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Supporting students - a guide for University staff

If you are a member of staff, or the parent of a student, and would like advice about any aspect of supporting students, your first point of contact should be the ASC.

Most students will cope well with the stresses of academic life given reasonable support from their friends, family and academic departments.  Sometimes they need more than this.  If you feel you need to, or are requested to give a student extra assistance, it is important to help within the boundaries of what you feel competent to do.

This guide has been produced to

  • Help you recognise when a student may be in difficulty
  • Provide advice to help you respond/refer appropriately and effectively
  • Remind you of the sources of support within the University
  • Raise awareness of issues relating to student mental health

What you can do

  • Listen
  • Give the student time to talk
  • Understand the situation from his or her point of view
  • Be sympathetic and not dismissive
  • Help the student to feel contained
  • Make appropriate referrals

What you can't do

  • Solve all the student's problems
  • Take responsibility for his or her emotional state or actions

The health and welfare of all members of the University is everyone's concern.

This guide gives you advice on dealing with both crises and more everyday situations.  Much of the advice may seem 'obvious' or simple common sense, but it is hoped that it may prove to be a useful reference tool.  It is important to be prepared for emergencies, but you should be aware they occur very rarely and that expert help is available.

Declaring a disability to staff

One in 10 students at the University of St Andrews will have a registered disability.  These can range from learning difficulties such as dyslexia to visual and hearing impairments, mobility difficulties, Aspergers Syndrome, and long term medical conditions such as epilepsy and diabetes.

How the Disability Team can help students

  • Arranging teaching and exam arrangements
  • Assistance with accommodation
  • Additional funding (assisted technology/non medical helpers)
  • One-to-one support

It is important to note that if a student declares a disability or medical condition to you, they have declared it to the University and therefore it is now our responsibility to address the issue.  It is also our responsibility to anticipate the needs of a student who has declared a disability.  If a student comes forward with any such condition, you must inform / refer to Student Services.

Further information on dealing with students who have a disability can be found at Academia and SENDA.

The Disability Team can also offer support and advice to staff if they have concerns with regards to a student's particular needs.

More information


The University of St Andrews is grateful for the contribution of the Disability Service at the University of Edinburgh in the production of most of this document. 

ASC - Advice & Support Centre

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