One of the often cited aspects of a good personal tuition system is its potential to increase a student’s belonging to their institution. This has been recognised through project such as the HEFCE funded What Works? Student Retention and Success programme, and the HERE Toolkit which came out of this.
There is an interesting paper in the current edition of the NACADA Journal entitled Strengthen the Bond: Relationship Between Academic Advising Quality and Undergraduate Student Loyalty. Based on a surveys conducted at the University of Wisconsin, the others conclude that the quality of the tuition support (academic advising) given to students correlates with the loyalty that the student feels towards their institution. The better the quality of the tuition experience, the more loyal the student is likely to be towards the university. The interesting aspect of the research reported by this paper is that this loyalty seems to persist beyond graduation. Individuals who had a good tuition experience during their studies are more likely to remain loyal to their institution after graduation, and thus more likely to continue supporting it in ways that benefit the current generation of students.This loyalty might manifest itself in graduates offering internships or jobs to current students, or in making donations to the Alumni fund. It is certainly interesting to think that a good tutorial system is far-reaching and benefits more than just the students currently experiencing it. A very unscientific sample of conversations with my own colleagues would suggest that this is an aspect of the tutorial system that is rarely considered by UK universities.
Where the paper starts to make less comfortable reading is in its suggestion that the survey used in the research could be used to identify those students who are most likely to display greatest future loyalty. These students could then be targeted with a greater focus by the tutorial system to maximise their contribution, especially financial, after graduation. This approach seems somewhat mercenary and not in the spirit of equality of opportunity for all.