Journey together through the three years: An evaluation of the personal tutor system, a student support model embedded in a Bachelor of Nursing programme in New Zealand : A thesis presented in partial fulfilment for the requirements for the degree of Doctorate in Education at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Student support is an important part of tertiary education with different models, systems and
approaches used internationally and nationally. The personal tutor system is one such
approach to student support embedded within a new Bachelor of Nursing curriculum in a New
Zealand tertiary institution. Through the personal tutor system students were assigned a
lecturer, an academic member of staff, at the commencement of their study, for the duration
of their programme. The purpose of the personal tutor system was to offer students support
with their academic development and personal guidance that involved: scheduled and ad hoc
meetings; monitoring of progress; personal assistance; and directing some students to seek
Using a mixed methods design, the personal tutor system was evaluated at the time the first
student cohort completed the new programme. The study focused on factors that influenced
the personal tutor system experience. Third year students and lecturers were invited to
participate in two‐phase data collection that involved the completion of a questionnaire (third
year students: n=86 and lecturers: n=19) followed by semi‐structured interviews (third year
students: n=38 and lecturers: n=10).
Most participants confirmed that their personal tutor system experience was positive.
Interpersonal interaction between students and lecturers was a key factor, as relationships
were central to the personal tutor system. Flexibility was important as the personal tutor
system was not a one‐size‐fits‐all approach to student support. At times, competing
responsibilities gave rise to undue tension particularly with lecturers’ availability and
accessibility for support. Unfamiliarity with the personal tutor system guidelines led to
different interpretations for use and consequently confusion with support expectations.
However, almost all participants acknowledged the value and potential for the personal tutor
system in the BN programme.
Recommendations for changes to the personal tutor system included: the creation a
proportional co‐ordination role for ongoing management; a review of the guidelines that
linked to support resources; time integrated into the BN programme for flexible arrangements
with meetings and contact; and a time allocation for lecturers’ workload with resourcing for