I was asked by a student to help him/her with a subject (probably for money). I previously taught a similar subject at a different university (that is where the student got my contact info from) but now I am at the exact department whose subject the student is attending, though I am not teaching or in any ways affiliated with that subject.

Does this situation constitute an ethical problem?

  • 2
    I don't see an ethical issue; you are helping the student learn. There could be a policy issue, though. So, ask the department chair!
    – Bob Brown
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 14:11
  • 5
    What is your position? If you are tenured or tenure track, I'd avoid this (taking money) like the plague. The "department" matters a lot more than the "subject".
    – Buffy
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 14:13
  • 1
    Also see What are the major ethical concerns with private tutoring?
    – Anyon
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 14:14
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    Hmmm. Let's see. Can I set up a side business teaching students in my department (for pay) as long as I'm not officially assigned to that course? IOW, can I potentially interfere with the professor that is assigned, possibly causing conflicts between students and that other professor. "But dr. odoaker said ...".
    – Buffy
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 14:38
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    I need to amend my earlier comment to add that if you are part of the department faculty, as opposed to a TA or similar, then you should not accept pay from students in your department, and possibly from any department in the university.
    – Bob Brown
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 17:50

2 Answers 2


Given that you are not involved in the delivery of the course (and thus have no incentive to teach it badly in the hope that people will approach you for private tuition), and you are not party to privileged information (e.g.: examination questions), there is no ethical issue here.

That said, if you work for the university full-time, you may want to check your employment contract, in case it had some sort of exclusivity clause prohibiting you from taking on any freelance or consultancy work (that said, employers do not generally enforce such a clause unless your freelancing/consultancy interferes with your capacity to carry-out your duties to the employer).


If you are in no way affiliated with the course or the student, this is not an ethical problem. It would not be different if the student was in some other institution.

However, regardless of ethics, the department may or may not have a problem with that. Therefore, a sk the responsible people in the department. They will tell you if this is a problem.

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