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Think my child is failing university

(10 Posts)
renee168 Sat 25-Jul-15 23:23:00

Hi, this is my first time on here but I need to let off steam and see if anyone can advise.

DS has come home at the end of his first year. He has failed 4 out of 6 exams and needs to resit and pass them to continue. Two he was short by 1 and 2 marks. He has passed all coursework but this is not taken into account.

We have sat and talked through this and it seems that at exam time he was suffering from stress. To the point that he didn't leave his room for three days, except to go down to the college shop to buy food as he couldn't face going into the catering hall. In one exam, he left after 15 minutes because he had a panic attack. He went to the doctors and it was suggested that counselling through the uni would help but the waiting list is months and so the end of the year came without him seeing anyone. Tonight, he admitted that he had been taking caffeine tablets to try and help him, but they only made it worse when he wasn't taking them.

His course does not have a personal tutor and the academic liaison meetings are in a group of 6, which he says does not allow for one-to-one talks.

He would like to change course, and has emailed the relevant departments, but the response was that they will only consider this if he passes his exams. This has left him even more down and worried about his future.

I am worried and upset. Firstly because he felt that he could not talk to me as he felt he needed to deal with it himself. Secondly, because it seems that the pastoral care at his college is totally useless.

On top of this, his gf of 4 years has ended the relationship and a grandparent has been diagnosed with terminal cancer which cannot be treated. Basically, not a good year.

I just feel that I need to do something to support him. But I'm not sure who to contact at university and will they see me as an interfering parent?

PurpleWithRed Sat 25-Jul-15 23:32:23

You have my sympatchy, I've been through something similar with dd.

If he wants to change course he could leave and reapply to a different uni - that's what dd did, even though she had to do a foundation course to for her new degree. She is now extremely happy and succeeding in the new course.

elQuintoConyo Sat 25-Jul-15 23:43:10

Leave it to him, seriously. Don't contact the university. It may be that he drops out, spends a year working and getting to grips with stuff (being dumped, family illness, meeting deadlines and responsibilities) and reapply next year.

It all looks bleak now, but in a couple of months it could all change. Life is very long flowers

springalong Sat 25-Jul-15 23:49:21

I effectively failed my degree course 30 years ago as the course just didn't suit me and I (stupidly) stuck it out. I had a good career but it was always questioned and even now will stop me teacher training on several govt schemes. It wasn't even considered to change. So do support him to do so if that is a choice he has.

But surely your DS has taken many exams before without stress. Why was the stress so bad this time?

badg3r Sat 25-Jul-15 23:54:18

You sound like a lovely mum and it's great he's able to be so open with you. I would not get involved directly with uni, but it's so important he knows it's not failing uni, there is absolutely no shame in admitting you're struggling, or in dropping out after a year, to regroup and go back to something else if the current course doesn't suit him. I know several people who have been through this, yes it sucks at the time but they have all come out of it well. Sorry to hear about the other bad news too.

MyFriendsCallMeOh Sun 26-Jul-15 00:06:56

I used to work at a uni. Your do needs to speak to his tutor and explain that he wants to drop out. Units hate hate hate students dropping out and should do what they can to retain him. Apart from calling his tutor and flagging that there is an issue, then nothing you can do, the uni will see you as a third party and cannot discuss your ds with you.

renee168 Sun 26-Jul-15 22:57:27

Thank you for the replies.

Springalong - He was fine through both GCSEs and A level and is a very bright and academic lad. He found the Christmas exams hard and felt that he hadn't got the right revision routine as things were so different from school exams. The Easter ones were even harder as the lecturers were not very forthcoming in advice and the online lecture notes did not support the notes he had taken in the lectures.

I do feel that some of the blame has to be laid at his own door as he tried to cope and did not seek help when he needed it. However - having looked at the university's website - there seems to be very limited help and advice available to students.....And if there is...then it is not clearly defined and promoted.

I have found a number for the university's counselling service and I am going to ring them tomorrow. Maybe they can sort something out and see him when he gets back before his resits. I have suggested to him that he should ring his tutor but he doesn't have a personal tutor. Apparently, the uni has "Academic Parents", which are basically final year students who have taken the same course and can offer advice. There is no way that he can contact them over the summer.

At the moment I don't want him to go back as I don't feel he is in the right frame of mind and he will be very isolated up there as he will be in new accommodation with none of his friends yet back for the new year. He does have to go in the next couple of weeks though to prepare for the resits.

Millymollymama Mon 27-Jul-15 13:21:31

I do feel for you renee. I think some students do not adjust well to university work and some A levels are very spoon fed so when university is different and more challenging, they are slow to adjust. I would think his stress was brought on by knowing he was not likley to do well in the exams. Also, my DDs have found that lecture notes are nowhere near enough to pass exams, so even if there are differences in his notes and the course content, reading around the subject is vital - or doing lab work for sciences etc. You have to do a lot more than going to lectures. I think a group of 6 is OK and surely he could have made an appointment with the convener of the liaison group if he had problems with the course content? If he has problems with the course and the university, is it worth doing the resits? Would he look for another course elsewhere if he is already thinking of changing courses? Will his current course/university be any better in the 2nd year?

There will be others doing resits. He will not be on his own. Friends might be another issue. Did no friend see what was happening? I think academic universities tend to be fairly "hands off" with students and welfare is a low priority unless you arrive with a pre existing condition. Most students just have to sink or swim. What does your own GP think?

Millymollymama Mon 27-Jul-15 13:34:03

If this university is the one I think it is, in Scotland, there is a Counselling service and it is mentioned in the prospectus. It is different from the "parent" system. Ignore this comment if I am wrong, renee.

renee168 Wed 29-Jul-15 23:37:37

This is an academic university (not in Scotland) and styles itself on Oxbridge (students are assigned to colleges). From what my DS says it is very different to the background he comes from (state comprehensive/working class) and it has been hard to adjust, but I expected much more pastoral support.

So I have telephoned the counselling service and he can "drop in" for an initial assessment of his needs. I have also emailed the student support tutor for his college (although DS has already done this with no help forthcoming) and DS is going to apply for a resit concession, which he should get due to the difficult personal circumstances.

Interestingly, I was talking to an acquaintance who works in a Midlands university (ex-polytechnic). They said that it is commonplace now for a uni to "promote independence" by allowing students to sink or swim. This person had questioned this attitude and how this might affect some students mental health/well-being and was told that student numbers of suicide at the university was low so that showed that it wasn't an issue.

Does this mean that there is no duty of care of any sort when someone goes to university?

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