When your son or daughter starts at university it marks the start of a new phase for the whole family. While the next few years will probably be amongst the best of their lives, this can also mean a big adjustment for everyone especially if they’re the first in the family to enter university. For many, it’s the start of independent living, away from well-known places and people and everything that’s familiar.
There will be major differences between your relationship with the university and one that you might have had with schools. St. George’s relationship is with students, not with parents—even those paying the tuition fees. This is sometimes difficult for parents who naturally wish to be involved with important aspects of the student’s life but university policy and UK law recognise students as adults and restrict our relationship with third parties. The university is registered with the data protection authorities as a holder of confidential data and this prohibits the university from disclosing or even confirming data to anyone.
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Encourage them to take responsibility for themselves and for starting their new way of life with confidence and enthusiasm. On a practical level, it is really helpful if they can cook a few basic meals for themselves and can manage their own financial affairs. We also recognise that many students find managing money difficult and confidential financial advice is always available through our Student Centre.
They will receive a lot of pre-arrival information, which can seem overwhelming. You can help by encouraging them to read it all carefully and to return all the forms in time. In this way, they will be informed and prepared in advance and be less nervous about starting at university.
This is a very busy and exciting but also potentially quite tiring and stressful time. Some new students are reluctant to join social events or feel uncomfortable in crowds of strangers; you can help by encouraging them to take part from the beginning. Large-scale activities, such as clubs and bars are very popular but many students like smaller or quieter activities. The Students Union and our Student Centre work together to ensure that there are events to help all students begin to feel that they belong.
Making new friends and adjusting to new situations takes time and effort. Some students take to the new environment immediately; for others it's a longer process. Home-sickness and feelings of isolation are more common than students realise. Every new student is assigned a St George’s ‘mum’ or ‘dad’, a more experienced student who can give some help and advice as they start their studies.
The only way is to ask them. UK universities are not permitted to release information about academic progress, attendance or anything else to any third party without that student's express consent. This includes parents of students.
Examination results are issued regularly to every student on a taught course—usually after the end of each semester. If they inform you that they are facing academic problems, try to find out why. University work is very challenging and even exceptional students may receive their first poor grades at this level. Our regulations allow students to re-sit failed examinations and even the most hard-working students sometimes have to do this.
Every student is allocated a personal tutor, who will be available to discuss academic or personal concerns on a one-to-one basis.
We ask students to put an emergency contact on their university record. We would normally use this only in the unlikely case of medical personnel advising that this is required. Normally, medical staff would be the ones to make contact if they consider it necessary.
Hospitals have similar guidelines and do not notify the university of hospitalised students unless the students ask them to. It’s up to students themselves to inform the university that they are in hospital; many choose not to. If we do have contact with a student in hospital, we suggest that they let people at home know, but cannot do this for them without permission.