On Workplace Stack Exchange, one answer to the question https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/124329/bullying-group-work says "Speak to your personal tutor. Immediately." I remember to have seen the word "personal tutor" also here on Academia Stack Exchange. (As I do not remember having seen a country mentioned (also not on the linked Workplace Stack Exchange question), I believe this is a US-concept.) So: What is a "personal tutor"? Who is this (undergraduate student, graduate student, administrative personell, post-doc, professor, somebody not related to one's university) and when do you as a student get such a tutor? What are their roles?

Thank you!

5 Answers 5


In the UK, a personal tutor is assigned to you when you start your degree and the same person will generally maintain that role for the whole of your course. They are usually a lecturer or more senior-- never a student, PhD or otherwise. There are often a mandated number of meetings that a student must have with their tutor: once a term is common.

The role of a personal tutor is mostly non-academic. While you could discuss academic problems with them, they are really there to help with pastoral matters, such as wellbeing, or helping you to decide what courses to take or how best to manage your time. Personal tutors are a common choice of reference letter writers for their students' applications for postgraduate degrees, as they likely know the student and their grades very well.


"Personal tutor" in the sense of the question you linked to is definitely not a US-based term.

We absolutely have tutors. A tutor would be used when you need extra help to keep up with the content in the class. Getting a C in chemistry? Then you might hire a tutor to spend extra time with you outside of class to learn the material.

Similar to the "personal tutor" from that link, undergraduates are also typically assigned general advisers that they meet with a few times a year. They help to make sure you are fulfilling your academic requirements (have the right number of credits to graduate, are successful in courses) and can connect you to resources for academic problems, and also if you are encountering things that might violate university or legal regulations (like the bullying example you linked to). At my private R1 university, these advisers are always staff and never faculty or students.


I live in Miami, FL. Personal tutors are assigned by universities to a student for the whole academic course. He/She will guide the student in assessments, exams, research papers. If you are lucky enough to have a friendly tutor, you can get a lot of guidance from them.

Note: This pandemic made a huge impact on the educational sectors around the world. My niece was placed at McGill University, Montreal, Canada. He has his own mobile app from which he can select his tutor based on reviews and ratings. Thanks to technology.

  • Should the last paragraph refer to niece/she/her or to nephew/he/him, or am I miscalculating the antecedent of the pronouns?
    – shoover
    Apr 10, 2023 at 19:26

It could be a variety of things, depending on where you are, but most likely the following. In some universities with large classes, students meet a few times a week in smaller sections with a TA, sometimes called a tutor.

In top UK universities, courses are often done in very small (<10) groups with a "tutor", who might actually be a professor or someone much lower down the ranking. The person provides direction on your readings and writings.

But in general, it should refer to the person who has some authority in your course but at the most personal (small group) level if that is available to you.

However, for some purposes, such as disputes with professors, a university might also provide a student support office to help resolve the disputes. The people there aren't, strictly speaking, tutors, but rather advisors.

It is least likely to mean someone you pay separately from the university to tutor you in a subject.

  • So, is this tutor related to a particular class (and providing help on this class) or do they help with all academia-related issues? Dec 8, 2018 at 21:03
  • Generally it is for a particular class. But the "dispute resolver" would be different.
    – Buffy
    Dec 8, 2018 at 21:10
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    I disagree slightly. In the UK, a personal tutor isn't related to a class (although they may well teach you)-- instead their role is pastoral and advisory. They are generally lecturers or higher (i.e. tenure track/faculty). You are assigned a personal tutor when you start uni and they will generally remain in that role for the whole of your time there. Dec 9, 2018 at 0:05

It depends on country / programme but a "personal tutor" or "mentor" is usually available for questions that are outside the scope of the subject lecturer.

These "mentors" will answer, or help the student answer, or get other officials in the institution to answer those questions the students have, be they personal or study / work related.

This may, in some institutions, fall on the programme manager, and you get some really "of the wall" questions that have to be dealt with with tact, diplomacy and discretion.

  • 1
    So, would be, for example "which courses should I take if my dream job is X" be a "normal" question to ask them? Dec 8, 2018 at 21:05
  • That you can ask, but they will normally take it back to you as it is based on what you want - they are not mind readers. Often though, and this was the point i was making, it is for questions outside of class such as "I need to attend a wedding, family event and there is such and such assessment" what can I do...
    – Solar Mike
    Dec 8, 2018 at 21:08
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    Sorry, I don't completely get it. Is the "wedding"-question an example for a good or a bad question to ask the tutor? (I'd say it's bad because probably only the instructor themselves can anwer it?) Dec 8, 2018 at 21:14
  • How about I suggest that the "wedding question" is a good question, as the instructor cannot answer it as the decision will be based on policy and exceptional circumstances that may be decided by the Dean... There are SO many variations possible on who decides what and why...
    – Solar Mike
    Dec 8, 2018 at 21:47
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    Okay, sorry for this assumption. (In my institution, it is totally different - the instructor is the only authority in such matters.) But now I think I understand. Dec 9, 2018 at 19:24

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