Academic Roles: What does an Admissions Tutor do?

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by Dr Catherine Armstrong

Most academics in permanent positions are asked to take on an extra role within their department inside of the first few years. Depending on the size and structure of the department you may have to do this role indefinitely or for a fixed period of time. This article explores why you might want to take on the role of admissions tutor and what advantages it can have for your career.

What do admissions tutors do?

There are several aspects to the admissions tutor role. It should be noted that this role is additional to the current workload, so the academic is expected to continue teaching and researching. The duties involved may vary slightly from institution to institution depending on the administrative structure but will include:

- Liaising with administrative teams on applications from potential students

- Working with the head of department or Dean to decide the desired number of students

- From these discussions, deciding what the offer will be (i.e. the number of points a candidate needs to achieve in their school qualifications to be accepted onto your degree programme)

- Handling personal inquiries from interested potential students or their parents

- Judging if a candidate should be offered a place or not in certain circumstances

- Interviewing potential candidates

- Implementing government policies on the admission of students to the university, such as widening participation programmes

- Helping to run ‘visit days’ with administrative staff in which candidates and their parents come to your university and are introduced to the department

- Researching admissions policies (for example, how a student’s qualifications affects their performance on arrival)

- Co-ordinating the clearing provision for your department (‘clearing’ is the period in August when A level results are released)

The admissions tutor does not see every application to his or her department. Some courses have hundreds of applications and it would be impossible for the tutor to deal with every one personally. However, this is an important decision-making role in which you have the candidate’s future in your hands so it is vital to take every part of it seriously. You will sometimes see applications that are unusual, where non-standard qualifications have been taken or where special circumstances have affected an individual’s education. This is why it is so important for admissions tutors to be aware of the range of qualifications and life experiences that can bring someone to higher education. Not all undergraduate applicants are 18 year olds with A-levels!

Why this role will be good for your career

The role of admissions tutor has some advantages for your career, such as:

- Being involved in strategic planning at department or faculty level. This may involve attending meetings but it will do no harm to network within your institution with decision makers.

- Learning about the range of qualifications young people are taking and how this affects their performance and standards

- Engaging with government policies on higher education

- This is a significant role within a department and could lead to promotion. At the very least it will show that you want to be centrally involved in the life of your department

- It will look good on your CV if you want to change jobs

- You will probably get a lighter teaching load in recognition of the time spent doing this job. This might mean that you have more time for other activities such as research.

- You may become the public face of your department, as you will be meeting with potential students and their parents. You might develop a flare for marketing, for example, that you never knew you had!

How to get a role like this

In short, you need to let your head of department or line manager know as soon as possible. Perhaps if you have an appraisal or career development meeting coming up you could raise the issue then. Posts will periodically come up within a department and volunteers are always much appreciated as otherwise the head of department has to persuade an unwilling colleague to take on the role. Make sure that you are clear about what will be offered in return in terms of a decreased teaching load or, less frequently, a promotion. These aspects are up for negotiation. Do not assume that they will be provided without you asking for them.

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