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Guidance for academic departments around non-engagement and missing students

This guidance should be read in conjunction with the following documentation:

CHECKLIST FOR MONITORING STUDENT ENGAGEMENT AND PROGRESSION 2020/21

Purpose of guidance

  1. These guidelines have been developed by Wellbeing Support Services, in conjunction with the Dean of Students Office, and the Student Administrative Services to give departments recommendations on how to try and re-engage fully registered students following non-engagement. The aim of this guidance is to establish that a student is safe and well.
  • As is noted in the above cited document, students are autonomous learners and active participants in their education. They take responsibility for managing their learning and their engagement.
  • Nevertheless, a student’s personal circumstances or other factors known to the department may cause departments to be additionally concerned about the wellbeing of a student following non-engagement. Wellbeing Support Services can always be contacted for advice on individual cases. 024 76575570 or wellbeing@warwick.ac.uk . For example, if the department is aware of additional vulnerabilities/ wellbeing concerns, or if friends/ housemates have reported a student missing to a department.
  • In addition, in an emergency situation, the Security gatehouse can be contacted 24/7 for advice/ support with respect to urgent missing student cases (tel: 024 76522083)

Alignment with University processes

The University already has in place good practice guidance regarding monitoring attendance.

This states in:

1.(b) Departments’ responsibilities

Undergraduate, Postgraduate Taught and Research students will receive an email following the recording of each unauthorised missed contact point (copied to department). Both the student and department should check the accuracy of the data entry as soon as possible, ensuring accurate data retention in accordance with GDPR. Departments are not required to take any formal action until the total number of unauthorised missed contact points reaches six; however, they are encouraged to take action earlier on an informal basis to ensure student welfare and to encourage improved attendance. Informal follow-up should involve the student’s main point of contact for overseeing their academic progress meeting with the student to discuss their progress and to consider referring the student, where appropriate, to the relevant University Support Service(s).

When is a student 'missing'?

What's the difference between 'missing' and 'not engaging'?

The above good practice guidance may serve as a useful starting point to help departments identify which students may be missing, but the difference between 'missing' and 'not engaging' should be considered and noted. E.g. a student who has missed repeated monitoring points but has been seen in lectures, or marked as present in a seminar, has submitted a piece of work, sent an email, or been seen by staff in the department or around campus, is not missing, even though they may not be (fully) engaging with studies. Whilst departments will want to follow up such cases, and do what is possible to re-engage the student, a department does not need to follow the guidance below for such students. Conversely, for a student who is normally extremely engaged in their studies, rarely misses a teaching engagement without notifying the department and who is then absent from several successive days of teaching (whilst not missing any monitoring points), it may well be appropriate to follow the guidelines below, or escalate to Wellbeing Support Services.

If departments have alternative structures/ processes in place which might better serve as a more accurate indicator of a student being missing (e.g. weekly labs), you are encouraged to consider how these guidelines might be adapted to fit with your structures.

Potential missing student =

  • no engagement in studies at all
  • + no communication at all from the student
  • + not seen/ heard from

at a time of the academic year when they are expected to engage, attend and communicate on a regular basis.

Departmental responsibilities:

There is a requirement on departments to make efforts to establish a student’s wellbeing should the student disengage from studies– this document provides practical steps/ guidance on how & when departments might carry this out.

Departments are already entering monitoring point data on Tabula/MyWBS. Following the recording of each unauthorised missed contact point, the student will receive an email (copied to department).

The following guidance has been developed to align with this process by Wellbeing Support Services:

(It should be noted that, there may be other triggers (outside of missed monitoring points) which cause a department to be concerned about lack of engagement, and where following the below guidance may be helpful. E.g. where there is a recently disclosed deterioration in mental health, or the department is aware of significant and serious current relationship/family issues.)

Trigger

Departmental action

Notes

Standardised missed monitoring point email sent to student, copied to department

Department to check student engagement. If no contact from student and no engagement with studies, note date of email

The detail of this standardised letter includes signposting to Wellbeing Support Services

Date of missed monitoring point email + 7 University working days

If no contact (i.e. not seen in teaching/ no engagement etc at all) from student, send an email also to personal email account.

See guidance note 1. below for suggested content

Date of missed monitoring point email + 14 University working days

If no contact from student, telephone the student, and leave a message if necessary. (advising student that a response is required from them within 2 working days)

See guidance note 2. below for suggested content

Date of above + 2 University working days

Letter via email from HoD to be sent to student, advising that if no response within 48 hours, their name will be passed to Wellbeing Support Services - they will be considered ‘missing’ and this may result in the University needing to contact next of kin (Please note - this is usually done by Wellbeing Support Services, and not by the academic department)

See guidance note 3. below for suggested content

No response to HoD letter

Complete referral template and send to Wellbeing Support Services (wellbeing@warwick.ac.uk) .

If department hears from the student after referral they should update Wellbeing immediately.

See guidance note 4. below for referral template

If the department becomes aware of any additional concerns/ vulnerabilities relating to the student at any point in the above process, they are encouraged to contact Wellbeing Support Services (wellbeing@warwick.ac.uk or tel: 024 76575570) for further advice. It may be appropriate to accelerate the process, or escalate the case earlier.

Guidance Note 1.

Email to student’s personal email account:

  • Experience shows us that a response is more likely received if the email is sent by someone the student knows. Departments will be best-placed to decide who this should be.
  • The content of the email should remain supportive, and signpost to Wellbeing Support Services or other support, if the student is encountering difficulties
  • Template email:
    • Dear …..

We’re contacting you because we haven’t heard from you after an email was sent to your Warwick email account last week following a missed contact point.

When a student is out of contact with their department, we do have a duty to follow this up and ensure you are OK, so it’s really important that you get in touch with the department (confirm who they should contact e.g. personal tutor/ ug office…) so that we can advise you further about any missed teaching, and any concerns about your studies.

If you are experiencing any difficulties, we will do what we can to support you. Additionally, you might also like to seek support from Wellbeing Support Services via their portal , or from the Students’ Union Advice Centre.

Kind regards 

Guidance Note 2 – telephone call

We recommend calling a student’s mobile in the first instance. The content of the conversation should remain supportive. We recommend the conversation/ message should cover the following points:

  • Ask if the student is OK – are they experiencing any difficulties?
  • Refer the student to previously sent emails, and signposts to support
  • Encourage the student to re-engage, or to have a further conversation about any difficulties they are experiencing with the most relevant person
  • Agree next actions where possible, as well as what the repercussions might be if this doesn’t happen

If you have to leave a message, it should cover the above and ask for a response within 2 working days.

You can also call the student’s home telephone number (this is the number the student has provided the University with for how they can be contacted at home). When you call this number, it is important that you only speak to the student. If someone else answers the telephone, you might like to say that you are calling from the University of Warwick and wish to speak to the student – no further details should be given to anyone else at this stage. If you have to leave a message, you should simply ask that the student contact the University as soon as possible and provide the relevant telephone number, or ask them to respond to the email sent to them.

Guidance Note 3 – HoDs letter

Draft letter via email from HoD (to be sent to both Warwick and personal email accounts)

Dear …..

I am contacting you as Head of the Department of …… as you have been out of contact with us, and we wish to ensure your wellbeing, and work towards you re-engaging with your studies.

Since you missed a monitoring point on (insert date) the University has sent emails to both your Warwick and personal accounts (where available) and tried to telephone you. It is really important that you get in touch with the department within the next 48 hours (or 2 University working days).

As a department, we have a duty to follow up when students are out of touch with us, and should we not hear from you, we will need to refer you as ‘missing’ to Wellbeing Support Services. You need to be aware that this may result in the University contacting your next of kin or other relevant third parties, in order to establish your wellbeing.

If you are experiencing any difficulties, the department will do what we can to support you, and you are encouraged to discuss anything impacting your studies with your personal tutor (or relevant contact person). Additionally, you strongly encourage you to seek support from Wellbeing Support Services via their portal , or from the Students’ Union Advice Centre.

Please urgently contact the department at: (insert contact details here)

Kind regards,

Guidance Note 4 - Template for referral:

The department should check internally whether any contact has been made with colleagues in the department. Should there be no response to the above HoD letter within 2 University working days of sending the above email (or next working day), the student will be considered ‘missing’ and the department should complete the Missing Student referral form which will be sent to wellbeing@warwick.ac.uk.

Once this referral has been received by Wellbeing Support Services, the Wellbeing team will take a number of final attempts to make contact with the student (a reach-out by Wellbeing can occasionally prompt a response e.g. some students experience shame for having disengaged from academic study and require external support/ advice to help them re-engage). This will include contacting the student by all known means (email/ telephone/ visit by residential team or property manager etc). If no contact is established by the next day, wellbeing professionals will assess risk and decide on next actions, including potentially contacting third parties/ next of kin/ police. The department will be updated on outcome.

Missing student referral form

Note:

  • Following the above process to establish a student’s wellbeing, does not preclude the department from continuing to pursue any other normal procedures, where relevant.
  • If a department is contacted by a concerned family member about a student, it may be appropriate to refer the family member to the information for parents/ guardians on the Wellbeing Support Services website.

Resolution

Once the student is located and their safety and general wellbeing ensured, Wellbeing Support Services will inform the academic department, (without disclosing any confidential information), and the department will then support the student to address any underlying difficulties. The department will also remind the student of the expectation that they will be in attendance and that any planned absences should be notified in advance.

It may sometimes be the case that it is no longer possible for the student to catch up with missed work and alternative courses of action need to be discussed and considered e.g. a period of temporary withdrawal.