The university doesn't inform the parents in this case.

I just wondered if all parents knew this.

The increased fees does seem to have gotten parents involved more.

I have heard of parents going to careers fairs with their children and chat to the company reps confused

Floralnomad Wed 26-Jun-13 21:02:53

My son has just finished his 2nd year at uni and I only ring them once a year to pay the bill , I wouldn't dream of contacting them for any other reason . numberlock some of us pay because we want our offspring to start their working lives debt free .

NedZeppelin Wed 26-Jun-13 21:04:37

We sometimes get parents wanting to come into admissions interviews with their darlings..

5madthings Wed 26-Jun-13 21:08:39

God no they are adults, my parents had no contact with the uni when I was there.

When I went for interview ,y dad dropped me off and then he went and wandered around campus reminiscing as he and been there himself for a short ou course. Then we met back up when it was time to go home, at no point did he meet anybody official and talk to them.

Christ I had a baby when I was at uni aged 19, I was a parent myself I certainly didnt have my parents phoning the uni up to see how i was getting on.

rhetorician Wed 26-Jun-13 21:19:19

Also university lecturer, but not in UK. Tradition here was for parents to get involved, leading to some quite hilarious examples of fibbing to mum and dad. More seriously, I wouldn't communicate with a parent without the student's permission. Where there are serious problems it is not always in the best interest of the student to refer them back to the people who caused them difficulty in the first place. If the student expressly chooses to involve the parent, bring them to meetings etc, then I don't have a problem with that. I don't like parents to interfere in academic judgments or decisions, not because I think I am infallible grin but because I don't think it is fair to students who don't have parents who are able or willing to advocate for them in this way.

cantreachmytoes Wed 26-Jun-13 21:24:50

Another saying no way!

Can't (but do) believe this happens! PFB at ages 17-22ish? Utterly incredible.

The obvious answer to the parents OP refers to is that if they'd any confidence in the job they'd been doing themselves for the past 17-22ish years, they'd just let their adult child get on with things!

LondonBus Wed 26-Jun-13 21:28:19

No, I wouldn't want to know, but neither would I pay tuition fees up front....

GoldenGreen Wed 26-Jun-13 21:35:53

Only in exceptional circs - if I had a severe mental breakdown at work, for example, I am sure my employer would be getting in touch, or at least organising for health professionals to get in touch with my next of kin to let them know I needed help - would expect the same for a student, if the university authorities knew something was very wrong. Otherwise no way.

Annunziata Wed 26-Jun-13 21:37:43

Barring urgent health problems, absolutely not.

Numberlock Wed 26-Jun-13 21:41:16

numberlock some of us pay because we want our offspring to start their working lives debt free

But why do you pay upfront?

Corygal Wed 26-Jun-13 21:45:17

Of course not - would you expect an employer to ring the parents if Little Jonny had a cold at work?

But sometimes universities don't do anything - really nothing, even if there is a case of mental collapse. Which I think is rather more of a problem than PFBs and awful parents.

ICantRememberWhatSheSaid Wed 26-Jun-13 21:45:22

I can understand why parents feel this way as they so often have to help fund their 'young adults'. I would be pretty pissed off if I found out my DC were missing all their lectures.

However, I don't think that Uni's should have any contact with parents. As the OP says, the contract is with the student and the University. Parents should not be involved.

diplodocus Wed 26-Jun-13 21:48:13

Positive attitude - I would suggest you contact occupational health dept for the uni your DD2 is considering. As mental heath issues are now, I believe, covered by the disability act then they should be able to work with you to ensure her needs are met in order to access her course. Some unis are better than others. MIND might be able to give you some advice.

Floralnomad Wed 26-Jun-13 21:49:13

numberlock sorry I'm probably a bit thick but how else can you do it ? Or are you suggesting that the student gets the loan and then you pay when they finish ?

Theas18 Wed 26-Jun-13 21:52:28

Uh no!

They are responsible for themselves surely. If I haven't raised them well enough to grasp the opportunity THEY are paying for to the full then it's not the universities fault.

Mental health issues maybe a special case. I'd kind of hope you'd apply a little latitude maybe after you'd directed my child to A+E if they were psychotic/suicial but that's it.

figroll Wed 26-Jun-13 21:56:18

I don't know if universities should contact parents or not, but I do think that there is a distinct lack of support for young people who are away from home for the first time and may be vulnerable. I say this from bitter experience. I also know of a friend's son who wasn't attending lectures and the university wrote to his parents. They had no idea that he wasn't attending and were able to discuss it with him. He had gone completely off the rails, going out every night, etc. I don't know if the uni was right or wrong but it certainly meant that he wasn't kicked out because they made a fuss and he went back to lectures.

I think you need to remember that these are young people who may not have had all this freedom before and can, and do, go totally mad as if they were on a holiday in Magaluff. With fees at £9,000 there is a lot at stake if they fail.

So I don't think parents should be asking for a report card, but it is reasonable for them to be contacted if there is a concern.

nohalfmeasures Wed 26-Jun-13 22:00:21

Students are adults. The University place is theirs so the university should communicate with them. The agreement to pay fees is between the parent and the student so it's the students responsibility to keep parents informed.
The parents who complain are probably the ones who went with their children to the open days and asked all the questions because they felt their children might not aske the right things..
My parents were divorced when I went to uni. I went to all the open days on my own, asked all my own questions, sorted out all my own accommodation and travel. I was quite pissed off when I discovered my Dad had been phoning to try and find out my exam results especially when he hadn't been in contact with me directly since I was eleven. The University asked me if it was ok to pass on the info.

nohalfmeasures Wed 26-Jun-13 22:03:42

Fig that's interesting but don't you think we as parents have a responsibility to prepare our children for independent living?
It's almost neglectful to send them on their merry way if they can't cook, clean, iron, wash and do a weekly budget.

5madthings Wed 26-Jun-13 22:06:40

fig your job as a parent is to prepare your child to be able to cope with adult life and university is part of that life, you prepare your child for it. It is not the universities responsibility to tell parents 'little' Jonny isn't attending lectures.

figroll Wed 26-Jun-13 22:08:47

I went to the open days with my kids. They wanted me to go because I suppose they want a second opinion on whether it's the right place? I don't know but my parents helped me when I went to uni, even sorted out my accommodation because I was abroad.

figroll Wed 26-Jun-13 22:10:43

I think my children are prepared for adult life actually. I don't know if its right or wrong that the uni got in touch with my friends, but I know it got their son back on the straight and narrow! I have never got involved with the uni myself only in terms of taking them there and back.

figroll Wed 26-Jun-13 22:12:31

Oh and they can cook, clean, iron, etc. They have had a weekly allowance since they were about 6 and have had to buy everything out of it so they they knew about money. I still care about where they go to uni though.

5madthings Wed 26-Jun-13 22:18:03

Yes parents care but its up the the student to get on with it and be responsible and study etc, they should not need to be told to do so by their parents.

figroll Wed 26-Jun-13 22:23:11

Absolutely they should be responsible but it's the initial transition phase that can hard for some kids. I hope that I have done a good job as a parent but I know some kids are totally clueless.

ICantFindAFreeNickName Wed 26-Jun-13 22:23:21

My DS has 'mild' Aspergers , and his consultant warned us that he may struggle to settle at uni . I would hope that someone would be able to tell us if he was not attending lectures. before he got kicked out.

allgonesouuth Wed 26-Jun-13 22:33:52

It's different if there's a medical issue though.

5madthings Wed 26-Jun-13 22:36:48

icantfind on the last page someone mentioned about the disabilities and equalities act? And your son would be covered by that so you can liaise with the uni to ensure he gets extra support.

Special needs aside most eighteen year olds should be able to cope fine, medical issues relating to mental health etc may require parents to be involved or the relevant health professionals but NO patents do no need to be informed of attendance or course related issues. They are adults, legally recognized with all the rights and responsibilities that go with that and need to be treated as such.

When I was at university a letter was sent to my parents without my knowledge or permission asking about my mental health history. DM pretty much threw it in the bin.

What's interesting in particular was that college didn't have my parents' details, only my home address - they wrote to Mr & Mrs MyMaidenName at my home address.

And I did have mental health history that my parents didn't - and still don't - know about.

It was an absurd exercise.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

nipersvest Wed 26-Jun-13 22:57:50

dh runs a degree course and quite often gets contacted by students parents, he doesn't deal with them and will only talk to the student themselves.

as an aside, despite this being the first year for 9k fees, this has also been the worst year since dh started there for attendance, he has 5 students who haven't attended a single session and has issued them with termination of studies letters.

edam Wed 26-Jun-13 23:03:45

I think it's ridiculous for parents to demand to be involved - students are adults. However, I also think it was predictable that tripling tuition fees so that our system is nearly as expensive as the US one (when bursaries and scholarships are taken into account) would make parents feel more directly concerned. This is now a financial transaction between the parent and the university - in the parent's eyes, even if not literally - as well as the student.

The really stupid thing about the £9k fee is that it's costing the government more not less...

ReallyTired Wed 26-Jun-13 23:14:21

University students are adults and need to be treated as adults. Parents have to realise that it is time to cut the apron strings and allow their children to make their own mistakes.

I feel that parents should only be contacted in serious health situations if the parents are listed as "next of kin".

alreadytaken Wed 26-Jun-13 23:38:17

yes I do - because I will still be supporting them financially and therefore I am a party to the contract whether the university like that or not. Universities like to use the "helicopter parent" taunt because they know that they can get away with murder if they are only dealing with young people. They may legally be "adults" but they are not mature.

I don't expect to hear about field trips, sports teams or relationships. I do think that in the first year I should be told if they leave the university completely, miss enough work to be at risk of being thrown out or having to repeat a year or are seriously ill. After that I would only expect to be told if they were seriously ill.

I wouldn't expect a university to need to contact me - but if I haven't prepared them adequately then I'd want to be told an if they have serious health problems I will be the one looking after them, not the university.

morethanpotatoprints Wed 26-Jun-13 23:45:54

Yes, but surely its the responsibility of the student to pay fees not their parents.
My dc all know that after compulsory education they fund their own further education. Once they are grown ups treating them like kids will do them no good.
I'm not surprised that parents who are paying for fees want to be part of their grown up students contract with the Uni. The student has nothing to lose by cocking up, the parents can lose a lot.
Ime it was always those funded by daddy who dropped out.

Tincletoes Wed 26-Jun-13 23:49:22

Lol yes it was a stealth boast. My son is 5 so for a start we're talking a way off yet (yes ok it's more than 10 years away)! And we are a family who would certainly need to do things via loans.

My point has been made far better by Edam - I was trying to say that if you are paying fees upfront - and some parents will be - then yes they are going to expect universities to be more accountable.

ReallyTired Wed 26-Jun-13 23:49:27

"They may legally be "adults" but they are not mature."

If your student children are not treated as adults then they will never become mature.

Children can get married at 16, join the army or go to sea at 17. To say that a universtiy student is not mature enough to be given responsiblity for their lives is nonsense.

Neverending2012 Wed 26-Jun-13 23:55:35

No, they are adults. It's not boarding school....

senua Wed 26-Jun-13 23:56:16

They may be adults but it doesn't stop us worrying about them.
However, I never thought that the authorities would be the best people to help if things started to go wrong - by the time they were aware that there were problems it would probably be too late. I just made sure that I had the phone numbers of a couple of her flatmates, who would be more up to speed. Thankfully, I never had to use them.

MummyMastodon Thu 27-Jun-13 00:00:45

The amount they can borrow is calculated on parent's earnings, unless earnings are low, the system expect's parents to fund them... oh, but we can't take an interest in any part of their higher education.

Can't have it both ways confused

5madthings Thu 27-Jun-13 00:05:10

You can take an can speak to your son or daughter, so nest bet is to make sure you have a good, open and honest relationship so they will come to you if they need to.

You are not entitled to know their marks, classes they do or don't attend etc.

solarbright Thu 27-Jun-13 00:11:27

Hmmm... normally I'd say the uni should not inform the parents of anything outside a medical emergency. In the case of positiveattitude, I'd say the uni should work with her to ensure daughter knows about victim support. Surely if one of her dd's friends had rung up to say, my friend has been the victim of a serious sexual assualt, she needs help, where should we go? we would not consider the friend to be interfering. That's the sort of help a crime victim might desperately need. Just because it's mum ringing up, it's not suddenly a ridiculous request. OTOH I would NOT expect the university to inform the parents of the assault - that is strictly up to the adult student involved.

funnyperson Thu 27-Jun-13 00:34:44

If I was the registered next of kin I would want to know of any serious medical emergency- hopefully the hospital would ring me. I dont mean sprained ankles I mean something serious. In practice, the DC or their friends have always rung me.

If the DC was in significant danger of being chucked out of the degree course, I would like to know from the university (with DC consent) before the situation is irreversible, as the financial implications for the whole family these days of a repeat year, or an unfinished degree are very very significant indeed. (weasel words about the insignificance of finances dont cut it with me I'm afraid). In practice, the DC have told me everything in minute detail, though in one case I think I was told far too late to be of any use at all except moral support.

The aim being to a)offer parental support to the student DC if possible and b) to be prepared for a family rethink and c) be aware of the truth.

mumeeee Thu 27-Jun-13 00:38:50

No unless it was an emergency Eg a DC being rushed to hospital. I did once get in touch with DD2's course tutor but that was because she asked me to. Her Grandad had died and she"d rushed home because she was very upset.

funnyperson Thu 27-Jun-13 00:42:50

I think the DC would be horrified (as would I) at the thought of parents routinely being involved officially more than twice during the degree-once at entry and once at graduation.
I've been surprised at how much they do tell me. More than I want to or need to know, really. I told my parents nothing for five years except when I passed my exams.

piprabbit Thu 27-Jun-13 00:44:20

We had a meningitis outbreak in halls while I was at uni.

Not only did the hall's pastoral staff refuse to contact the medical centre, request a doctor visit or even arrange for transport to the medical centre, they also refused to contact the girl's family.

This put a huge pressure on the the other students (18yo, only left home a few weeks before) to organise and take responsibility for everything. We managed, but I am not convinced that the Uni were right to turn their backs on the ill student or the students who were put under huge pressure to cope with her illness.

funnyperson Thu 27-Jun-13 00:45:38

Yes mumeee if there is a family crisis (our family has a lot of them, sadly) The DC are given the hospital letters to pass on to their tutors. One of them does so, the other would rather not and doesn't.

funnyperson Thu 27-Jun-13 00:47:04

piprabbit if one of my DC had meningitis I would want to know.

piprabbit Thu 27-Jun-13 00:48:31

I think the hospital contacted the family when she was admitted.
To this day I don't understand why the Uni refused to get involved.

funnyperson Thu 27-Jun-13 00:49:43

One of the DC got stabbed, didn't want to tell the tutor, and I emailed the tutor and told, and also said DC didn't want the tutor to know. I wasnt ure if I was doing the right thing because the tutor probably didn't give a monkeys but hey ho.

funnyperson Thu 27-Jun-13 00:51:11

piprabbit I think its the hospital that have the duty of care once a person is admitted and besides the uni may not have been told the diagnosis by the hospital till a lot later.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Thu 27-Jun-13 01:00:24

Ok, not a parent, but I have taught students at university whose parents tried to get information and I have been a student whose university got in touch with parents when they shouldn't have - there are very good reasons why universities shouldn't get in touch.

If a student isn't attending lectures, that's their business. I'm sorry but it is. Even if that student has a disability or a medical condition or is in a shit and horrible stage in their life. The university does not have the right to violate that student's trust.

funnyperson Thu 27-Jun-13 01:02:35

Someone upthread talked about the universities being accountable. I think this is important. There needs to be transparency from all universities about whether tutors give feedback on work submitted within a reasonable time frame, whether students are made aware of their strengths and weaknesses within a reasonable time frame, and whether students are made aware of any risks to their degree progression in good time to do something about it.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Thu 27-Jun-13 01:05:49

I agree with that funny.

However (playing devil's advocate), there also needs to be recognition from students that it's their job to seek out information. If a student says 'but I never got any feedback', does that mean 'I never got any because none was forthcoming', or does it mean 'I didn't go to the feedback session' or 'I got some feedback but it wasn't what I expected', or what?

I do think students often have a rough time, but I think students need to be told far more about what their responsibilities are, early on, rather than being allowed to make assumptions that may turn out to be wrong.

nooka Thu 27-Jun-13 01:17:40

I think that when students are in halls (generally I think only the first year in university) then parents should be informed if their child is seriously ill because their fellow students may not notice. I remember being a bit ashamed when one of my good friends was really unwell and the first we knew was when his mother arrived and took him home. We all then recalled we'd not seen him for a few days blush But that's about it really.

However I also think that universities need to have good pastoral care/ enable access to resources because mental health issue often arise in late teens/ young adults, and it can be very easy to be isolated, and for no one to notice that things are gong very wrong. That's about supporting young adults though, not enabling parental involvement in their lives.

Numberlock Thu 27-Jun-13 02:21:18

I was trying to say that if you are paying fees upfront - and some parents will be - then yes they are going to expect universities to be more accountable

Anyone stupid enough to pay fees upfront needs to get a new financial advisor...

MyShoofly Thu 27-Jun-13 02:47:19

What a breech of an adults privacy for a university to call their parents about schooling issues. I'd find that an unbelievable expectation.

Being sick is another matter....than a students emergency contact should be called.

sashh Thu 27-Jun-13 06:38:13

I do think that in the first year I should be told if they leave the university completely, miss enough work to be at risk of being thrown out or having to repeat a year or are seriously ill.

Why? (other than illness).

Would you do it if your 18 year old was working? Would you phone their work place and ask i they were doing their job properly.

exoticfruits Thu 27-Jun-13 06:51:24

Absolutely not! They are adults.
The sort of parent who wants it is the sort who hasn't been spending the last 18yrs gradually letting go and preparing them for adult life and the jolly well need someone to take a big pair of scissors and cut the apron strings for them! I think it is wonderful that they can phone up and they won't be told anything, without their DCs express permission.
I would hope that any hint of it would have a huge rebellion from students- it is a huge breach of privacy and I agree with MyShoofly- an unbelievable expectation.
I can understand parents going to open days now that it is so costly, but if they can't trust the DC to be responsible and do the work without mummy and daddy keeping tabs on them then perhaps university isn't for them.hmm
The next thing is that they will be wanting liaison officers to check they are going to bed at a reasonable time and not drinking too much!!

rhetorician Thu 27-Jun-13 08:00:39

funnyperson I think that universities are accountable, and recognise that they Re teaching young adults who aren't always as good at being responsible for themselves as one might hope. I can tell you that I spend endless hours fruitlessly writing comments, providing feedback and the kind of guidance you suggest in your post. But students, for the most pArt, do not take advantage of this. I do wonder why I bother sometimes. Most of the routine problems that students have could be resolved if they read the documentation and attended class. My job is to educate them, not make them attend class. I am external at a uk university as well where lecturers provide incredibly detailed feedback on work within a two week timeframe (brutal, especially for those with young children,and only doable if you stay up half the night). Almost no students avail of it.

exoticfruits Thu 27-Jun-13 08:09:54

Universities need to be accountable to the student- it is nothing to do with the parent.

alreadytaken Thu 27-Jun-13 08:38:55

sashh if they were working I would not be financially supporting them. And good employers may phone up someone's home if they don't arrive at work, because that employer is concerned about them. Universities often care very little about students.

Floralnomad Thu 27-Jun-13 08:46:32

Well I'm obviously some kind of idiot because I pay my fees upfront but I still don't think that means I can ring the uni to ask anything . I also don't think that paying the fees will mean my son is more likely to drop out / miss lectures ,if anything he's more likely to go so that he's not wasting our money .

Eyesunderarock Thu 27-Jun-13 08:47:46

'Another DD is considering uni for September. Our concern is that she has a history of MH problems and we know that this might not be the best environment for her to be in. I would want to know if she was struggling and slipping into a depression, but have no confidence that I would be told. My fear is then that I would get a phone call when things were too late for her. '

PositiveAttitude, they don't and they won't call either. Not for any reason.
The only way I've found is to physically visit mine and check she's still breathing and reasonably sane. I'm sorry that she ever went.

rhetorician Thu 27-Jun-13 08:49:25

alreadytaken I have to say that my experience is the absolute opposite of that. And you have to remember too that teaching is generally supposed to constitute about 40% of an academic's workload. What does this mean in practice? That the workload and hours go up accordingly. And I think all UK universities live in fear of the THES and Guardian rankings. I'm not saying that there's not bad practice, there is, and academics who couldn't give a stuff, but I think it's an unfairly sweeping statement tbh

DrinkFeckArseGirls Thu 27-Jun-13 08:49:48

Well, I'd like know if the £27,000 plus living costs I'll be spending is going to pot. So if I'm paying for the course, I'd like to know if DC is failing. It's, like, my money you know...hmm

rhetorician Thu 27-Jun-13 08:51:12

On the MH issues, it can be hard for an academic to know. I have over 500 students in my "care". I do try to watch out for things and follow up where it seems appropriate, but disclosure is key. And often students don't want to do that in a new environment

chemenger Thu 27-Jun-13 08:57:58

The reality of being a lecturer in a university is very different from what some people here seem to believe. I lecture to a first year class which has over 400 students registered on it. I don't check attendance at this lecture for obvious reasons, for one thing attendance is not compulsory (lectures are videoed and made available to students who can't or don't attend).
We do record attendance in compulsory elements of the course, and students are warned when they are putting themselves in danger of failure, in a department of more than 1000 students, with 10 admin staff it is not realistic to add further communication with parents into the workload and this would breech the students confidentiality spectacularly.
Students are adults and we understand that they learn and study in different ways. The prizewinner in my honours class one year literally slept through all my lectures (to the amusement of the rest of the class), studied my course materials independently, discussed things with me and got over 90%, he's the best student I've ever had in the class. Should I have phoned his mum to tell her he seemed tired? My job is to help people to learn in their own way, not to act in loco parentis.
Students in trouble can give permission to their tutor to speak to parents, often this is really useful, but we can't initiate that contact.

Eyesunderarock Thu 27-Jun-13 09:05:40

Chemenger, you are probably right, the explosion in HE has turned much of it into a meat factory based on end product for lowest cost. The factory farming equivalent as opposed to the system I went through of a mixture of lectures with hundreds of students, mixed in with seminars and tutorials.
The focus on electronic communication as opposed to RL contact with students increases the alienation.
When DD started at uni, she was heading for a First based on experience so far and she was enthusiastic about living away from home.
Now I'd settle for alive, sane and off the Prozac.

ExcuseTypos Thu 27-Jun-13 09:05:56

When my dd started uni she had a form which she and I signed.

I can't remember the full details tbh, but it was something along the lines of giving permission for the uni to contact me as her next of kin, if they had major concerns/worries about her. (This was Bristol uni, 3 years ago).

I also encouraged dd to give my contact details to her friends in the uni accomadation, so if they were worried about her/ there was an emergency, they could contact me at any time. Dd was very happy to do this, they all swopped each others' parents details.

Dd2 starts uni this year and I will be encouraging the same thing.

ExcuseTypos Thu 27-Jun-13 09:07:35

Eyes I'm so sorry to hear that. That must be so hard to deal with.

Eyesunderarock Thu 27-Jun-13 09:10:08

One more year to go. She's an adult, I can't make her quit.

Eyesunderarock Thu 27-Jun-13 09:12:00

To tell the truth, I'd be much more accepting if she was missing lectures and deadlines due to being either pissed or partying until she dropped.
At least she'd be happy.

ExcuseTypos Thu 27-Jun-13 09:16:40


I hope this year goes quickly for you Eyes. You must be worried sick.

Eyesunderarock Thu 27-Jun-13 09:25:30

I'm not even angry TBH, it's the faceless indifference of the uni, the medical staff and support that make me despair. She turns up to counselling sessions and finds that they've chopped and changed staff and no one remembers her.
But she's home and safe at the moment.
Yes, of course you have 400 students to lecture at. How can you be expected to notice that one or two are drowning? Not your job.

MrsHoarder Thu 27-Jun-13 09:26:57

I am a long way off this, but I'm astounded that parents who presumably wouldn't want their employer to ring up their own parents for any performance/health concerns expect to be rung up about their own adult offspring. One job of parenting is surely to make sure that your children will ring you and chat about what's going on in their lives.

There is an obvious exception for in an emergency situation when a next of kin needs to be contacted.

Sorry to hear about your DD Eyes. Hope she gets through it well.

Startail Thu 27-Jun-13 09:32:02

Students (mostly) are 18 plus and legally adults.
Thus I don't think you can communicate with their parents without the students consent.

I failed my first year exams and did get my DDad to talk to my head of dept. as I was not feeling at my most calm and articulate, but as I say I wanted him to put my case and ask what happened next.

I would have been furious if the university had written/rung home without my knowing.

Eyesunderarock Thu 27-Jun-13 09:34:03

That said Startail, the support networks available for young adults ought to be better within the community of a university.

rhetorician Thu 27-Jun-13 09:40:16

I think that if I had a child with MH issues I would strongly encourage them to go to uni close to home. eyes I am sorry about your dd and that you aren't getting support from her university. But I also agree with chemenger. You have to remember that no academic has any training in counselling, pastoral care etc, and as a very young lecturer I was often totally at sea when students presented with a range of very complex problems. I am not trained to deal with MH issues, only to do my best to mitigate the academic impact of those issues.

I recently had a series of exchanges with the mother of a PhD student...

PostBellumBugsy Thu 27-Jun-13 09:43:47

If the student is over 18, then absolutely not. It is an invasion of their privacy and may very possibly be against the law.

If there are MH issues or any other medical issues where parents need to be involved, then the parents and the student should meet with the University & discuss how that will be managed.

I would also think that if you are already aware that your DC has ongoing MH or medical issues that needs your input, then if at all possible, you should encourage your DC to apply for a Uni where they could live at home. That is what I'll be doing with autistic spectrum DS.

Eyesunderarock Thu 27-Jun-13 09:48:15

Unfortunately the subject that she excelled in and wanted to study is not the most common, and her severe depression and anxiety didn't manifest itself until she was in her first year. Before that she had been gifted and quirky by all accounts.
There is nothing I can do other than keep plodding on and waiting until the end of the year, supporting as and when I can, and hoping that this coming year will be better than the last.

Jux Thu 27-Jun-13 09:56:39

The relationship between the parent and child is their business and not your concern. If a student doesn't tell their parents something themselves, then you can only assume that it's because they don't want to.

The relationship between the student and the Uni is their concern, and not the parents'. If the student prefers not to tell their parents something, that is their choice.

The student are adults. Would an employer inform their employees' parents of an issue?

Slipshodsibyl Thu 27-Jun-13 10:11:00

The transition from school to university can often be a problem. I have seen it from both sides - school and university. I was surprised at first to realise how the emerging adults we had been watching leave home and school were treated as completely independent adults only 3 months later.

It was acknowledged by many that more work should be done on this transition as young people could struggle - and this was at an elite university. It was some years ago and i think things have changed for the better. I understand the problems re privacy but it seems silly to think they are all ready to become completely independent at 18.

Parents I know with children with MH issues often seem to find the system rather lacking, but there aren't easy solutions except perhaps in known cases to ask the student to sign the form which means information may be shared. This doesn't address the problems of the students who struggle with organisation and turning up to lectures and there are a lot of them.

UptheChimney Thu 27-Jun-13 10:30:30

University lecturer here: we are constrained by the Data Protection Act from giving out confidential information about adults to anyone, without written consent from the person concerned.

I'm so pleased that most parents responding are very clear that their university student offspring, while children to them, are also adults to the rest of the world.

Your DCs are lucky to have such sensible parents! Sorry don't mean to sound patronising, but ... as an HoD I have had to deal with demanding & problematic parents. I don't like to pry too far into students' home lives -- it's really not my business nor my job -- but sometimes I sense that the family/parents are part of the problem with troubled students. So routinely contacting parents may make it worse for the student.

There are wrap around service at all universities to deal with student problems, BUT they have got to take responsibility for their issues. That is a huge life lesson we all need to learn, and a good parent will see that.

And funnyperson you write this:
There needs to be transparency from all universities about whether tutors give feedback on work submitted within a reasonable time frame, whether students are made aware of their strengths and weaknesses within a reasonable time frame, and whether students are made aware of any risks to their degree progression in good time to do something about it

We do this. My colleagues & I compromise our own health & work/life balance to get work assessed & feedback within a very short time frame. But as others have responded, students need to take our advice, our feedback, and our guidance. You'd be surprised at the number who don't like to do that. Who don't like to be told when their work isn't good enough, or they are not preparing or reading enough, or when their lack of attendance affects their quality of learning.

When I have a mother emailing me to set up a meeting to discuss apparently "negative" feedback on her daughter's essay from another tutor, there is something seriously wrong with some parents' attitudes to their children's learning (and this has happened!). And their respect for my long expertise and professionalism. Most academics I know & work with are really excellent at their jobs, and this means both teaching & research, as well as being wonderful people who actually care about student learning. But at my place, student learning means pushing them. Learning at this level is difficult & hard, and sometimes you feel you're failing. But it's when you're falling over your feet that you're learning, as my ballet teacher used to say.

Rant over, back to preparing reading lists for October. grin

UptheChimney Thu 27-Jun-13 10:37:41

alreadytaken I find your comment here:

Universities like to use the "helicopter parent" taunt because they know that they can get away with murder if they are only dealing with young people
really offensive.

What evidence do you have of universities "getting away with murder" in their dealings with students? If students undertake their studies with what one university I know of calls "reasonable diligence" then university dealings with them will be regulated by publicly available codes of conduct and regulations. You can go on most (if not all) university websites and read the codes of conduct & degree regulations for yourself.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Thu 27-Jun-13 10:43:09

For people who say it's 'my money' - do you have a contract with the university, these days? I went before the fees system changed and back then, loads were paid into the student's bank account, and it was the student whose name was on any bills - not the parents. So the parents didn't have a financial contract with the university. Has this changed, or are people expecting that a private financial arrangement between them and their children gives them a contract with the university?

Eyesunderarock Thu 27-Jun-13 10:50:18

DD gets the tuition loan and accommodation loan direct into her account, no input from me. The only money that we give her is for living expenses.
So no, there is no financial link between parent and uni.
Which is why I never understood all that malarkey about giving students from low income households more financial support.
They are independent adults, stand alone finances and only have to pay back the loan when they earn over a certain amount. Why the difference?

exoticfruits Thu 27-Jun-13 10:58:00

An excellent post from upthechimney. The 'getting away with murder' remark is offensive and that is clearly the sort of parent that you don't want to deal with! I would agree that a lot of students have parents who are the problem.
If you have been preparing your DC through school they should be ready. This means supporting them but not sorting out their deadlines and supervising revision. If you have to bribe them to produce good results then you may well have difficulties. My DSs came to school parent evenings with me from year 9 onwards- it was pointless talking about them and passing it on- they might as well get it first hand.
If they are not mature enough I would get them to take a gap year.
DS has just got a job 13months after graduating- it is hard to support but sit and watch but the last thing you can do is get involved with applying for jobs- it wouldn't go down well with employers!
If you have a DC that may have MH issues you need to encourage somewhere nearer home and try and see them fairly often.

UptheChimney Thu 27-Jun-13 10:58:35

Well, I'd like know if the £27,000 plus living costs I'll be spending is going to pot. So if I'm paying for the course, I'd like to know if DC is failing. It's, like, my money you know

So ask your DC. Why would you not talk to your DC? University lecturers and administrative staff are not in loco parentis. It is you and your DC's responsibility to communicate with each other, not via the proxy of university staff.

And if your relationship with your DC is such that s/he does not tell you that sort of thing, then frankly, that's your problem, not that of the university.

The only time I've communicated with a parent is when they've contacted me to tell me of a serious illness/accident keeping their child at home or in hospital. That's useful as we need to know in order to put in place alternatives s that the student isn't disadvantaged.

I write as someone who will be interrupting my long-booked family holiday in mid-August to mark resits - mostly work done by students who didn't bother to hand in essays during term time despite loads of reminders, special lectures & tutorials on the work & so on. I'll have to find an internet cafe, download the essays to my ipad, and read & give feedback in a week turnaround time on about 20,000 words of student work. So my family time (or my sleep) is going to be interrupted for about 4 days, because half a dozen students were disinclined to do the work they need to do towards their degree.

Oh yes, I am "getting away with murder."

exoticfruits Thu 27-Jun-13 10:59:30

My DSs had student loans- I didn't pay anything directly to the university.

exoticfruits Thu 27-Jun-13 11:01:44

Even when I was a student you had a 'personal tutor' that you could see with problems. The staff are not supposed to be like teachers at school- it is a different job.

mirry2 Thu 27-Jun-13 11:03:42

To some extent I agree with mumymastodon. I think that especially in the case of mental health issues, the position regarding communication between parents and university should be made very clear.

morethanpotatoprints Thu 27-Jun-13 11:08:57

This is why it is important to raise your children to be independant from aged 16.
Even at 6th form colleges you don't contact students parents without gaining permission from the student. I had several students with issues, one girl became pregnant and had huge decisions to make. Of course it affected her A levels, but all I could do was point her in the right direction for student support. I was not allowed to become involved and wouldn't want to. She specifically asked for parents not to be told, what more can a tutor do?

UptheChimney Thu 27-Jun-13 11:11:40

There is nothing I can do other than keep plodding on and waiting until the end of the year, supporting as and when I can, and hoping that this coming year will be better than the last

eyesunderarock you, your DD, and the university are in a difficult but all too common situation. If your DD were my personal tutee, I'd be strongly advising her to take a year out (called intercalation at some places), to get well. My analogy is that if she had a treatable but serious physical illness, we wouldn't expect her to keep going with her studies. Yet MH is seen as something tat students just have to limp on with. It is a pity that we live in a culture that regards MH and physical health problems so differently: I try to see them as parallel, and treat a mental health blip in the same way as I would treat a physical health blip. I think part of the problem is that the student feels pressure, or pressures herself, to "soldier on." Often that is a symptom of the MH problem itself. It's a tough one.

But you can't blame universities for being "meat factories." That's a government policy. For example, over my career I've seen "small group" teaching groups increase in size from 8 to 15. And just increasing staff teaching hours is not a viable solution, because then universities can't generate the research that pays for a lot of teaching in all sorts of ways. And so on. It's a difficult sector to work in at the moment, and not helped by a general public attitude (not this thread I mean!) that universities are just another version of school.

< sigh > I think in about 50 years, historians will look back at the ruin of the world's best higher education system.

gazzalw Thu 27-Jun-13 11:13:16

We are not at this stage with our DCs but I work for a Uni too and we frequently have parents upset that their darlings didn't do very well in their Finals. They usually have the temerity to blame us for not ensuring that their DCs attended lectures, tutorials etc....Unbelievable...

DW and I were talking about this the other day.... DW (she was a total swot) said that it never crossed her mind not to put in the effort or hard work - she comes from a high-achieving family but she did it of her own volition not because her M&D were breathing down her neck.

I think it's a sad reflection of helicopter parenting gone mad...

Eyesunderarock Thu 27-Jun-13 11:15:05

'I think in about 50 years, historians will look back at the ruin of the world's best higher education system.'

Yes, I agree.

PostBellumBugsy Thu 27-Jun-13 11:50:41

Sadly, parents whose children haven't done as well as they hoped, will often be inclined to pass the blame, as it is easier than admitting that their DC were lazy or a bit thicker than they thought!

For those paying for their DCs uni, well that means you need to be on the case with your DC - not the uni. If you don't trust your DC to be attending lectures & tutorials - or you think there are health reasons (mental or physical) why they might not be, then you set up the meeting with the Uni & your DC to get permission to have some degree of feedback.

I can't believe there are parents who email lecturers! shock

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Thu 27-Jun-13 11:56:40

It's not necessarily about students being 'lazy' or 'thick', though!

What about a student who seems to have a drug/alcohol problem or who's become crushingly depressed? Or they've decided they passionately want to get involved in something extra-curricular that is damaging their studies, even?

I would imagine 99% of parents think they are the special ones who would respond appropriately and helpfully if contacted. But obviously some parents are the ones whose children are thanking god they're now grown up and independent because they can't face their parents and say 'actually, I'm struggling horribly' or 'I really want to do something different from what you planned out for me'.

UptheChimney Thu 27-Jun-13 11:59:18

MummyMastodon re your comment but we can't take an interest in any part of their higher education

I think it depends on how you take an interest. Talk to your DC first of all! Help them become informed about university procedures and expectations. But from a university tutor's point of view, don't:
* help them with their coursework (oh yes, a long time ago, I had to deal with a case where I suspect that the mother wrote her son's essays)
* ring or email the tutor or HoD to ask for information your DC doesn't or won't give you
* use their results as a bribe; eg "I'll pay for X if you get a First" -- it really doesn't help motivate them in the right way, in my experience

But if you talk with them in all sorts of ways about their learning as opposed to their marks or results, that is wonderful!!

exoticfruits Thu 27-Jun-13 12:00:04

I continually tell parents on here that you need to let go in age appropriate ways, e.g leave your 8yr old at home for 10 mins, let the 10yr old cook a meal, let your 16 yr old go camping for a weekend. If you overprotect and over supervise you will be in for a hell of a shock when they hit 18yrs and, sadly, they will be totally unprepared.
The general view is 'they are not responsible enough' but it is your job as the parent to make them responsible and independant - they never will be unless you teach them. e.g if you don't trust your 9 yr old to boil a kettle then you stand by him while he does it- you don't just keep him away from the kettle. It is easier, but it is lazy and you are laying up problems for later when everyone else treats them as adults but you don't.

exoticfruits Thu 27-Jun-13 12:02:20

It doesn't help to offer them money for A'levels IMO. If they don't want them for themselves you question whether they should go to university.

78bunion Thu 27-Jun-13 12:06:15

I support independence in teenagers.
However if the parent is paying and also if the teenager has agreed then of course the parents can be told things.
There is nothing to stop a university having all students who are happy with it sign when they start to agree to communication with parents. Some students will not want that and others will.

Universities should obtain those consents and then be pragmatic about relevant issues.

Parents could insist I will only pay the fees university if I am kept involved.

DioneTheDiabolist Thu 27-Jun-13 12:07:05

As adults, the students are responsible for their own lives and what they choose to tell their parents is up to them.

If you wouldn't contact their employer, you should not contact their university. Just because they are still in education, doesn't make them children.

PostBellumBugsy Thu 27-Jun-13 12:25:34

Malenky - I would class drug / alcohol problems or an overwhelmingly intense infatuation with either a hobby or another human under MH issues. I think in those instances, the parent, student & Uni should agree a course of action together- if of course the student is willing to do that. If they are not, then I think as a parent, I would be wondering about whether or not I wanted to continue supporting them financially.

rhetorician Thu 27-Jun-13 12:29:38

upthechimney is spot on. Add in increasing dependence on hourly paid tutors and adjuncts who have little stake or power and its easy to see how things get missed.

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Thu 27-Jun-13 12:33:05

Thanks for all the replies, it's been really interesting for me.

Overall I agree with the posts from the academics. All the academics I know work bloody hard. It's a difficult job and you don't do it unless you love it. They usually go the extra mile for students.

I'm not an academic BTW so I'm not bigging myself up.

There's obviously some lack of trust between parents and universities - some parents think that unless they are scrutinised by them, universities will metaphorically slope off to the coffee shop and make a half arsed job of it. That's not my experience. Competition for the best students is tough and universities are measured and reported on relentlessly.

Some really good points re pastoral care and support. Again my experience has been that this is good, but universities cannot be parent substitutes, parents need to prepare their children for all aspects of independent living and self-directed study.

I can't get my head round the "I'm paying for it, I want to know" mentality though. I know students who never attended lectures but got firsts, others who haunted the library but failed. It's not like school where lecturers can predict GCSE grades.

Also, for balance, we also get wonderful feedback from students and parents. I got a letter today from a graduating student's parent who thanked the university for how their physically disabled child was supported, and an email from a student who is dropping out but couldn't say enough good things about the Uni, and that the decision was appositive one for them (if not their parents).

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Thu 27-Jun-13 12:36:52

*a positive

HepsibarCrinkletoes Thu 27-Jun-13 12:40:37

Good lord no. I have one at Uni, with DD2 starting this year. I haven't and do not expect either, any correspondence between their universities and me. The are almost 19 and 20 FFS, perfectly able adults and while they ask me for advice, which I will of course give, any issues that may arise are their issues and not mine. My input starts and ends with financial assistance towards living costs and the odd bonus online food shop.

UptheChimney Thu 27-Jun-13 12:42:06

I think in those instances, the parent, student & Uni should agree a course of action together- if of course the student is willing to do that

The "if" is the key here. And let's add another "if" -- if the university is told by the student that there's an issue.

As a tutor, I take attendance records at every lecture or seminar, and report absence to our administrators, who send a note to the individual students, asking them to account for their absence. Yes, we do that in my part of my university. If there is consistent absence, we refer to the student's personal tutor to see what is going on, and then refer the student on to specialised assistance if they need it.

But, the student needs to turn up to a personal tutorial, and then take our advice.

We all offer two hours per week office hours, plus appointments by arrangement. Once a term, I email all my personal tutees to invite them to a short (20 minutes) general personal tutorial, to see how they're going. I offer a range of appointment times over several days across a fortnight. About 20% take up the opportunity. And yet I still get students in course evaluations saying that "there should be compulsory personal tutorials."

< sigh > again.

And one thing occurs to me -- can non-university employed posters say just who they regard as "the university"? I'd be really interested in knowing how you conceptualise "the university" in cases of your DCs in difficulties.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Thu 27-Jun-13 12:46:47

post - but what I'm trying to explain is, you (and every other parent) feel you'd have a role in making those decisions. But some students, in those situations, would say the last person they want to confide in is their parent - that parent might be part of the problem, not part of the solution.

You can say to a student that you think it'd be great if they talked to their parents, but you are going to get students who believe (rightly or wrongly) that their parents would make a bad situation worse. Sometimes they're going to be right, too.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Thu 27-Jun-13 12:48:26

I mean, I'm sure that for every 50 students who say 'my parents are horrible people whose treatment of me was emotional abuse', 49 are over-egging the pudding. But how on earth can you know how to identify the one who isn't, whose trust you'd be breaking if you got in touch with their parents?

UptheChimney Thu 27-Jun-13 12:52:10

Malenky yes, sadly, from where I sit, I see that the parents may well be part of the problem. Very sad.

HepsibarCrinkletoes Thu 27-Jun-13 12:59:58

Hmm, how do I regard the university? I've not really thought about that at all, but I guess I see their universities broken down to their tutors, specific lectures and the degree their doing rather than an all encompassing Bristol or Exeter - they're huge institutions so only their individual groups if you like, are what makes their degree and a pastoral care etc run smoothly. I didn't go to university, but I can't imagine that anyone else would be involved in my DDs' 3 or 4 years there?

HepsibarCrinkletoes Thu 27-Jun-13 13:00:36


HepsibarCrinkletoes Thu 27-Jun-13 13:01:36

FFS *they're. And I'm normally pedant from hell too. blush

exoticfruits Thu 27-Jun-13 13:02:17

78bunion- It doesn't work like that! You can't just insist you pay the fees if you are involved- there is competition for places!!

Those who would sign a paper letting parents be involved are probably the very parents you don't want!

telsa Thu 27-Jun-13 13:03:53

no, n, no. Students are adults. As someone who works in a uni, there is no way I would want to have to communicate with parents. In one case I even had a student who did not want her parents to trace her again ever (she had broken with them) and we were to give no information to anyone. I can see how these soddin' fees are going to make parents feel like they are customers of our services though and deserve to know all sorts.

Slipshodsibyl Thu 27-Jun-13 13:06:02

'Those who would sign a paper letting parents be involved are the very parents you don't want'

Not necessarily. It depends on the student's background and the kind of information being shared. It can be useful if the student has any kind of health problem.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Thu 27-Jun-13 13:11:43

'any' kind of health problem?

This is problematic IMO.

I went to university with someone who was severely physically disabled and I bet her parents were hugely important in supporting her. But I remember her parents being terribly worried that it wasn't ideal for her to drink alcohol (it wasn't awful, just not ideal), and they were so worried by her health, they'd never have seen that to her it was a trade-off between perfect health, and normal socializing.

Who should get to be 'involved' there? That's surely the sort of issue that comes up all the time. You can't be an effective teacher and be policing how an adult is living their life.

Slipshodsibyl Thu 27-Jun-13 13:17:49

Yes I agree it is tricky, but I have known quite a few genuine cases where there have not been issues with over-anxious parents and the student has wanted both parties to share information.

Perhaps best for helicopter-ish parents to make sure their children genuinely want the degree and have chosen their course without undue influence! If this isn't the case take a gap year or two first. An awful lot really are not very mature in their first year.

MrsHoarder Thu 27-Jun-13 13:20:48

SlipShod or it could be a very valuable time when the young adult does not have their parents able to see what is going on without invitation but is surrounded by supportive institutions and whilst in halls, with a responsible adult able to go and knock on their room door/check inside if there is grounds to be seriously worried.

This is not about contacting next of kin when someone is seriously ill, this is about "checking up" through the university. If the adult student requires support then absolutely they should be allowed to ask their parents to help navigate the university support structures but they could equally ask a trusted friend. By the time an individual is starting university they should be capable of making that call for themselves.

PostBellumBugsy Thu 27-Jun-13 13:33:27

Malenky - lots of interesting points coming out. I think universities do have some ability to heavily encourage students to see a doctor or get counselling.

When I was at uni, one of the girls I lived with started self-harming. She wouldn't seek help, but we reported it to the uni welfare office. They told her that they wouldn't allow her to move up to the next year unless she went to the GP and used their counselling service.

Obviously, this was a few years ago now, but I would imagine universities can still intervene?

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Thu 27-Jun-13 13:38:41

Yes, they can. I've done it myself (the 'heavily encouraging' bit), and I'm the most junior, marginal 'teacher' you can get at university level (I'm a student myself).

But the point is, the university encouraging a student to see a doctor or get counselling places that student in contact with another set of professionals who have rules about confidentiality. It's not the same as getting in touch with the parent.

Slipshodsibyl Thu 27-Jun-13 13:44:11

Yes. I am thinking specifically of students I know on the autistic spectrum or with eating disorders that they are trying hard to deal with. Some of them prefer to have some parental awareness. I suppose they are special cases.

I am not sure there are responsible adults whose job it is to knock on doors at university. It really isn't a boarding school. That is why I think that sometimes it is reasonable if a student offers to sign to share certain, otherwise private, information.

My university intervened with a course mate who was struggling very badly with anxiety, and provided lots of really good support. Other students flagged her up to the course leaders, but things had already been spotted by then.

I think it's really potentially damaging for parents to over involve themselves in university life - getting a degree is as much about being independant as it is about learning your subject IMHO.

DownyEmerald Thu 27-Jun-13 13:47:31

I think this is something that has really changed. When I applied to Uni twenty odd years ago it was unusual (and a bit weird) to take parents to open days. Talking to younger work colleages that has changed.

I think the Unis need to collectively put their feet down on this one. The students are adults, they need to be able to make their mistakes and learn from them. Parents (and I am dreading this myself so I'm not making light of it) need to accept that the apron strings are being let go.

Slipshodsibyl Thu 27-Jun-13 13:48:38

I also think the idea that university is a safe place for children to finish their growing up in a supportive institution is an understandable assumption, but I doubt whether it is fair or whether the academics/lecturers feel the same.

MrsHoarder Thu 27-Jun-13 13:59:23

I was speaking from personal experience of falling ill at university slipshod: was too ill to realise my phone had a flat battery and worried my parents silly as I'd been a bit daft delirious the last time they'd spoken to me, but a subwarden came up to my room, knocked on the door and sent me to the health centre. It took her all of 5-10 minutes and was a very valuable thing for a 18 year old and was what I thought you meant by "parents of ill students".

I didn't mean knock on the door daily to ensure that you get to lectures on time, just when there are serious concerns, and I'm sure if it was asked for frequently for the same person with no good reason they could have refused.

MrsHoarder Thu 27-Jun-13 14:02:49

ANd the comment about supportive institutions was more meant about the presence of student advice centres/counselling etc. for when things start going very wrong. Not that the lecturers personally should handhold through every upset.

PostBellumBugsy Thu 27-Jun-13 14:19:14

Just reading MrsHoarder's comments there, I wonder if there is something about parents nowadays expecting to be constantly in touch with their DCs.

I was at Uni pre mobile phones being available to everyone. Mobiles were still huge bricks for very important business men. I probably spoke to my parents once every two weeks - if that. They would have had no idea if I was ill, drunk, delirious or perfectly fine. They just wouldn't have had a clue. Halls of residence had a phone, but you could never get through to them and when I lived in rented houses, none of them had phones - you had to go to a phonebox to make a call.

They also wouldn't have been able to send emails to my tutors, as there was no such thing then & they couldn't have found out who my tutors were without some considerable awkward research.

Perhaps the communication revolution that has taken place in the last 20 years means that it is too easy for parents to be constantly in touch and interfering?

mirry2 Thu 27-Jun-13 14:31:28

I think the problem is that for many parents, university is a huge financial investment and burden. If a parent has to pay out something like £300 a month (because the student loan definitely doesn't cover all living expenses) it's no wonder they want to make sure that their offspring is studying hard and isn't missing vast numbers of lectures/hasn't dropped out/is receiving help for MH issues etc. That sullen and noncommunicative teenager of 17 doesn't suddenly become a lovely responsible adult overnight.

UptheChimney Thu 27-Jun-13 14:34:39

I think the Unis need to collectively put their feet down on this one

Multiply the percentage of parents on this thread alone saying that they're paying so they expect to know, by the number of pupils aiming to go to university each year . Admittedly, parents who expect to be informed are in the minority, but a vocal and difficult minority.

But it is wearing, having to educate the minority of parents, and they can sometimes be borderline rude to my colleagues & me. This borderline rudeness is a regular experience, I'm afraid, at Admissions Days when we ask parents (and siblings & grandparents, I kid you not!) to step out, so that we can talk directly to UCAS applicants. There are always separate sessions on finance & accommodation for parents, plus access to colleagues & current students in informal Q&A sessions, so there are always other opportunities for parents.

JedwardScissorhands Thu 27-Jun-13 14:38:20

What PostBellum said. My parents had no major input into my choice of GCSEs, A levels, or university. They did not attend uni open days, and they were "interested" parents; nobody's parents did this!

However on here there are constant threads about whether a DC should do geography or German, or some other attempt to micro-manage their DC's lives. In this context, it doesn't surprise me that some parents expect communication from uni. I suppose tuition fees have a lot to do with it.

ubik Thu 27-Jun-13 14:49:38

There are extenuating circumstances sometimes - my pal got pregnant in first year, told parents and returned to halls. One morning I realised I hadn't seen her fir a few days and knocked on door, found her 6 months pregnant unable to get out of bed as she had severe anaemia.

Parents contact immediately and she was taken home. I remember how dreadfully worried they were when they arrived. She now has a beautiful 18 year old DD.

Quite a few students had to be taken home by parents due to mental health probs such as schizophrenia, anorexia..

I didn't have a phone at all in my second year so would sporadically phone home every 2/3 months blush

MrsHoarder Thu 27-Jun-13 14:50:13

That's a rather interesting point about communication.

I'd like to point out at this point that I choose my own degree subject, attended open days/interviews alone (except for one which couldn't be easily got to without a car), rarely saw parents and usually spoke to them weekly when not feeling quite ill grin Also only bothered the warden team one other time (when mugged right outside halls: thought they should be told the police they were on their way before they got there).

The point I was trying to make and failed abysmally at is that parents should generally trust in their children as adults, and wait for them to tell them that they are in trouble, but that the support institutions not the lecturers etc in the university should be open to approaches by parents with genuine concerns without giving them feedback on the student. Just be prepared to advise on the systems available/approach the student themselves.

mirry2 Thu 27-Jun-13 14:51:01

Yes, I think tuition fees have a lot to do with it , combined with the fact that there is a new and larger generation of students whose parents don't have any experience of higher education and so it can be very anxious time for them.

mirry2 Thu 27-Jun-13 14:57:56

MrsHoarder I agree with you. I had serious mh issues when at University, took to my bed for half a term and when the uni finally took notice I was carted off and sectioned, at which point my parents were called in as next of kin. (My parents had no idea and were contacted by a friend, not the university). An extreme case maybe, but it happens.

ubik Thu 27-Jun-13 14:59:12

It's just more stressful fir parents - they are thinking 'this is costing me/DC a fortune, it had better be worth it/ they had better be attending/ better choose right course so they can get a good job'

The stakes are higher now that universities have set fees so high - I guess they are now dealing with customers

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Thu 27-Jun-13 15:01:40

I don't honestly know how much option universities had about setting fees. Remember, before fees were set, the government subsidized universities more. If they don't cover their costs, they won't stay open.

mirry2 Thu 27-Jun-13 15:04:07

Malenky, that's a different argument.

OneMoreChap Thu 27-Jun-13 15:04:58

DCs olde enough to go to uni = they are grown ups

None of the parents business.

Slipshodsibyl Thu 27-Jun-13 15:09:05

I agree that ease of communication has made a huge difference. I find it hard not to over communicate with children simply because I can and am used to doing so.

I understand what you mean Mrs Hoarder and agree.

mirry2 Thu 27-Jun-13 15:11:52

Onemorechap- the problem is that unfortunately it is the parents business now because they have a financial interest.

UptheChimney Thu 27-Jun-13 15:16:25

The stakes are higher now that universities have set fees so high - I guess they are now dealing with customers

Point of order! The current government cut 80% of universities' teaching budgets, ring-fencing only STEM (science & technology) and some non-English language teaching.

£9,000 is about what it costs to educate an undergraduate in my field properly; in others, such as medicine for example, it can be £12-15,000.

Universities DON'T have extra money -- in fact, in the long term I expect that fees will go much higher, as it's not a stable financial model long term. And universities need to be able to think long term, in planning their key activities of teaching & research.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Thu 27-Jun-13 15:16:49

But it isn't.

VerlaineChasedRimbauds Thu 27-Jun-13 15:34:53

mirry2 - the financial contract/interest is between student and parent or between student and university NOT between parent and university.

78bunion Thu 27-Jun-13 15:40:41

When I went (before tuition fees) the system was not so very different as people think. Due to parental income I got a very very minimal lowest level of grant. For people like me the parent was expected to make that up to the level of the full grant which those whose parents had very little money received - this was for living costs (no loans, no tuition fees then) - so just as much desire on all those middle class parents who had to make the minimum grant up to the full grant to know their child was actually attending lessons (and I was 17 when I started so technically a child).

I would not change things. I think it's fine as it is but there is nothing to stop a university agreeing with the students when they start that the university has the right to notify a nominated parent if they have concerns about the student such as health or attendance or criminal activities and I think many parents would very much like to know. In the days of mobiles and email my older ones have chosen not too much contact at all which is fine with me as they are independent but if they had dropped out or were at risk of that I would prefer to know and if they had given consent when they started the course to that in return for my funding their full costs (as I did without any student loans) I think that's a small sacrifice for such a lucky child to have to make - that parents might be told if they dropped out or were ill.

outtolunchagain Thu 27-Jun-13 16:33:49

I think this is going to become more difficult for universities . Yes it is true that the financial contract is in the first instance between the university and student , however the amount a student can borrow for living costs is means tested on their parents income and in many cases university accommodation costs more than the amount you can borrow and it is assumed that the parent will make up the difference . Consequently there has to be input from the parent and hence it becomes their business.

I did everything on my own and have tried to stand back from ds1 this year ,he has got himself in a couple of pickles but he has also managed to find a way out , I only speak to him about once a fortnight , text slightly more often .

My parents didn't really care if I got a degree, they knew I would get a job anyway ,today's parents know how competitive it is out there and are bound to worry about their offsprings chances.

ubik Thu 27-Jun-13 16:36:33

I understood that when Labour brought in tuition fees it didn't expect the fees to go so high.

It's very sad, isn't it.

Would universities be content to just educate the wealthy?

nooka Thu 27-Jun-13 16:41:19

For me it's just the health/crisis side of things, and I'm not really that concerned about whether parents are told as to whether anyone at he university notices and whether there are support services. It's not like an employer relationship a) because the students are living at the university, frequently in halls and b) because if you fell apart at work it would certainly be noticed! So universities/courses that have personal tutors, great, mine didn't, in fact it was fairly clear that they weren't terribly interested in undergraduates at all.

It is a vulnerable age where things can go seriously wrong, and they aren't necessarily predictable in advance. I've a few friends who had breakdowns at university, due to pressure, sexual assault, difficulties coping alone, alcohol/drug abuse and just brain chemistry. I don't think it is reasonable for universities to completely expect students to sink or swim.

That said I don't expect academics to take on parenting roles, just that services should be there and referrals made as appropriate. Parents should be making sure their children are ready, know how things work and can cope with independence. I had a year out and felt much much better prepared than many of the other students, so I'll be making sure my children get a bit of boring work and independent traveling under their belts before they are off (especially as where we live now children finish school at 17).

tallulah Thu 27-Jun-13 17:08:49

DD1 went through university almost without issue. It wouldn't have occurred to us to call anyone.

DS1 though, went to a University hundreds of miles away. Halfway through the first term we realised we hadn't heard from him for a while and when we did get hold of him he said he was ill. Turned out he had been ill, but had then reached that point where because he'd missed classes he couldn't face going back. He'd got into a spiral of not going, and he didn't know what to do.

What made us angry was that there was supposed to be a good pastoral system which should have flagged up he was missing and somebody should have gone to see if he was OK (in halls). In the end DH had to go up there (7 hour trip) and gather him up. They went to see the tutor together and it transpired that lots of opportunities to help him had been missed, and he didn't know what to do. He ended up dropping out.

It seems from some of the responses here that some institutions manage to deal with this sort of situation well, so I don't think it's unreasonable to expect others to be able to manage it. Of course it isn't up to the teaching staff to d/w but the support staff.

That said I don't have any time for parents complaining about marks or suchlike. Really overstepping the mark there.

fussychica Thu 27-Jun-13 17:14:32

Generally I would say no but DS was rushed to hospital during freshers week with a punctured lung and landed up having an op and missing half the first term. DS was able to contact us so there was no involvement by the Uni.
However, when we went up to see him we did make an appointment to see his tutor just to let him know the position and find out what procedures DS needed to follow, if any. He was very concerned & supportive and even went to visit our DS. It wasn't something we expected but nevertheless made us feel that our DS wasn't just a number. We also noticed when we went to collect some stuff from his room that a member of the pastoral care team had dropped by and left her number in case he needed anything. This was all very reassuring for us but we certainly didn't expect that we should have been contacted by the Uni.

alreadytaken Thu 27-Jun-13 17:35:52

hmmm things that universities do - cancel a course part way through, fail to provide even the minimal number of hours contact that were advertised for the course, not provide feedback, allow students even in supposedly quiet accommodation to be as noisy as they please. That's a few examples offhand where the supposed contract between students and university is just ignored.

Modern communications do make a difference, young people text and use Facebook. If your student child becomes seriously ill the normal pattern of communication won't exist. Therefore there is more potential for parents to know something is wrong.

funnyperson Thu 27-Jun-13 19:46:34

Students do read the detailed feedback when given promptly. One of my DC rings up and gives me a bow by blow account of every comment in the margin (punctuated by 'are you listening mum?) together with the elated or despondent response (depending) and it always amuses me how the tutors bend over backwards to be tactful so that a kick up the backside can be actually quite hard for a confident student to perceive.

The other DC is at a (well regarded Russell group) uni where the admin is terrible and understaffed and feedback is given (if at all) at the end of 2 months by which time it is practically useless because the next essay is already nearly finished. At this place 'tutorials' are in group of 30 or so and the tutors dont offer any routine one to one slot on the grounds that the student needs to be proactive. I am sure this is because to offer 400 or so students a one to one slot termly would be unrealistically time consuming for academics. The culture at uni no 2 does not promote the engagement of the student with the tutor and feedback is less timely and transparent. Not that it is my business either way. And it may make very little difference to the degree of course.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Thu 27-Jun-13 19:49:03

You can't assume they're all like your DC, funny, though.

I've sat in an empty room waiting for students to come and get the feedback, and collected essays from the pigeonhole that they didn't bother to come and get. I marked everything in a week.

VerlaineChasedRimbauds Thu 27-Jun-13 19:51:01

Those problems, though, alreadytaken are for the student to sort out - possibly with the support of the parents (giving advice on how to handle it/help wording a letter etc) IF the student chooses to tell the parents about the problems.

Those problems still don't mean that the University has to correspond directly with the parents, because the student is an adult and the contract is with that adult. I've given my (adult student) children support and advice about how to handle difficulties when they have asked - but I wouldn't expect the University to deal directly with me.

funnyperson Thu 27-Jun-13 19:54:13

malenky did admin tell them you would be there? I like being a tutor when I am a tutor. As long as I have the energy. I find in general that the students have energy and enthusiasm and knowledge which needs tempering with wisdom (though they may not think so!)

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Thu 27-Jun-13 19:54:57

I have no idea what admin told them.

I told them. Repeatedly.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Thu 27-Jun-13 19:57:58

I'm not judging the students, btw - I was a lazy undergraduate, I didn't go to everything, etc. etc.

But the problem is, because of that, I know perfectly well I didn't always tell the exact truth to my parents - if only by lies of omission. That's part of growing up. Parents are only ever going to get a one-sided picture of what university is like, and 'oh, I never got feedback/they never told us that' is going to be a regular complaint. It's human nature. But it doesn't necessarily mean it's true.

imademarion Thu 27-Jun-13 20:00:29

Certainly not. I said goodbye at the beginning of each term and they got an occasional letter and/or drunken phone call from me and that was it. I'd have hit the roof if my department or college had told the what a waster I was progress I was making.

I think that so many people are now first generation university goers, it has created genuine problem in the misunderstanding of parental role for students.

A friend of mine works for a dean and is flabbergasted at the minutiae with which flappy parents see fit to call.

senua Thu 27-Jun-13 20:40:44

I told DD that school is there to help you pass, University is there to let you fail.
Very few people care what subject you read or what your dissertation was about. What they want to know is whether you are a self-motivated, conscientious adult i.e. employable.

It is the student's job to overcome all the obstacles they find along the way, to take responsibility for their own outcomes and be proactive in asking for support where necessary (from the University, parents, friends - doesn't really matter who - just learn how to ask for help). That is what you get awarded a degree for.

DrDolittle Thu 27-Jun-13 21:24:53

Christ no! It isn't a school!

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Thu 27-Jun-13 22:48:38

I'm remembering my uni days now. My sister got knocked over by a motorbike when she was drunk in her first year. I got glandular fever. We frequently ran out of money and lived on plain rice. We dealt with it, no calls home.

rightsaidfrederick Thu 27-Jun-13 23:12:40

I have to agree with creamteas at open days. There are now more parents there than students, and I have seen parents get (how can I put this nicely) very uppity when only one parent has been allowed to go on a tour due to space constraints. You do often find that parents are the ones asking all the questions whilst their DC sit there, supine and not saying much if anything. In contrast, UCAS fairs are more commonly attended by students alone, having come as part of a school / college group. You get much better questions from prospective students at UCAS fairs IME.

Universities generally have next of kin details, and for most students this will be their parents. IMHO the next of kin should be contacted if the student is too ill to contact parents themselves i.e. unconscious, sectioned, or dead. Other than that it's none of the parent's business.

senua Thu 27-Jun-13 23:37:53

I have to agree with creamteas at open days. There are now more parents there than students, and I have seen parents get (how can I put this nicely) very uppity when only one parent has been allowed to go on a tour due to space constraints.

Ah, yes, but ...

I have been to open days with the DC. Most places are accommodating and, if they want to get rid of parents temporarily, tend to do it diplomatically (think of toddler distraction techniquesgrin). One place we went to felt quite hostile and anti-parent. I had no problem when DS said that it wasn't the place for him; I had no inclination after that to try to persuade him otherwise.hmm

You may not like it, but parental involvement is here to stay, especially now that such vast sums of money are involved. If your young-adult was buying a car or a house you would give advice, if asked, so it's not surprising that parents 'kick the tyres' of Universities too.

allnewtaketwo Fri 28-Jun-13 06:20:07

But if you helped the young adult buy a home, for sample by contributing to the deposit, would you then expect involvement in the running of that home? Similarly if you help towards buying a car, would you expect to be involved in how the car is then looked after as well? In theory that parental right of involvement would never end as long as you "help" your adult child.

allnewtaketwo Fri 28-Jun-13 06:21:48

Which reminds me of a good many threads on mumsnet where parents/in laws are overly involved in the adult child's life, often where they've given a "helping" hand

exoticfruits Fri 28-Jun-13 06:40:32

I agree that parents at open days are here to stay- open days have totally changed in nature- but I think that once you have dropped them off you let them get on with it. Parents are treating it like an extension of school- just a higher one and it really isn't, it is a complete change. Universities will have to resist making them just an extension of school.

You can see where you get the problems of parents/PIL, allnewtaketwo because they haven't let go. When are they going to let go and realise it isn't any of their business? Never in some cases. You can see why IL relations are a problem - the DC has never stood up to them and suddenly they get a partner who isn't going to put up with it. You would hope that if universites do cave in to giving students a paper to sign with permission for parent involvement that the student takes the opportunity to cut the apron string and refuses to sign. (Not a hope if they haven't stood up to them by 18yrs IMO)
Perhaps 30yrs is the new age of independence.

creamteas Fri 28-Jun-13 08:48:17

You may not like it, but parental involvement is here to stay, especially now that such vast sums of money are involved. If your young-adult was buying a car or a house you would give advice, if asked, so it's not surprising that parents 'kick the tyres' of Universities too

But parents are increasingly making the decision in the guise of giving 'advice'. Studying for a degree involves a lot more effort than living in a house or driving a car (both of which I managed to do without having ever wanted or received parental advice, nor would I expect to give advice to my adult DC).

I spend hours of my time dealing with unhappy and failing first years who are on a degree courses that are not right for them or that they didn't really want to do. They always blame the parents and often refuse to take any responsibility for the decision that they made (or should have made).

Clearly I can't know if or how much parents were involved in each case, but the trend to increasingly infantalizing young adults is not the best way to organise society in my opinion. And this is not just about the fees, it is a wider social problem (look at the lack of freedom given to primary age children in comparison with the past).

Previous generations managed to be adults, often at ages younger than 18, so why is it so different now?

Slipshodsibyl Fri 28-Jun-13 08:57:35

I think it is different because there are more choices, more information and the World is more complex than it was. Even something simple such as the range of university courses available which has increased enormously makes life more confusing. I think more parental involvement is here to stay and not all bad in every way.

I agree that there is more parental influence rather than discussion of university choices and that is negative. It seems increasingly common to hear parents insisting their children study a course that they believe will lead to employment.

Remotecontrolduck Fri 28-Jun-13 08:58:41

Unless it's an absolute life or death scenario, absolutely no way.

I would have felt demeaned if university chose to tell my parents I wasn't coming to lectures or similar, they're not little children. What would happen if your young adult DC was in work, would you call the boss and ask how they were doing? Ask for a pay rise?

Just because you've invested financially doesn't give you the right to intervene in everything. Talk to your DC to find out how things are going, do not ham up how much you're paying and have high expectations as this is why they'll lie to you if things go badly. If they fail I'm afraid they have to deal with that.

I think things like this need to be put a stop to, and it made clear right from day 1 you can't call and expect information.

UptheChimney Fri 28-Jun-13 09:03:05

You may not like it, but parental involvement is here to stay, especially now that such vast sums of money are involved. If your young-adult was buying a car or a house you would give advice, if asked, so it's not surprising that parents 'kick the tyres' of Universities too

< sigh > To state the obvious, a university education is not a commodity like a car or a house. It is an opportunity to study for a degree. And that means so much more than the marks, or the Class grade at the end.

It is a privilege that should be available to anyone who can cope intellectually and with their full commitment to the process. And not available to those who can't or won't or don't commit (and I'm not talking disabled here).

But then I'm an idealist -- just as well really, for all the students I teach. Because otherwise I'd have done the other job I was offered and be making shedloads in the City.

I think it would be nice to have some communication at the beginning, for example a letter to parents explaining that they are welcome to come to an open day with their child, and that many do these days, and perhaps that a special tour will be put on for them with other parents.
Then I think "NotFluffy's" principal played it just right (at start of thread) giving parents a short address on open day but then saying he wouldn't be allowed/able to speak to them again until graduation day ! Gives parents a strong message that it's over to the students now, but helping everyone look towards graduation day with some positive anticipation and pride !

outtolunchagain Fri 28-Jun-13 09:07:23

I think part of this problem stems from the fact that for many young people there are no alternatives presented to them in school other than going to university .In my day university was just one option and frankly one really for the few that were of an academic turn of mind ,now everybody is being encouraged to go ,they feel that they have no option.

My ds is definitely academic but wasn't sure what else he could do other than university because for an arts type there is no alternative ,consequently many young people end up feeling like they have been pushed by school or parental expectation into an environment which isn't really for them .

In addition university is held out by school to be the promised land ,very little is talked about the actual reality in my experience and so young people feel a huge expectation to enjoy it ,plus now a degree isn't enough you have to be working your CV from the day you get there,the whole thing is massively pressurised and frankly I'm surprised more don't crack under the pressure.

It has been quite an eye opener to me from my experience at a very middle class university in the north east in the eighties where frankly it was a bit on an extension of boarding school (interestingly that university still seems to be pretty like that now)to the sprawling mass that is ds's huge RG university of today .

Whilst I don't feel that any of this is Universities fault or even their responsibility it is no good harking back to the old days where there were no mobile communications and where if my lecturer didn't turn up for a whole term (as they didn't ) no one said anything because we were too cowed and my parents would have just told me to be polite and thta he must have had his reasons and no definitely do not complain .My ds and his friends expect answers to questions about they course ,they organised meetings to discuss proposed course changes and expected to be heard, they were and some changes were made ,though not enough in my opinion but its not my business .Students and and parents are well aware that just a degree is not enough these days ,they may not be paying upfront but they will be paying a percentage of earnings for a long time and they and their parents are very aware of this and most parents are making a heafty contribution themselves to living costs etc

exoticfruits Fri 28-Jun-13 09:09:14

I don't see the point in telling them they need to do a course because it leads to employment- there are people my age who had that and it never worked- they generally had a mid life crisis and changed everything- or were stuck and increasingly unhappy. You get one life and it isn't a rehearsal- you need to be following a career that interests you. Even my eldest DS's friends are having complete life changes- the days of a job for life is over.
My DS chose his course and was passionate about it. DH and I knew it would be tough - and it was- he has just got a job that he is qualified for 13 months after graduating. I am glad that we didn't channel him down the 'sensible'.
It is their life- you have to let them lead it. Give advice and support but leave them to the decisions.

Jux Fri 28-Jun-13 09:10:11

Perhaps there should be lectures for parents at open days, explaining that their role is to let their child grow up [grin.] I'd be happy with that!

UptheChimney Fri 28-Jun-13 09:10:49

Turned out he had been ill, but had then reached that point where because he'd missed classes he couldn't face going back. He'd got into a spiral of not going, and he didn't know what to do

I find it hard to believe that his Department, and all the orientation material he would have had, hadn't given copious advice about this sort of situation. I put advice on every single module outline I teach in short: -- if there's a problem get in touch

All he had to do was summon up the courage to talk to his personal tutor, to the student union advisor, or a sub-warden in his halls, or a friend in halls or elsewhere.

I absolutely understand why you were worried (my little boy grown up DS is on an adventure on the other side of the world this year & boy oh boy do I wait for the weekly email), but I'm not sure it's fair that your annoyance is entirely with the university. Part of growing up is fixing up your mistakes, and realising you're just human; and certainly his tutors will have seen it all before. I hope that when you scooped him up, and after he was well again, you worked through with him better coping strategies.

exoticfruits Fri 28-Jun-13 09:19:47

Open days would be a great opportunity to give a talk on the role of the parent with an adult child.

UptheChimney Fri 28-Jun-13 09:29:52

Oh gosh, exotic fruits so universities now need to give parenting advice? grin Not sure I'd be happy with that as either a tutor or a parent!

larrygrylls Fri 28-Jun-13 09:33:05

"Well, I'd like know if the £27,000 plus living costs I'll be spending is going to pot. So if I'm paying for the course, I'd like to know if DC is failing. It's, like, my money you know...hmm"

God help you, then, if, in your old age, your children kindly pay towards your care home accommodation. Would you want them informed if you were compliant with meals, bedtimes and medication? Would their contribution give them that right?

If one adult chooses to give another adult money, that is their decision. If you choose to give the money contingently, that is effectively a contract between two adults, and, if your child is failing, that is a discussion to be had with them.

No, no, no, don't infantilise adults. Eighteen is adulthood. Parents have no more rights than any other person listed as next of kin.

I think you can make the separation at 18 (when they go off to Uni/college) too extreme though - throwing your chicks out of the nest !
Let them fly off as fledglings but coming back to the nest every now and again until they feel confident !

larrygrylls Fri 28-Jun-13 09:40:37


There is a huge difference between letting them come back and making them come back. I.E continuing to monitor their lives.

If they are in trouble and ask for help, then you can provide it. If they want to function as independent adults, it is not for their University to break their duty of confidentiality to an adult.

alreadytaken Fri 28-Jun-13 09:42:35

verlaine I was asked about universities getting away with murder because they are dealing with the immature. Young people don't generally know how to deal with contract problems and they may seek advice from parents. Universities should expect that and accept that they have led a protected life in the past. But whether the young person seeks help or not parents are going to become involved when there is a serious problem, the university's choice is only about how it handles that.

The simplest, cheapest support system is a parent. Universities need to provide more welfare services because they refuse to communicate with parents.

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Fri 28-Jun-13 09:45:05

I think by the time they are going to Uni, children should have experienced a bit of independent living - being left in the family home to fend for themselves for a bit, gone away by themselves, learnt to budget, learnt to keep themselves safe and out of risky situations.

Otherwise it is too much of a shock. Parents do children no favours by running their lives up to then (disabilities excepted).

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Fri 28-Jun-13 09:59:40

already, they're not 'refusing' out of some bizarre kind of spite. Adults are adults. Universities are bound by data protection laws just like everyone else.

Students need to take up services that are offered. Several people on this thread seem convinced that no student would ever struggle if only university tutors did this, that and the other ... which university tutors already do.

I know students who're struggling are in the least good position to be responsible and proactive in seeking out and taking up the help that's on offer - but the only sanctions the university has are those that will ultimately damage that student's learning anyway: kicking them off courses, threatening not to let them continue. The kinds of people who want the university to 'communicate' with parents are also the kinds who would be screaming blue murder if the university got in touch to say 'if you don't force your adult child to go to class, he will be kicked off the course'. Suddenly, at that point, it would all become the university's problem again, I suspect.

exoticfruits Fri 28-Jun-13 10:06:20

It wasn't exactly parenting advice, UptheChimney - I had in mind ' cut the apron strings- do not waste time contacting- see you on graduation day!' grin

UptheChimney Fri 28-Jun-13 10:12:21

exoticfruits oh thank goodness smile wink not really qualified to tell other parents how to raise their almost-adult children as I'm still working it out myself.

But seriously, Universities need to provide more welfare services because they refuse to communicate with parents is not feasible or correct: it's often the students who are refusing to communicate -- with either parents or university sources of help.

Eyesunderarock Fri 28-Jun-13 10:14:19

I agree with alreadytaken.
My DD was able to organise her own student finances. cook, clean, budget, sort out transport to and from her uni, function as an adult in her new environment. Attend lectures and seminars punctually and submit all the work asked of her.
But she slid into depression, and kept sliding further down.
The welfare services available looked very good online and in theory, in reality they were chaotic, spasmodic and 'one size fits all' She needed an advocate and had none. The termly sessions with an advice/support tutor didn't happen, whatever the blurb said was supposed to. She floundered along as a young, independent and the system let her down.
Yes, I know that university lecturers have no expertise in mental illness, spectrum disorders or disabilities in general, but the universities should be able to provide a conduit to access those services, and they should be of high quality, and liaise with the academic side.

'But whether the young person seeks help or not parents are going to become involved when there is a serious problem, the university's choice is only about how it handles that.
The simplest, cheapest support system is a parent. Universities need to provide more welfare services because they refuse to communicate with parents.'

I am now fully involved with supporting my child. Not with the university.
Because the situation is now crisis intervention.

PostBellumBugsy Fri 28-Jun-13 10:14:55

I thought that part of the point of university was to allow you to fuck up a bit, without it being a total catastrophe.

It is a massive learning experience about living away from home and starting to take genuine responsibility for your own life.

My brother had a complete breakdown at the start of his 2nd year at uni and dropped out. He had to go back home for a few years and do a different course living at home. He was very immature, wasn't eating properly, got depressed and simply couldn't cope. I don't think anything the uni could have done would have been enough to help him to stay.

Sometimes, people are not going to be suited to uni, or ready for it or will have a crisis of some kind and need to have a re-think on their own way forward. I'm not sure that constant helicoptering by parents and helpful staff is always the right thing in situations like this, as sometimes it just prolongs the inevitable failure to cope.

exoticfruits Fri 28-Jun-13 10:16:25

You are only 'throwing your chicks out of the nest' if you have been a lazy parent who finds doing it for them and overprotecting them an easier option than giving them age appropriate independence and responsibility. If it has been a gradual process since birth they are ready to go, and will come back. Birds do not turf their chicks out of the nest without having made sure they can cope! Parents send off to university DCs who can't cook a meal or operate a washing machine, with no idea how to cope with problems or deal with organising their work load.
I thought you would have realised from my other posts that I wasn't advocating serious talks! Just lay the realities on the line! I'm sure some parents think it just like school and have no idea that they won't be involved in feedback etc.

Eyesunderarock Fri 28-Jun-13 10:19:55

'But seriously, Universities need to provide more welfare services because they refuse to communicate with parents is not feasible or correct: it's often the students who are refusing to communicate -- with either parents or university sources of help.'

So you leave the mentally ill to slide into suicide because they won't actively access support ? Is that how it works in the real world?
Or do we relly on family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues to become actively involved in enabling the problem to be recognised and help offered.
If you continuously didn't show up to work, or arrived unwashed and unkempt, unprepared, failed to meet the needs of your students, there would be meetings with your line manager, questions asked and threats about job security made. There would also be offers of counselling, support within the system targeted at your areas of difficulty, perhaps mentoring/observation by a colleague in order to support you.
All you'd have to do was begin to fail, and the situation would not go unnoticed and ignored.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Fri 28-Jun-13 10:24:35

But those things have nothing to do with making contact with parents, eyes.

Those things should happen at a university with students. I know first-hand that some universities are really, really shit at this, and I'm not excusing that. What I don't get is why anyone thinks that waiving students' rights and getting in touch with parents is the right solution.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Fri 28-Jun-13 10:25:24

Btw, in the real world, yes, that often is how it works.

It's not as if there's some kind of obvious distinction between universities and employers in how good they are at supporting people who're struggling. Some are good. Some are bad.

guineapiglet Fri 28-Jun-13 10:26:12

Have tried to read most of the comments on here but may have missed a few - it is really interesting and a huge issue. I have experience of being a University Faculty Officer, a residential tutor in a Hall of Residence and a Student Counsellor, ( all RG Universities and the OU) and I do think this question needs careful thinking about by Unis in general- there are so many aspects to consider, confidentiality being perhaps the major one - although the issue of parents paying fees/living costs etc is now really raising its head, as many see a University education as something to be 'bought' - as a value for money kind of investment. I guess my perspective is from the students themselves, - the actual hands on living issues faced by students daily, including personal health, finance issues, accommodation issues, coping with being independent supposedly etc, and seeing how this affects academic issues. There is the question of whether an 18 year old's transition to being an adult is a level playing field if that makes sense, some are ready, mature and capable, some are immature, out of their depth, and struggling - just because they have physically turned 18 and have done well in exams is not necessarily adequate preparation for then living independently and managing things.

I have been involved with students on medical courses, many successful, but some of whom have tread water from day one, and the only 'legal' communication from the university would be down to exam failure/non attendance etc,. There needs to be proper pastoral/tutor time with individuals for appraisal and review and this often does not happen enough. It is impossible for many 'strugglers' to discuss issues with tutors, or indeed parents, and although Universities do offer counselling and other types of support, those who need it most many often be the last to take these services up.

As a residential tutor, I was 'available' to students at all hours and had regular open door evenings for them to come and discuss whatever, in a confidential way, sometimes it could be sorted easily, often more complex issues had to be dealt with by other services.

Things have changed enormously in the past 20 years or so, and our 'old' experiences are long gone really - the Uni/student/parent/ interface is a really complex issue which these organisations must tackle.

PostBellumBugsy Fri 28-Jun-13 10:27:22

Eyesunderarock, as an employee if you were underperforming at work, you would be given a few chats, then up to 3 warnings & if your performance didn't improve you'd be fired. Or you'd go to your doctor and be signed off sick.

Adults past uni age fail to cope too and often form a huge part of the long-term unemployed. I don't think you'll find there is much support out there for them at all, other than their local GP.

UptheChimney Fri 28-Jun-13 10:33:52

eyesunderarock Respectfully, I think you are projecting your understandable distress onto the wrong institution/people.

I have seen students in that sort of distress who tell me, point blank, looking me in the eyes, that they need no help, or that nothing's wrong, or that they don't need/won't take action to get help. I could go on. And when I ask if I can contact University services on their behalf they say "No." Ditto to contacting parents

What do you suggest I do in those sorts of situations? Forcibly march students to the health centre or counselling? Would you suggest I break the law?

I do know that such behaviour is a symptom of an illness (as is self-harming, excessive drinking, not washing etc etc -- I've seen it all), but put absolutely bluntly, there is little I can do if the student won't let me.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Fri 28-Jun-13 10:41:30

Besides which, if you did look at a student in that situation and decide 'oh, I'll waive the law this time and ring his parents', what happens if you discover the parents' idea of what to do isn't helping? It's not like school, you can take an adult child out of university and isolate them completely from all the professionals who are meant to notice when a child's parents seem not to be doing the right things.

I know no-one thinks they're 'that' parent. But some parents must be. It's quite easy to do the wrong thing by mistake, too - if you're not a trained professional, and your beloved child is telling you they're not really suicidally depressed and it's all fine now, would you necessarily know the difference? I don't think I would.

Eyesunderarock Fri 28-Jun-13 10:48:00

'There needs to be proper pastoral/tutor time with individuals for appraisal and review and this often does not happen enough. It is impossible for many 'strugglers' to discuss issues with tutors, or indeed parents, and although Universities do offer counselling and other types of support, those who need it most many often be the last to take these services up.'

Exactly. If you know that the uni counselling and support systems are poor, shit, or barely in existence other than the legal minimum, then you need to allow other concerned individuals to step in. Like hospitals allowing relatives to provide basic care that they aren't capable of.
Whilst you work towards changing that system. Unfortunately in the past, it would have been the students demanding the change and pushing for improvements, but as has already been said, the past was very different.

I do disapprove of helicopter parenting, of the 'barely able to manage' that are sent off to uni unable to budget or know how to share a house with equals, or how to balance their course demands and their socialising.
The money is irrelevant, the debt is the student's not the parent's.
The ones that are there to make up the government demands of '50% at Uni' and are there because there are few alternatives for mediocre academics who might excel at training in the workplace instead.
When I was at uni, the people were mostly there because they loved their subject and wanted to study. Yes, we spent a lot of time drunk or living on porridge, but we also knew and loved our subjects and the majority weren't just marking time.

creamteas Fri 28-Jun-13 10:48:05

Parents have no right to know about attendance, marks or disciplinary action. They have no right to know if students are still registered or have left. To involve parents in this would be a breech of the student's human rights. Regardless of what some parents might want, this cannot change unless the legal age of adulthood changes.

If a student has a medical emergency which means they do not have the capacity to contact their next-of-kin, then you will be called. If you can't cope with this as a parent, then perhaps you should use your 'advice' to keep your DC from attending university.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Fri 28-Jun-13 10:51:14

What magic powers do tutors have, that counselling service professionals don't, that you think tutorial meetings would be effective for those students who won't take up what counselling services offer?

Eyesunderarock Fri 28-Jun-13 10:51:37

'What do you suggest I do in those sorts of situations? Forcibly march students to the health centre or counselling? Would you suggest I break the law?'

No. I'd suggest that you contacted a counseller and shared your concerns about the student, and let them decide what sort of contact to make, how to reach out.
Rather like phoning SS when your neighbour is heard screaming and seen with a black eye, looks down when you ask and says 'No, there's nothing wrong'

Eyesunderarock Fri 28-Jun-13 10:54:46

By allowing the student to understand that it is acceptable to ask for help, that it is common to struggle and that there are support networks available.
To be a person who can sit and listen to their worries in the new situation they are in and help them find a path.

Because at 18, mostly you don't know that. Especially of you flew through your GCSEs and A levels, if you've never failed before.

noddyholder Fri 28-Jun-13 10:55:17

I am hoping that the close relationship I have worked hard to have with my ds will enable him to approach me himself about anything serious. I wouldn't expect the uni to contact me though although if it was very serious I might think differently. I have told my son all through his life that there is nothing he can't talk to us about no matter what and tbh he has even with some pretty serious stuff re friends drugs etc. The relationship doesn't just stop and I think teens today are more reliant on parental input but they do need to learn as well It is a hard one to call.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Fri 28-Jun-13 10:55:31

But it isn't like phoning SS for your neighbour - unless you're in a position of official responsibility towards your neighbour, and are required to keep your interactions with them confidential?

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Fri 28-Jun-13 10:57:43

I can just imagine how well 'it's acceptable to ask for help' would work in this context.

'Yes dear, it's acceptable to ask for help, you can trust me. What, sorry, you're saying you're feeling terrible? Well, I must ring your parents now. You don't want me to? Never mind, I was lying when I said you could trust me.'

Eyesunderarock Fri 28-Jun-13 11:00:30

How interesting to be on a different wave-length to usual, dragon.
We have met on many a feminist thread, talking about similar imbalances of power and not victim-blaming.
Usually you give me a lot to think about, when my response has been 'They are independent women being abused, they should challenge, they should just leave, they are adults, why would they stay in that situation?'
and you have given me so many erudite and sensible explanations as to why they can't and won't take responsibility for themselves that have made me think.

creamteas Fri 28-Jun-13 11:02:14

I'd suggest that you contacted a counseller and shared your concerns about the student, and let them decide what sort of contact to make, how to reach out

But makes you believe that this doesn't happen? It has in every uni I have ever worked or studied in. But when the student refuses to attend meetings with counselling or other support systems there is nothing we can legally do, you cannot force adults to do anything.

I have had a number of angry parents shouting at me down the phone about the lack of services their DC has received, and whilst I know that they were offered lots of support which was all refused I cannot disclose this. The students have often lied to their parents, but we take the blame.

Unless the student is so distressed they are a danger to themselves or others, we cannot force them to attend any support sessions. And if they believe they are in danger or a risk to others, our first call is to the the mental health crisis team. We will then take their advice about contacting next-of-kin.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Fri 28-Jun-13 11:07:23

eyes - I don't quite follow. confused

I am not victim-blaming at all.

I am actually quite angry, if that's what you meant.

Adults are adults.

What worries me about this thread, is the idea that parents have some kind of rights over their adult children's lives, and that they and university tutors should be given the rights to control those adult children's lives.

It is an invasion of privacy for a tutor to waive his or her students' privacy to a parent. It is a violation of trust if this is done by coercion on the part of the parent or the tutor.

I feel really strongly about this and I cannot believe it comes across as victim-blaming.

It is not remotely similar to the victim-blaming 'why don't abused women just leave' rubbish. It is hard for abused women to leave. It is hard for people struggling with mental health issues to seek help.

Why you believe that it makes either situation better to violate trust and privacy, I fail to see?

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Fri 28-Jun-13 11:10:13

Btw, I've been mincing my words a bit, but since abuse has been brought up: one reason it'd be shitty and stupid for tutors to get in touch with parents is that one. Can you imagine the effect if you find a student who has just got away from abusive parents, and your first port of call is those parents?

I am not saying this is particularly common, but the possibility gives me the shudders.

UptheChimney Fri 28-Jun-13 11:10:50

To be a person who can sit and listen to their worries in the new situation they are in and help them find a path

I can do that for their academic path, but as I have 40 personal tutees, and teach classes of 120 (ask various governments why that is!), I really cannot "sit and listen" to all their worries.

It seems that some parents on this thread (a minority) want someone like me to be in loco parentis What if my ideas of parenting are different from yours? What if, from my perspective, your parenting is part of the problem, and I tell the student that?

In my view, doing that would be unprofessional and overstepping my expertise, but if parents want this sort of care of their DCs while at university, they might want to think about the consequences ...

I'd suggest that you contacted a counseller and shared your concerns about the student Yes I do that. Of course any tutor does that if it seems necessary. But the student needs to make contact with the counselling or advice services. Neither I nor the counselling service can force them to do this.

General question to concerned parents: where do you want "your" money to go? As I say upthread, it costs just under £9,000 to educate an undergrad in my course, up to £15,000 in medicine & some sciences, less than £9,000 in other subjects. Universities are chronically underfunded, and the £9,000 fee cap will be under a lot of pressure quite soon, I predict. Do you want that money spent on teaching and research? Or wrap around support? To put it bleakly & possibly over-simplified but still. There will be a point where some/most universities won't be able to do both properly.

outtolunchagain Fri 28-Jun-13 11:11:00

guineapiglet very good post .

My ds has made a couple of fairly poor decisions this year,luckily his tutor does seem to have made himself available but it does seem to be common practice for many tutors not to be available to students,I am sure the academics on here are great but many tutors are middle aged male academics with little or no tolerance or interest in students and even less empathy.Students do find themselves intimidated and struggle to approach them with problems ,I don't think parents should be contacted but sometimes they could suggest that a parent might be able to offer support rather than treating any person seeking support from a parent as a complete inadequate

The money is not irrelevant i am afraid ,many students will not receive enough from the Government through the loan system to even cover their rent especially in the first year when they are in hall/sc flats .The form you receive from student finance spells it out that the extra is the responsibility of the parent .

PostBellumbugsy,I run a team and no member experiencing mental health difficulties would be dealt with quite so cold heartedly as that ,I would hope (and in fact we recently have)been more compassionate,constructive and supportive of a colleague in difficulty.Would you behave the same way if they had a physical illness?

PostBellumBugsy Fri 28-Jun-13 11:13:14

The thing is even if students do receive counselling or support from the university - it still may not be enough!

There are some students who are support junkies and will take every bit of help offered, but there are others who quite simply won't. It is exactly the same outside of uni too. There will be people at work who have counselling and use the work helplines every time they have an ingrowing toenail and others whose lives dissolve into chaos but they can't or won't ask for help.

You hope as a parent you will recognise that your DCs are descending into hopeless chaos - but you may not and even if you did, sometimes there aren't even things you can do. It is hard to get an 18 year old that doesn't want to go in front of a GP. You only have to take a look at anorexia to see that no amount of parental intervention can prevent a young person/ young adult from wilfully starving themselves.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that it is rare nowadays for people who can ask for help not to get it to some degree. It is those who can't or won't who fall through the nets & I'm not sure that universities are any more able to help these people than any other organisation or person.

UptheChimney Fri 28-Jun-13 11:14:56

I have had a number of angry parents shouting at me down the phone about the lack of services their DC has received, and whilst I know that they were offered lots of support which was all refused I cannot disclose this. The students have often lied to their parents, but we take the blame


PostBellumBugsy Fri 28-Jun-13 11:20:54

outtolunch - depends where you work. In the world of corporate finance, yes that is how cold hearted it would be. In fact, you could skip the 3 chats bit & head straight to warnings - unless of course the person had actually been signed off sick.

In the charity world where I work now, there would be more soft intervention first, but eventually if the person was unable to work for a prolonged period of time they would go. It would be a longer, slower and more expensive process but if someone couldn't do their job then yes, they'd go.

If the employee was uncooperative and shunned all attempts to receive help (as is being described in so many student instances), then I think in most organisations, they would end up being fired.

rhetorician Fri 28-Jun-13 11:34:38

Like the other academics here, these experiences are very familiar. students who won't or can't access the help provided, parents who are disgusted with me when their child leaves them out of the loop, situations where the very last thing that would have helped the student would be to contact the parents (a couple of abuse cases, many many where sexuality was at issue, a good number concerning pregnancy and termination [am in Ireland, so the latter is a very tricky topic as abortion is illegal]). Where students are at risk and in trouble yes of course they need the support of a responsible adult, but I think the point here is that an academic whose focus should be on the overall progress of the student is rarely in a position to make that judgment. Support services are stretched to the nth degree and there aren't enough of them, and most academics I know do their utmost to make up the deficit.

I think many of these issues are compounded by the ease of communication (which as someone says, can increase alienation) but also by the heavy dependence of most systems on continuous assessment. In most places there is very little scope to fuck up, unlike when I was a student where it was possible to drift but still to come out with a first class degree.

I do resent deeply the idea that a university education is a commodity like a house or a car. You cannot buy it. I personally would favour students not coming to university until 20 or 21, that they should do something else first so that they can acquire some of the skills they need.

noddyholder Fri 28-Jun-13 11:36:58

I agree rhetorician My ds is about to go and is so not ready. His tutor at 6th form said he is a prime candidate to drop out because of this. My ds and many of his mates are going for all the wrong reasons.

UptheChimney Fri 28-Jun-13 11:45:37

noddyholder please, please use your influence now as a parent to persuade your DS to take a gap year!

A gap year is a wonderful thing! I really advocate them for any pupil thinking they want to work out what they really want to do.

And rhetorician thanks for saying this:

I do resent deeply the idea that a university education is a commodity like a house or a car. You cannot buy it

I guess I just care too much about students learning rather than getting a degree.

kickassangel Fri 28-Jun-13 11:46:35

But when a person goes on a day course paid for by their employer, the employer is given feedback which tells them attendance, and sometimes even a mini report. Why is ok for an employer to get feedback, but not parents? Employers claim that it is because they pay their employee, but if parents are paying fees, that's a very similar situation.

I personally think that uni shouldn't contact parents except for extreme health issues, but I also know that every time I go on a course, my employer gets confirmation that I attended. I'm 44 and still get checked on.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Fri 28-Jun-13 11:48:33

But I thought we'd established parents don't have the financial contract with the university, students do?

allnewtaketwo Fri 28-Jun-13 12:01:22

"Why is ok for an employer to get feedback, but not parents? Employers claim that it is because they pay their employee, but if parents are paying fees, that's a very similar situation"

Oh for goodness sake can you see that it's not even remotely similar. Employees have a CONTRACTUAL OBLIGATION to their employer because they are being paid for services rendered

noddyholder Fri 28-Jun-13 12:42:32

upthechimney He won't even consider it we have tried. He left the first year of 6th form in one college to go to anther so has in his eyes had the extra year and wants to go with his mates at same stage. Nightmare. He could have had an apprenticeship in his field and earned plus trained but they all want the 3 yr party fest sad

rhetorician Fri 28-Jun-13 13:19:47

kissassangel um, because one is specific training which has a direct impact on your capacity to do your job to the highest standard, and the other is education in a series of skills that might later be applied. Or not. If your logic held sway we wouldn't need discipline specific degrees at all, only training. Which I am sure is not what you are advocating.

rhetorician Fri 28-Jun-13 13:20:41

Ps if university education is to be a commodity then perhaps its practitioners should be paid at levels commensurate with their expertise...

rhetorician Fri 28-Jun-13 13:44:04

noddy here if you are 23 then you are classed as a mature student and can use different entry routes. Almost all of my best students come this route, they are people who didn't do brilliantly at school (background, inclination, wanted something else in life etc etc) but after a few years of work and travel decide this is what they want and commit to it 100%. They are young adults, with the level of maturity to make things work for them, to use what resources are available, but with the energy and drive to restart their lives. There are students that come in at 18 and thrive, but many more who are adrift, lack purpose and are drop out risks, or don't fulfil their potential. from universities point of view it's a risk though, because a good number of people would discover that they don't need university at all in order to have a fine, productive and happy life. Which is what I will tell my dds when they are big enough to care.

creamteas Fri 28-Jun-13 13:44:32

Ps if university education is to be a commodity then perhaps its practitioners should be paid at levels commensurate with their expertise

I have occasionally discussed with students what my university charges for consultancy rates and how different this is from academic pay. They are often extremely shocked at the difference.

I don't do this because I want more money, or think I am worth more than them, but to try to make them understand that the time with me that they take for granted, is there because I believe education is a valuable thing in its own right.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Fri 28-Jun-13 14:11:44

My students thought I got one-term's worth of 9k as my pay. For each of them. grin

Something that bothers me a bit is, I don't think it's students who're struggling academically who necessarily struggle with things that would require communication, does that seem fair? I can think of a lot of really lovely, mature, sensible people who struggled academically but just got on with it calmly. I can think of people who were academically much stronger but needed a lot of support.

Bluegrass Fri 28-Jun-13 14:23:24

I think because universities are based on education there is a tendency amongst some parents to see them as a seamless continuation of school, and so they act accordingly.

If you imagine an 18 year old moving to the same city as a university, setting themselves up in a flat share and going to work you wouldn't expect to be calling their employer up, or having any contact with their employer whatsoever. To take it further, if you paid them an allowance which they needed in order to take the job (because it was low paid) your financial involvement still wouldn't give you any right (or expectation) to deal directly with their employer. The idea seems laughable.

In that situation no one would be keeping an eye on them at home, and if they were struggling or failing in their work or personal life you would only hear about it if they chose to tell you (or during times when you paid them a visit). .

All that seems perfectly normal, it is a young adult setting out in life with all the risks and responsibilities that entails. Change "employer" to "university" though and for some people it all changes and instead of being an adult they remain a child. There is a definite difference in perception at work.

noddyholder Fri 28-Jun-13 16:00:24

I think the one size fits all conveyor belt style education system has created this. Because even the teens themselves see it as an extension of school and the 'next thing'. They expect a lot of parental input as that is what they are used to. I listen in on many late night convos of my son and his mates and they really do sound like they would be better off getting jobs (ha) as I haven't heard any of them sound enthused by the courses etc just the lifestyle sad. And 2 of his closest friends have teachers as parents and they are the worst offenders!

Jux Fri 28-Jun-13 16:14:08

I think bringing finance into it (parents pay so they deserve to be involved, or at least to know) is a red herring. I had a lot of friends who went to Uni straight from school - gap years were unheard of 30 years ago), parents still had to top up grants, sometimes by quite a lot. For instance, my bf's dad was paying 300 a month to her way back then for rent, food, books etc. Her grant was tiny.

At no point did her parents even have the option to contact any University staff, and they wouldn't have tried either.

In those days, you just had to believe in your children's ability to make relatively sensible choices and trust them to do so.

exoticfruits Fri 28-Jun-13 17:30:43

In those days you had prepared the child for making sensible choices- you wouldn't have doubted that they could get on a train and go off to an open day on their own.
I think that all parents just understood that it was their DC who was going and they wouldn't be involved.
They also couldn't get in touch. I wrote letters, occasionally I found a phone box and if they tried to phone me it was hit and miss as to whether anyone answered the phone in the hall and shouted loud enough- if I was in in the first place.

I hope that parents realise that banks are the same- they won't tell you anything so you have no idea of the state of their finances- bar what they choose to tell you. Even when my DS wanted me to sort out a problem at my end I couldn't because it was his account.

Remember as well that here in Scotland, young people can go to uni at 16 (as I did). DS is thinking of going in Sept - depending on his results - but he won't be 17 till November. I'm trying to persuade him to do another year at school.

But regardless, I still don't think I, as a parent, should expect any communication from my child's university - unless, as someone said, they are unable to call; unconscious, jailed, sectioned or hospitalised.

UptheChimney Fri 28-Jun-13 17:59:11

If you imagine an 18 year old moving to the same city as a university, setting themselves up in a flat share and going to work you wouldn't expect to be calling their employer up, or having any contact with their employer whatsoever

But you might have a formal relationship with your DC's landlord, for example, as garantor.

So the analogy might be that parents of undergraduates should help where they can" in helping with accommodation maybe? But not the actual work.

allnewtaketwo Fri 28-Jun-13 18:02:49

I doubt the landlord will care any more beyond whether or not rent is being paid and the house hasn't been trashed. Not likely to call mummy if they suspect little johnnie isn't going to lectures

kickassangel Fri 28-Jun-13 18:59:01

Btw, I am just putting the pov of a paying parent across, one that my aunt voiced when my 17 yr old cousin did a vocational course, sometimes alongside those going for one day a week training. The college refused point blank to talk to her, but she knew those with employers had termly reports sent back.

I didn't agree with her.

I think the problem is, that we all like to think that there is 'someone in charge' for when things go wrong. But let's face it, there isn't. As adults we have to accept that we are in charge and the responsibility lies with us.somehow we want a person or group to turn to, and often there isn't. whether it's the student or the parent, that can be hard to deal with. Even harder when there are health issues or a serious concern (eg crime victims) that doesn't appear to be dealt with.

For most people it is a good thing to realize that ultimately it is all down to you, and I really believe that uni should have the same level of involvement that an employer would. There are still a lot of people who start work age 16 and we wouldn't expect work to contact family except in a dire need to alert next of kin situation. The same should go for the uni. The student union would maybe be more involved.

For those with long term health issues, there should be adequate support from the medical profession. But I remember that we were strongly discouraged from going to the doctor (by the doctor themself) and would be very worried for my child in those circumstances.

Fwiw, my dd has special needs and we may well have to choose a local uni so she can stay at home for at least a year to two. I would prefer that she be independent at that age, but it may not be an option for us.

funnyperson Fri 28-Jun-13 19:19:19

This is a really interesting thread and debate.
There is a difference between pastoral care and academic tuition/guidance. Though pastoral care can be vital, it is not something I would see a university essentially providing, it is desirable, not an essential. I'm amazed any parent would expect a tutor to be responsible in any way for the mental health care of a student. At best a tutor can advise a student to go to the GP, but that's about it in my opinion.
But is a university education a commodity?

Well I never thought I would ever say this, but on many levels a university education is a commodity, paid for out of family and public money. Furthermore it is an expensive commodity.

Therefore the quality of the education (content, contact time, feedback on work submitted, marking, warning in good time of potential failure to progress) needs to be transparent and accountable. Definitely accountable to the student, and to the public. And, yes, ultimately, therefore, to parents.

I realise that some university educations are priceless and others are invaluable, but there must be high standards. Student unions are cowed down these days due to needing references for the dwindling job market. I sympathise with all the hard working tutors on this thread, but giving education is not only a very important responsibility it is a job for which tutors should be accountable to the students, treating the students as the adults they are. (I want to reiterate that I have no complaints at all about my DC's education at uni, and nothing but the highest of praise for their tutors).

exoticfruits Fri 28-Jun-13 19:29:49

I think that the problem lies in the fact that the world sees an 18yr old as an adult, and all institutions will treat them as adults, and yet the parent stills sees them as a child and expects to be consulted.
You wonder when this stops- if someone sees that a 25yr old isn't coping are they expected to ring the mother? What about a 30yr old? Would they like it? I would assume that if they wanted the parent to know they would have contacted them.
If I wanted to help a 25yr old or a 30yr old I would try and signpost them to the right place.
I can't see that an 18yr old is different, except that I might start by saying 'have you told your parents' or 'don't you think it would be best to tell your parents?' but if they refuse I really can't go over their heads and call the parents and tell them. Apart from the breach of confidentiality and trust I can't know if the parents would be supportive or make the problem worse.
I suspect that a lot of problems are caused by parental expectation in the first place and they simply are not up to admitting failure. How do you manage to say, if you got into a top university and know your parents are really proud, and expecting a good degree, that you are not coping or you are on the wrong course or in the wrong place?
Some parents seem to have it all mapped out at birth- if you have your heart set on being a gardener and your parents want a doctor it must be very difficult.
If you think your DC is immature or they don't really know what they want to do it would be much better to take a year out and go later - if they still want to. All the students that I know that go slightly later are really motivated- they have tried work and want to be better qualified.

UptheChimney Fri 28-Jun-13 19:42:52

What makes you think we are not accountable already? For each module I teach (either a sixth or a quarter of the 120 credit points each undergrad studies each year) I am required to:
* have all my marking sample marked (around 25% of essays blind 2nd marked)
* have my range of marks for each assessment moderated by the second marker
*submit a formal record of this moderation to the External Examiner
* have the External Examiner also sample read/check/moderate my marking
* submit my teaching to a student course evaluation
* demonstrate -- to both students and my Faculty -- how I have acted on student feedback; or why I haven't acted
Final Year students then complete the NSS -- National Student Satisfaction survey (although statistician/social scientist colleagues are clear that it's an extremely *badly designed questionnaire -- I'm not an expert, but even I can see that). The NSS is used in league tables, so we build bad statistics on bad science.

So that's the internal accountability, moving to external via the NSS.

All documentation to do with my teaching is available to the public under FoI

Externally every university unit/department plus Faculties/Schools/Colleges (whichever organisational model they have) are submitted for external review under the Quality Assurance Authority (QAA) every 5 years. I've been both a senior external on several of these, as well as fronting up my own Department's reviews.

That's the teaching.

Then there's the Research Excellence Framework, preparation for which is currently occupying about 50% of my time (hence posting in here today as it's just such a god-awful job), and indeed in many universities is responsible for employing many people, simply to manage the systems and the paperwork. That is a national, compulsory assessment every 5 to 7 years of the quality of our individual and collective research. If I actually calculated how much the REF is costing nationally, and how much it's not actually about the real research we do, well, ... I'd probably be much grumpier than I am already.

The paperwork, submission, and results of the last REF/RAE are available for anyone to read.

The latest thing is, that any research I do on public money (so not a lot of it which is done in my "spare time" on the weekends) must be made available on "Open Access" to anyone in the world,via me (or my university) paying the publisher to make my publications available for free, or me submitting everything I publish to my university's Open Access database, so it's available internationally, for free or I pay for it to be free to you).

Accountable enough?

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Fri 28-Jun-13 21:23:39

Well said Chinmey.

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Fri 28-Jun-13 21:24:04

* Chimney blush

rhetorician Fri 28-Jun-13 21:51:53

Plus I think all universities have internal appeal procedures for students who are unhappy with grades. Significantly, take up is pretty low in our place, and mostly relate to procedural issues.

funnyperson Sat 29-Jun-13 00:51:55

The research excellence framework has little bearing on the quality of teaching to undergraduates.
There is not equity across departments or across universities as to the quality of teaching or accountability of tutors.

funnyperson Sat 29-Jun-13 01:01:23

Figures such as the staff:pupil ratio or spend per student are much more useful than a research excellence framework when parents and students and the public are trying to compare universities.
As to research outcomes being in the public domain: of course they should be. Is a researcher on a public grant expecting to be praised simply for putting results in the public domain? The praise comes if the research is any good, not simply because it is made public.
In the same way there should be information made available to the public as to what proportion of tutors actually mark work within a reasonable time frame, and what proportion of students actually see their tutors for even a single one to one session per term. Or per year for that matter. And what proportion of tutors do not see their students at all other than when giving two lectures a term.

funnyperson Sat 29-Jun-13 01:12:14

I do think parents should be kept at a very long arms length. But- and it is an important but- tutors are fallible human beings, probably as liable to ignore or abuse students as parents might be (which is to say, rarely), and so I think there needs to be a safety net, a system of accountability, and, yes, a system for informing next of kin if there is something seriously wrong.

I'm not sure why I feel the need to say this, because, as I posted upthread, both the DC's universities (Oxford and London) have exemplary frameworks and structures and safety nets.

creamteas Sat 29-Jun-13 10:53:06

Figures such as the staff:pupil ratio or spend per student are much more useful than a research excellence framework when parents and students and the public are trying to compare universities

Actually they are not. For example, the staff:pupil ratio tells you very little. It measures the number of bodies not the amount of time students get. So an academic that does 10 hours of lectures a year counts in the same way as one that does 10 hours a week. Spend per students is also manipulated in different ways.

As to research outcomes being in the public domain: of course they should be

Yes, but currently the plans are for universities to have to pay publishers which will have an adverse effect on everyone accept the publishing industry (we need a whole other thread for this).

In the same way there should be information made available to the public as to what proportion of tutors actually mark work within a reasonable time frame, and what proportion of students actually see their tutors for even a single one to one session per term. Or per year for that matter. And what proportion of tutors do not see their students at all other than when giving two lectures a term

Most universities have rules about feedback turnaround times and staff can be disciplined for not adhering to them. But this is not always a good thing. The emphasis on time means that this is more important than quality of comments. So you can now get better ratings by giving a few ticks and a sentence at the end than detailed comments on what was good, needs improving or extra things to think about. BTW each year my dept files thousands of pieces of uncollected coursework, because a good proportion of students can't be bothered to pick up their work (and if it doesn't count towards they degree, sometimes they won't have done it anyway).

I have 4 hours of office hours a week to see students, and these are barely used. I send out regular emails to students reminding them to come and see me, but I can't make them. So yes, I have personal tutees that I have not seen all year, but this is not my decision.

The vast majority of academics and universities are supportive and accountable, but a significant proportion of students do not want to engage. They are adults and this is their decision. But parents will either not know or blame us, because it is easier to do this than recognise that their child has a problem.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sat 29-Jun-13 11:27:43

I don't see how the REF can not affecting teaching? confused

I'm only a grad student and I can see how much time and energy it is taking for everyone. In an ideal world quality of research ought to have a huge effect on teaching, as it's fun getting taught by someone who is good and who is finding out new things that their students get to learn about. I'm not sure that's what the REF is actually measuring, but in theory, it would be.

I know it probably sounds very airy-fairy if you just want to go to university and rote-learn everything, but if you don't (and you shouldn't), having someone who is really excited to tell you about their new theory on x, or the work people have just started doing on y, seems to me one of the best things, right?

Btw, there was a piece in the paper that talked about students' hours of contact time, and it mentioned (among others) my university. I figured out that the students they mentioned must've been calculating 'contact time' as the time when they were in lectures, seminars or classes. They ignored the time I set aside to give them feedback for essays, and they ignored the fact that I and the lecturer on the course both had office hours. hmm

2rebecca Sat 29-Jun-13 11:31:11

No, of course universities shouldn't talk to the parents of adults.
I would have been quite upset if my university had sent info to my parents and felt it a breach of confidentiality. If you're an 18 year old working your boss doesn't negotiate with your parents.
It's up to students to discuss stuff with their parents if they wish. I suspect parents who wish to be involved have been overinvolved with their kids as teenagers and haven't brought up their kids to be independant enough.
I would hope any student whose parent tried to affect the composition of the uni sports teams so their pfb is included would be mortified.
If my kids have health problems when at college I expect them to tell me, (or choose not to).

2rebecca Sat 29-Jun-13 11:39:53

re health issues of students why should a parent have any more "right" to be told if their adult offspring has mental health issues if they stay in education than if they leave it?
If an 18 year old moves away to work and get depressed the parents will only find out via their offspring. Why should it be any different because they are still in university?
The students GP/ guidance person could encourage them to tell their parents but informing parents without an adult's permission is rarely done.

MariscallRoad Sat 29-Jun-13 12:01:27

I would not put a blame on either parents or university. The situation is far more complex as to why students do not attend or drop etc. I can give you over a hundred reasons in support of each side parents or universities, but this is not the point here.

funnyperson Things are much complex. My point is that not everything depends on the pastoral care of any university no matter how good it is; whether you live in US or UK. The pastoral care people are not trained as Psychologists or or docs and if there is a underlying factor they may not be able to direct the student to what they should do. I agree with your first paragraph. You have only one college experience and you are very lucky so far. But as my DC did a degree at Oxford we know the regulations and ...experience from people - as you corectly pointed out - varies between colleges. There are many posts in the Thestudentroom on that. Sadly a % of students drop, there are are figures here here about dropping out .

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea not everything depends on the university pastoral care no matter how well this is provided. in my experience it is far more important that if the university is concerned seriously about the health of the student they should try to contact nurse or GP in the first place - and must have the procedures doing so. I have similar experience as parent. Non-attendance is a matter the tutor should take up with student. If the tutor feels there is an issue they might recommend the student to see the doc or other specialist. I think you should not feel you are guilty. There are a complexity of factors involved in each student and we cannot disagregate which one was responsible. GPs need to be informed and many times they might not catch them for a number of reasons. The reason parents complaint to you is that they fund big part of the study bill of the DC, which is like a mortgage and do not want their DC to end up in a poorly paid job or welfare dependency. This is something affecting all of us.

MariscallRoad Sat 29-Jun-13 12:08:42

To conclude I would not blame the students either for the same reason I do not blame the university or parent. The factors involved are very complex.

Universities should absolutely not talk to the parents of adults. I say this as someone who graduated from a 4 year course 2 years ago, with no financial assistance from my parents (beyond not being asked to pay rent the summers I was back home). I suffered quite serious mental health problems in that time, and I would have been absolutely horrified if the university had gone to my parents about it, the same as I would have been if my GP had . In my final year I had to use the discretionary fund available, and again, I would have been horrified if the university had told my parents that - it was my fault I was in financial trouble, and even as a 21 year old, I saw it as my mess that I had the responsibility as an adult to clean up.

Of course parents should pay an interest, but that doesn't extend to getting reports like you would at school. With regards to those who say "I will be/am paying £9000 a year for their education" - that was your choice, it's not the parents' responsibility to put their kids through university. If you do feel that way then you need to be getting your children to be honest with you, rather than relying on the uni to communicate. The majority of students will have to fund themselves, be it through part time work or getting up to their armpits in student debt, and deserve to be treated like the adults they are - they shouldn't have to put up with interference because of those who are funded by their parents.

UptheChimney Sat 29-Jun-13 12:38:21

The vast majority of academics and universities are supportive and accountable, but a significant proportion of students do not want to engage. They are adults and this is their decision. But parents will either not know or blame us, because it is easier to do this than recognise that their child has a problem

What creamteas says in her entire post, but this is worth repeating.

Furthermore, all the things funnyperson says should be available already are -- which suggests that parents can sometimes be as uninformed as their DCs.

Staff:student (they're not "pupils") ratios, plus spend per student are KPIs (key performance indicators) in all league tables. As are REF scores, because yes, how good we are at research does have a bearing on our teaching. My students can read the latest work published by me and my colleagues, and therefore keep up to date with the discipline.

I suggest that those of you with ideas about how expert professionals (and by god, some of us are expert!) should run the profession, check what we actually do now. Ask your undergrad DCs. See how much they actually know. See how much is in the public domain.

And then see why the academics on this thread are expressing frustration at the current levels & nature of engagement -- both of parents and their undergrad DCs.

exoticfruits Sat 29-Jun-13 12:46:42

I wish that someone could tell me the age at which they do become adult and responsible for themselves. If they go as a mature student at 21yrs would you still expect the parent to be informed? 25yrs? 30yrs?
If you are a parent who wants more contact where is your personal cut off?
Legally it is 18yrs which is why you don't get involved. I am interested to know where people would let go. I begin to suspect that it is not until they change roles and the parent needs the looking after!

CleverlyConcealed Sat 29-Jun-13 12:54:50

Late to this but no I don't think that my dc's university should communicate with me. I have had 3 at university and contacted them just once for guidance (needed info about the support available at university) when I was concerned about my son's mental health.

MariscallRoad Sat 29-Jun-13 13:05:08

creamteas You do not have evidence for this allegation that a 'significant proportion of students do not want to engage’ . I do not believe this is accurate . Someone borrowing and paying 9,000 is unlikely not to care for his study and debts. I do not think there is one piece of article in the news supporting this opinion about students who get loans. I have never spoken to an academic face to face who told me this thing. When my DC was a student at Oxford nobody ever said this thing to the students. Universities have procedures to tell the student they have to address poor performance and lack of attendance. it is always that a tutor always contacts them.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sat 29-Jun-13 13:13:47

Ok, mariscal, maybe they really do want to engage but winged eagles swoop down and prevent them from attending all voluntary feedback/tutorial sessions?

Or what would you consider to be 'evidence' if not attendance rates? confused

creamteas Sat 29-Jun-13 14:58:03

mariscal I can say that 'significant proportion of students do not want to engage’ because they do not.

I work at a good uni (average entry grade is ABB). But students fail to attend classes, fail to do set reading, fail to turn in work, and fail to attend appointments.

In my faculty, only about 40-50% of students bother to hand in term-papers and average attendance rates are 60-70%. Nominally these students could be thrown out just for this, but it doesn't happen. We only withdraw students who fail formal assessments.

When chased (because that is what we do), some of the persistent non-attenders have jobs that they prioritise over classes, a few have more serious issues. But in most cases, there is no good reason, they just didn't bother.

I have not seen any analysis yet, but my colleagues and I are getting the feeling that even less of the first years who are on higher fees are engaging than in previous years. I suspect that it is for similar reasons that have been expressed in this thread. Adegree is something to be to be bought like a car and a house rather that studied for because you have an interested in the subject and want to know and understand more.

exoticfruits Sat 29-Jun-13 15:34:34

Anyone going to say when they become responsible for themselves, if not at 18yrs?

goinggetstough Sat 29-Jun-13 15:46:33

The point is exotic that whatever age is deemed to be the most appropriate all parties should agree. So if it is decided that it is 18 (which I think is fair) then the government too should agree to this as well. If this was the case then a parents' income would not be taken into account when calculating loans and grants.

creamteas Sat 29-Jun-13 15:46:42

exotic I'm tempted to say 12, just to stand back and watch the reaction grin

noddyholder Sat 29-Jun-13 15:46:48

That is what I think creamteas

CleverlyConcealed Sat 29-Jun-13 16:53:51

I totally agree with the point made by goinggetstough though.

If they're adults at 18 (which they are) then SFE should sod off asking me my income and expecting me to support them when the grant/loan barely covers the rent.

MariscallRoad Sat 29-Jun-13 16:58:43

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik There has not been many studies into the non-attendance of degrees. I do not know how there could be a methodology covering various degrees. I know one study in 2001 where half of the students 780 interviewed said they missed classes because they had to work to make a living and study. Another study in 2005 and none before of 155 students who stated reasons for absenteeism : illness, bad transport, too many assignments to catch, had to do a job to make a living, poor lectures, disregard for student (something said by a previous poster also academic) , stress and nervous before tutes. Many students work and study.

The question which arises is: does non-attendance, affect students' success in a course? and which degrees? I know that it is impossible to get away in engineering, architecture, and some lab-requiring subjects without attendance in class and labs. But how do we define poor learning and what causes this? But the vast majority of degrees are 2.1 and above which show generaly v good learning.

Creamteas do you know whether your students did not come to classes because they have to work and pay living, study and their debts? Are they caring for somebody else? It is very hard for any one to find £9000 to pay fees and another sum so high for maintenance. I find the vast majority of students are very responsible. The post of * HuglessDouglas* tells you why.

nooka Sat 29-Jun-13 17:08:39

I'd agree 18 is a good enough marker in general, but also agree that the government doesn't appear to think so. 18-21 year olds in full time education get treated as quasi children in a number of ways.

Personally I am all for independence, with the caveat that it is a vulnerable age for a range of mental health problems possibly because children are more cotton wooled, but also because of brain development factors. So that does need to be taken into account.

I guess part of the problem with this conversation though is that many of us are thinking back to our university experiences (I know I am) and not recalling much pastoral care going on at all.

My department for example, which scored very high on research had no tutors, and several professors used MA students for their seminars too, so the only contact was the weekly/twice weekly lectures, which with a couple of hundred students doesn't really constitute contact in any meaningful sense. They may well have had office time, but it was also pretty clear that they view was they didn't like undergraduate students and didn't expert to spend any time on us. Now that might have been completely wrong, and the reason they thought we were all lazy buggers is because we didn't go to see them, but the dynamic was all wrong. I recall once one of my lecturers calling me over (I think after a seminar) because I'd not handed something in, or had a poor attitude and his asking me if everything was OK, and no I wasn't able to tell him that I was having massive boyfriend problems and having just got about my 20th rejection letter was feeling pretty shit, because I had no relationship with him.

The contrast to my sister at Oxford with a personal tutor or even my dh at the same university whose department (not so good at research) booked time for each student to get their essays back in person.

I would imagine this sort of variation likely goes on today too.

UptheChimney Sat 29-Jun-13 17:26:07

part of the problem with this conversation though is that many of us are thinking back to our university experiences

Some of us who actually work in HE are thinking of our current experience!

And things have changed a lot since I was an undergrad (back in the stone age). Do'you know, I sometimes think I had a better education then despite the atmosphere of benign neglect? But then I was a very motivated student.

Once again, I think creamteas is utterly spot on (I suspect we've worked at the same or similar institutions). Her experience is mine:

I work at a good uni (average entry grade is ABB). But students fail to attend classes, fail to do set reading, fail to turn in work, and fail to attend appointments

And as I said upthread, those non-attenders, non-submitters of essays in my big core module are being given a second chance at submitting required assessment tasks in August which will require me to take four days out of a family holiday on the other side of the world, mark their essays (if they all submit it'll be about 20,000 words in total), find an internet connection & email back marks. Out of the half-dozen students who are being offered re-assessment, only one is for mitigating circumstances. The others are all being given second chances to make up for work (sometimes 2-3 pieces of work) they decided not to submit at the required times. No-one is compensating me any costs for the holiday disruption nor holiday days.

So forgive me for being a bit hmmmm about some of what parents of undergrads are saying here.

nooka Sat 29-Jun-13 17:32:53

Sorry, yes I know that it's not true for the academics! But you can only speak from your perceptions, you don't know what the students/parents think about arrangements, they may have a completely different view (right or wrong).

I was a typical student I think and about as lazy as any other, missed many lectures often delivered essays late and generally didn't live up to my potential. This is the typical student stereotype so I am guessing is still true for many. I would not have expected my parents to blame the university for me being a bit crap, nor do I. I certainly had a very different attitude when it came to my masters five or six years down the line.

But I do think that someone from the university could have visited my friend who was sectioned, although it is quite possible that they never knew she was in the hospital. That is my only real concern, just that sufficient thought is put into how to support students who really really fall apart. I don't think this is a role for academics mind you.

It is absurd that parental income is taken into account when repayment is contingent on the student's future earnings ... not least because there is no obligation on the parents to provide any financial support even if their income reduces the student's access to student loans, fee remission, hardship funds, etc.

But statistically students from less affluent backgrounds do receive less family financial support and are more put off by the potential costs, so I do get why the rules are what they are.

nooka Sat 29-Jun-13 17:34:50

Oh and it's great you are going that extra mile for your students (I think) I hope that they are appreciative. My department generally wasn't there in the summer term at all - International Politics department it was expected that they would be doing research all term probably not in the country.

CleverlyConcealed Sat 29-Jun-13 17:37:26

So should universities should just fail the student who doesn't submit work? I think that without mitigating circumstances perhaps they should.

Why don't they? Because it looks bad on the institution; failure rates etc?

And is that just perpetuating the problem as the students know they'll get a second chance?

allnewtaketwo Sat 29-Jun-13 17:54:10

"So should universities should just fail the student who doesn't submit work"

I don't see why not. If I'm supposed to turn up at work and do some work but don't bother then it would be the door. Similarly some professional jobs have exams which, if you fail, even first time, you'll get sacked. It happened to a friend of mine at my place of employment

UptheChimney Sat 29-Jun-13 17:55:22

Because it looks bad on the institution; failure rates

I'm sorry you're so cynical about it. We, on the other hand, dealing with hundreds of 18 to 21 year olds every year, realise they do make errors of judgement.

What I don't appreciate is the broad brush condemnation from some people of universities' care for their undergraduates.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Sat 29-Jun-13 18:02:40

Many students seem to see no contradiction at all between talking about 'getting their money's worth' and not attending/participating. Some do cite part-time jobs, yes, and sometimes that might even be true. But equally, many will say 'I dont plan to write on that text so didn't think it would be worth coming in', or have endless 'family situations' or problems with housemates or sniffly colds which result in disproportionate absences.

Students will also often state that feedback is 'not timely' even though it's back within our clearly stated turnaround time (three weeks) or less, because they actually want it immediately and class anything else as not timely. They also quite often don't open the marked essay or the feedback sheet: just want to know the number and nothing else.

One student complained that his tutor had 'more time to mark my essay than I had to write it'. Yes. Because your tutor was marking not just your essay but those of everyone else in that and probably three other seminar groups as well.

I know many delightful motivated students, but also many whose attitude it surprising for people who feel they are paying a lot of money for what's on offer.

CleverlyConcealed Sat 29-Jun-13 18:16:01

I'm not cynical UptheChimney.

It was a question not a statement. Why don't universities fail more students who don't deliver the goods?

creamteas Sat 29-Jun-13 18:40:49

Why don't universities fail more students who don't deliver the goods?

Whether or not a student turns up for class, we still need to pay for the buildings, utilities and have employed staff to teach them. Also drop-out rates are monitored, and if they go to high then we could be subject to investigation as well as having league table problems.

Some students don't want to do the work, but they sure as hell know how to use the appeals system if we try to kick them out! In many ways it is easier to keep them on the books than have to prepare to defend our actions to the OIA.

As Upthechimney says, many students are brilliant. I have students going through some horrendous circumstances (cancer, rape, miscarriage etc etc) that are still working hard on their degree (refusing leave of absence or rearranged assessments).

But others are just lazy or disinterested and do not want to study.

nooka Sat 29-Jun-13 18:44:47

Three weeks does seem very long to me. Have the students started their next assignment by then? I'd certainly expect to give feedback at work with a much swifter turn around time (policies, guidance etc) but then that's where there is an expectation of revisions being made. (I am of course aware that marking an essay is probably much more time consuming than reviewing a policy, but then writing an essay is much more time consuming than either).

I would imagine the main reason for not doing what you are supposed to do is general laziness and apathy, but the latter is surely a combination of student and lecturer responsibility? I think it can be difficult to stay motivated on arts courses where student/lecturer contact is very low as compared with more practical courses, which have a very different set up. I know the courses that I was least motivated about were the ones where the content was boring/esoteric some of the compulsory political theory courses were just mind numbing! Of course the professor probably wouldn't agree

UptheChimney Sat 29-Jun-13 18:52:03

Why don't universities fail more students who don't deliver the goods

Sorry I misjudged your tone -- we don't tend to fail them because we really try to nurture every bright young person that comes to us.

But sadly, what creamteas and SteamingNit say is also true. Particularly re "assessment" -- and really, what the complainers (a minority but they're the ones we have to deal with) want is a guaranteed First. Tomorrow.

I once had a student comment on one of my modules (in a specialist area in which I do high-level research) that it was difficult to miss any of my classes because the assessment required that they had to come to all seminars. In the next breath that student complained about paying such a high price for her education.

So she complained about paying a high price (not something I can do anything about -- vote differently!) but implied that she didn't take advantage of what was on offer for what she was paying.

Cognitive dissonance, anyone?

So where do they get these venal and instrumentalist approaches and points of view? Parents? Teachers? Politicians?

UptheChimney Sat 29-Jun-13 19:07:51

the ones where the content was boring/esoteric to you and in your opinion. Not to others, or the discipline, or the tutors, who might actually know more about the subject and what is a solid grounding in it than the students?

Three weeks does seem very long to me. The thing is, an education is not a workplace nor employment for students. It's learning. It happens over time, and by the student working on themselves.

But would you like me to spell out what has to be done in 3 weeks in order to get an essay back to a student?

1. I'm already working more than 40 hours a week anyway.
2. The essays are submitted by 4pm; they're processed over the next 2-3 days. So I'm likely to get them 3 days after the submission date.
3. All markers meet to set criteria & boundaries: 90 minute meeting, generally at lunchtime.
4. For a core module, I mark maybe 50 essays of 3,000 words each (150,000 words), at 20 minutes per essay reading (with a lot of written marginal comments). Then I have to type up a feedback sheet, which is at least another 15 minutes -- generally longer, once I've double-checked the ID number and filled in all the sections, plus written about a double-spaced typed page.

So that's every night + weekend for 7 days. I need to be near a computer that whole time.

4. The essays go as a batch to the 2nd marker. I receive a batch to 2nd mark. As above in terms of time although I'm not required to offer a lengthy comment on every essay.

5. Markers meet to agree marks, or discuss class mark differences. May call in a 3rd marker, or re-read essays. An afternoon's work.

6. Essays back to me as an entire batch. I need to sign every feedback sheet (100 or so) plus double-check entry of marks on marks sheets and essays. I then fill in several forms, certifying that the essays were marked, second marked, and moderated, and what we did in the moderation process to ensure fairness & consistency.

7. Essays back to admin office for them to log marks, and batch for returning to students. A selection of essays is photocopied & sent to the External Examiner. That takes several days, all within the 3 week turnaround.

8. Multiply this by 360 x 2 (ie number of students times number of essays at any one time)

8. This all happens when we're teaching and running usual activities.

So basically, I have a week, in between all my other work (oh & sleep & family etc etc) to mark the essays.

If a colleague is ill, they are generally required not to take sick leave but work through whatever, because otherwise students complain. I had a badly broken arm once, and had complaints that my marking was late taken to my Head of School. No extensions for the professor, because obviously my sling & cast were invisible!

Or we could bring back sudden death exams?

creamteas Sat 29-Jun-13 19:14:37

Three weeks does seem very long to me

To mark a 3,000 word essay takes approx 30 mins depending on the standard of work. Most of the modules in my dept have have 80-100 students on them. So each pile of essays involves about 40-50 hours of work. All the essays are marked by two people. So even a conservative estimate would have this as 80 hours of work per assessment. Then add on the time it takes for the office staff to check and process the marks (another couple of hours per assessment, and during examination weeks, they might be dealing with 2-300 different sets of marks).

Add this to the fact that marking is not timetabled in for academics so usually we are still teaching and carrying out research on top of this.

In other words, we need to squeeze in an extra 40-50 hours of work per assessment on top of our normal workloads. And yes, sometimes this does take more than a couple of weeks.

And I'm relatively lucky, some of my colleagues in the Business school have 600 students on their modules....

creamteas Sat 29-Jun-13 19:16:12

cross posted

but glad as the point needs to be made.....

UptheChimney Sat 29-Jun-13 19:23:33

And now I really need to leave the office. I've been here since 8am.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Sat 29-Jun-13 21:27:09

Three weeks while I'm still teaching that and other modules, to come up with personal, kind and constrictive feedback which engages with each and every argument in each and every essay, and leave time for me to moderate someone else's marking and someone else to mark mine... No, it's not very long, actually.

nooka Sun 30-Jun-13 07:07:14

I didn't mean it as an attack, it just is a long gap between writing something and getting any feedback. Are your students aware of how the marking process works? It might be helpful for them to understand the constraints you are under.

You both sound as if you are working a great deal harder than my professors many of whom only taught the second and third years, up to two modules a year to groups of not more than 20 students. But of course it was a long time ago and the whole department was far more orientated to research than to undergraduate teaching at he time.

Of course the boring courses were thought to be of huge value by the department head, otherwise they would not have been compulsory. That didn't stop them being incredibly boring (I don't know anyone on my course who enjoyed them) and therefore the students not being very engaged (an earlier complaint).

Your comment about the business course numbers makes me think that they must involve very little tailored teaching - how on earth do they manage seminars etc with that sort of volume? Business courses are generally among the most expensive to take too (thinking post graduate) so I would wonder about value for money.

Nb I know students can be completely crap, I'm really not trying to bash you, just seeing things from another angle.

I've set aside about $100,000 for my two children's higher education (we are in North America) so I know the UK charges very little for courses, on the other hand I will be even more incentivised to make sure that my children get value for money when they go off to university

alreadytaken Sun 30-Jun-13 07:33:15

there is a difference between keeping parents at arms length and a complete refusal to talk to them. Parents should not expect to be involved in every aspect of a students life but they are expected to pick up the consequences of severe problems.

I realised that what bothered me most about this thread was that the persistent emphasis on students being adults and parents having no role discourages students from seeking help when they need it. If universities are providing an education part of that should be encouraging students to accept that when they have a problem there is nothing wrong in saying they need support or in seeking support from their parents.

An adult who finds themselves with a problem they haven't met before will, if they are sensible, seek out advice. That might be from books, the internet (including mumsnet) or other people will more experience. Some adults never develop the degree of maturity required, students are less likely to have developed it. The impression the academics here are giving is that they would not encourage students to seek support from parents when that student needs it.

alreadytaken but there's a huge difference between encouraging students to approach their parents for help and going over the students' heads to notify their parents of problems, or receive calls regarding progress.

Swallowingmywords Sun 30-Jun-13 08:32:08

Is it because in many cases the parents are footing the bill, so want to make sure their children are attending? I went to university in the very last years it was still free, my parents knew nothing, quite rightly. I have one child off to college in the next few years and I will be on the other side of the world, it will be hard, but it is really none of my business

2rebecca Sun 30-Jun-13 08:32:40

If a 19-20 year old lived away from their parents and worked would you expect their employer to suggest they discuss problems with their mum?
If a 19-20 year old went to their GP their GP may ask if they had anyone supportive but many people of this age are in relationships and their parents aren't necessarily the first people they'd turn to for support anyway.
If you want to be kept aware of what your adult child is up to then the parents have to keep up a good relationship with them, and have the sort of relationship when they will be consulted.

Swallowingmywords Sun 30-Jun-13 08:35:18

I have not read the whole thread and think it has moved on. I will return after reading. It is a very interesting point though OP.

Universities are not in loco parentis and short of setting the wheels in motion to have someone sectioned if they have completely fallen apart I'm not sure what else they can do.

Other than 'contact next of kin' moments, no universities should have no contact with parents any more than they would if they were an employer of the adult child.

Interesting comments about communications. I was at university before the mobile phone age & joined the weekly queue with my phone card to make the call home. My parents wouldn't even have known who my lecturers were - whereas of course google now can lead you straight to their email address.

Interesting what people say about preparing your child for independence. Absolutely. My 11 year old will have to travel across the city on two buses next year for school. I'm aware that our circumstances mean that he is less independent/younger for his age than I would like & so I have very purposely put in place a preparation program. It's all baby steps but means that by September he shouldn't have any worries taking the buses by himself & know what to do if things go wrong. As parents surely it's up to us to notice when our children aren't ready & do our best to rectify that.

Also interesting about subject choice. I taught for a while in a retake college & some of the students used to talk to me about parental expectations differing from their own wishes. We really should allow our children to choose their own degrees. One of my friends was forced into a sensible degree when his first love (and talent) was in something not very sensible. He has ended up in the not very sensible area anyway & probably hated his university years. .

78bunion Sun 30-Jun-13 08:52:11

I think like in schools the admin is really over the top and out of control. Just let the tutor mark the paper. Have occasional once a year checks they are marking to similar standards of others. Ditch all the other admin listed above which goes into marking a paper.

alreadytaken Sun 30-Jun-13 08:53:37

Horryisupduffed I know that but as I said the emphasis is on not involving parents at all, not on refusing to deal with details that should not be part of the parents role. If the student has abusive parents/ is in a relationship they can appoint someone else as next of kin.

ILikeBirds Sun 30-Jun-13 09:20:19

My housemate died whilst I was at university. I didn't hand in a piece of coursework on time because I was busy giving statements to the police which resulted me in getting 20% for the module. I explained the circumstances to the course leader and my work was marked and I was given 80% for the module. I never however, managed to get my faculty to accept the updated mark. My extenuating circumstances request for a further piece of work which I had to complete whilst helping my friend's distraught parents pack up her room was also not accepted. I would have dearly loved my mum to be able to 'communicate' with the university.

It still astonishes me that the death of a university student didn't set anything in motion that ensured those directly affected were helped.

mummytime Sun 30-Jun-13 09:57:48

Just to add one point. My DS if he goes to University is likely to be sponsored (this is related to the school he is going to), I expect that his employer will want to know how he is doing on the course they are paying for.
If I am funding the course for my DD, how does it differ that I need to be kept up to date with her progress?

I know lecturers and professors didn't choose how Universities are funded nowadays, but the reality is that parents and students are becoming consumers.

guineapiglet Sun 30-Jun-13 10:03:10

What an horrific experience for you and your housemates. Sadly these type of experiences do happen to students and when they do the need for support structures emotionally and academically are paramount. As an experienced (ex) faculty officer i am appalled that your extenuating circumstances were not credited to you. Alot depends on timing though. When the faculty meets to present any extenuating circumstances to the exam board these circumstances have got to be well documented and officially recorded at the time of the exam( or prior to it if circumstances are ongoing and known).. A late remark result should have been considered and, if the faculty had been briefed of events (i use the word if as communication in universities is both convoluted and ludicrously bureaucratic) there should have been some follow up/intervention to support you.. I could give many shocking examples of students virtually being left tofend for themselves in a range of difficult situations. The uni and faculties are not in loco parentis, so even knowing what some students were going through we could not tell parents. Fine. But then where does the support come from for often very inexpereienced and vulnerable young adults? The SU offered counselling but The University' per se being actively involved unless asked, very rarely happened in my experience and lots of students in my opinion were badly let down. which is whi posted upthread about the need for the student/parent/uni interface to be urgently reviewed.

UptheChimney Sun 30-Jun-13 10:05:45

* The impression the academics here are giving is that they would not encourage students to seek support from parents when that student needs it*

Interesting how two people can read a thread completely differently!

I can't count the number of times I have said to a distressed student "Do you think you should talk to your parents about this?"

But the point is it is up to the student to communicate with his/her parents Not mine as a tutor. That is what university employees have been saying on this thread -- and it's interesting that all staff -- academics and administrators -- say pretty much the same thing. And all of us are pretty clear on what support is offered, and how & when parents would need to be involved.

I think some posters on this thread are persistently refusing to take this point. University tutors and admin and support staff cannot and should not be the go-betweens between parent and child.

And ILikeBirds -- I hate it when I read such accounts as yours -- it shouldn't happen. Indeed, the one piece of work I don't mind interrupting my family holiday to mark in August is an assessment from a student who had a close family bereavement just before the end of term. I'm marking the work as a "first submission," for full credit. And that's as it should be.

nooka I think you need to understand the substantial differences between US and UK university practices, and also accept that things have changed since you were at college. A lot.

UptheChimney Sun 30-Jun-13 10:08:26

If I am funding the course for my DD, how does it differ that I need to be kept up to date with her progress

Ask her?

Presumably your DS's sponsors will require him to supply progress reports.

If I were really cynical, I would see a lot of parental questions on this thread in some way indicating that they fear that their relationship with their DCs is not good enough to withstand separation.

WhoWhatWhereWhen Sun 30-Jun-13 10:12:21

I would have thought, from a legal point of view, Uni's would have to be very careful about disclosing any information to anybody incl. parents

noddyholder Sun 30-Jun-13 10:17:38

Parenting seems to have been extended now into university years. This is because it is seen as just an extension of school and the whole parent/child/education is much more involved now whether thats a good or a bad thing is debatable but it is a fact. My mates are paying,driving furniture around paying house deposits and then supporting in the holidays and providing a home at the end.Society really has changed and is happening rapidly. I would expect my ds to contact us if he was in any serious trouble re health money etc I have seen this with my own friends and their dc. ANything that he didn't want me to know I would consider private and would hope he could make a decision on his own.

WhoWhatWhereWhen Sun 30-Jun-13 10:20:34

Surely all sponsors will need the permission of the student involved for the uni to disclose information, of course a condition of sponsorship will be permission is given for the Uni to do so.

Parents could do the same and ask their adult children give permission for info to be passed to a third party (the parent) as a condition of financial support.

I dont think a parent / child relationship such as the above would be healthy though, others may feel differently.

Floppityflop Sun 30-Jun-13 10:29:04

Not at that stage yet but I hardly received any communication from my university myself so I would have been surprised if they contacted parents. Since my parents never went to university they would have been utterly clueless to deal with these things anyway.

That said, I had quite a few fellow students who had to be sectioned etc. so obviously their NOK had to be contacted. I imagine that was not so much the university though. A lot of students at my university seemed to have some quite severe mental health problems and, although I can see that parents might want to know about these things, I don't think they were contacted about this in general.

Students are usually adults (I say that because I was not when I first went and there were a few people younger than me) so it is really for the parents to investigate by visiting if there is a real concern. Most parents don't seem to bother but my mum would usually come mid-term. It was fun and I suppose gave her the opportunity to see that things were okay.

I think some parents want to be "kept in the loop" like they were at school, with termly reports, weekly newsletters, and so on. But that just isn't - nor should it be - how universities operate.

If your 18yo isn't ready to live independently, that doesn't mean you've failed as a parent, of course - people mature at different rates and have different needs. But surely it means you should encourage them to defer their studies until such time as they are more ready to make full use of the opportunity?

As far as a university is concerned, your parents are your next of kin only and are therefore to be contacted directly only in times of real emergency such as admission to hospital. Missing a few lectures or failing an exam - or even a course - just doesn't fall into that category.

UptheChimney Sun 30-Jun-13 12:42:44

I think some parents want to be "kept in the loop" like they were at school, with termly reports, weekly newsletters, and so on

So they should ask their children! Who are adults ...

noddyholder Sun 30-Jun-13 12:43:17

You try suggesting to an 18 year old who along with his mates sees university as an extension of school and 6th form to defer and work for a year or 2! It really is like talking to a brick wall I have no real fears about my ds living independently but I do worry about the debt

UptheChimney Sun 30-Jun-13 12:47:50

Oh dear noddy I do feel for your situation. Can you limit your funding of his desire to live the student lifestyle, without the scholarly bit? I am often saying to student that they may need to be less of the student and more of the scholar ... God, I must be an annoying tutor!

But I was thinking about the suggestions upthread about students giving university staff permission to disclose progress etc. So, shall I really write a report for a parent saying "Little Jonny neglected to do his reading for 70% of the seminars in my module, and so receives a participation mark of 30%. He also failed to attend 60% of the lectures, and handed in two essays late. I have asked him to attend a personal progress tutorial (a one to one meeting of 20 minutes). He has so far failed to respond to my email."

Do parents really want to read that?

PS I am working on 18C satire at the moment, so that might be influencing my posts grin

outtolunchagain Sun 30-Jun-13 12:57:13

I really really don't want reports on my ds academic progress , I suspect it would just depress me and I have two other children to support . However it does amuse me that all these academic staff say that the parents should keep out ,but the finance department/ accommodation have no qualms contacting me to ask for money !

mummytime Sun 30-Jun-13 12:57:40

The only things I would want to know personally are: X hasn't been seen for 3 weeks + by anyone in the department, X has failed, X is in the health centre/hospital.
I would expect myself to keep in touch with my children, and generally have a good relationship with them.

I do also understand some parents are over the top: the mother who moved into the University town while her DS studied, or DHs parents who travelled immediately to try to persuade him not to drop his joint honours subject which he was failing.

creamteas Sun 30-Jun-13 12:59:38

Little Jonny neglected to do his reading for 70% of the seminars in my module, and so receives a participation mark of 30%. He also failed to attend 60% of the lectures, and handed in two essays late. I have asked him to attend a personal progress tutorial (a one to one meeting of 20 minutes). He has so far failed to respond to my email

Many of mine would be similar, but would also comments on things like spending lectures updating facebook, being asleep or ar