Due to financial issues, I've had to work in order to support myself alongside my degree, and unfortunately due to work obligations I've had to miss some lectures and classes. Due to not spending much time at the university, I also don't have many friends who would be willing to help me catch up.

Would it be appropriate in any way to ask the lecturer or the class TA to help me on a 1-on-1 basis? I think I've managed to fall behind sufficiently far that I would need several hours of help to catch up -- could I possibly suggest to the professor that I can offer you £50/hour for your time? I don't want it to be construed as bribery or anything inappropriate -- I just want to pay the person fairly for his/her time.

Is there an appropriate way to do this? I know that in my high school some students paid teachers for 1-on-1 tutoring, but I'm not sure how it works in university?

For context, I'm in the United Kingdom, I'm doing a master's degree, and the end-of-term examinations are administered anonymously (i.e. the person grading does not know whose paper he/she is grading).

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    Don't do it. This would create a blatant conflict of interest for the TA/lecturer. It is fine to pay for tutoring, but find someone else to tutor you, not the course lecturer or TA.
    – Dan Romik
    Nov 14, 2015 at 17:52
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    It gives them a financial incentive to not teach well so that students don't understand the material well and then have to pay them for extra help.
    – Dan Romik
    Nov 14, 2015 at 17:57
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    It also makes them beholden to a student who now becomes also a paying client, which would create a temptation to give the client a grade they don't deserve or some other preferential treatment. (I assume this is why you took care to emphasize you don't want the offer to be construed as a bribe; well, it would be quite natural to interpret such an offer as precisely that, no matter how much you deny it.)
    – Dan Romik
    Nov 14, 2015 at 18:00
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    @DanRomik As I mentioned, the grade for the course is not determined by the lecturer or TA. We have a central examination that is graded anonymously. Nov 14, 2015 at 18:01
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    You did not mention the grade is not determined by the lecturer/TA, only that grading is anonymous. That can mean lots of different things. In any case, preferential treatment can take many forms other than an undeserved grade. As I said, it is a pretty obvious conflict of interest. That is my opinion as an experienced university teacher (U.S.-based), take it or leave it.
    – Dan Romik
    Nov 14, 2015 at 18:06

2 Answers 2


At my university in the USA, it would likely be illegal for the instructor or the TAs of the particular class to participate in this. There is just too much of a (perceived) conflict of interest since they are evaluating you for a grade for the class.

However, there would not be anything barring you from approaching a graduate student who was a former TA for the class; nor would there be a problem in approaching an instructor at another institution or someone who is at your institution who is not teaching your section of your class that term. You could even ask an upperclass student who took the class last year to tutor you.

Your department secretary may be able to connect you with a grad student who needs a few extra dollars and isn't in the conflict-of-interest position to tutor you directly. Or post something in your local craiglist or student bulletin board system.

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    When this came up at my institution I was told, as a lecturer, that I shouldn't even tutor students in other classes; potentially knowledge of the exam structure could be released, etc. It does seem like a bit of a gray zone to me, but the advice was to avoid even that and I'm following it to be squeaky clean. Nov 15, 2015 at 18:05

The appropriate way to do it is explain what you want, and why you are willing to pay for it. You have to be careful to not say something like "I want to pass this course, and I'm willing to pay you to make that happen", since that would look like an offer of a bribe which would be illegal. It is not illegal to pay a person for personal tutoring. That is the point at which your concern should end. It is possible that university regulations forbid an employee from accepting such an offer, but it is the employee's responsibility to make that determination, not yours. If it is forbidden, or if the employee would simply feel uncomfortable with the appearance of conflict of interest, s/he can tell you so and may be able to point you to an alternative tutor.

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    It is not illegal to pay a person for personal tutoring. — [citation needed] My university forbids graduate students to work more than 20 hours per week. If a graduate student already holds a 50% teaching assistantship, they are forbidden to accept any other employment.
    – JeffE
    Nov 14, 2015 at 21:41
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    @JeffE, which is pretty much what I said. It is not illegal to to pay, it may be forbidden to receive. The restrictions are on the instructor, not the student.
    – user6726
    Nov 14, 2015 at 21:54
  • @JeffE Who imposes this 20-hour limitation? If it's by the university, it may not technically be illegal (per se) to break the university's rules. Nov 15, 2015 at 13:38

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