As a student, how do you get your voice heard and get the help you need if you find yourself struggling with something? It could be to do with your studies or your accommodation. It could be something to do with money or perhaps your health. Whatever it is, at the University of Essex, we definitely want to listen to you and help so you can get the most out of your education and enjoy the fun stuff without having to worry. Let’s start with your learning.

Don’t worry – just ask for help

What would you do if you found yourself in a lecture and couldn’t understand what was being taught? Week after week, you feel like you’re drowning in things you can’t grasp when all around you seem fine. The first thing to say is don’t worry; feeling like this is more common than you might imagine and even the most accomplished scholars will have experienced this at some point during their education. Some might say feeling like this is necessary because, here at Essex, we want to push your comfort zones from time to time; it’s how we help you grow. That said, we also don’t want you to drown, so how do you ask for help if you feel like that’s happening?

We understand that asking for help can sometimes be difficult. Perhaps you’re shy or feel nervous about approaching that eminent professor who’s teaching you. Perhaps a worry that you’ll be judged for needing to ask for help or will be seen as an inconvenience. These feelings are perfectly understandable; however, let us reassure you that everyone at Essex, including those seemingly unapproachable professors, want you to succeed and, most importantly, want to help you.

Easy fixes

Sometimes, the solution to your problem will be hiding in plain sight. The first place to check what help is available is through the Student Directory on the University of Essex website. There is so much available through the Student Directory including support for your course, study resources, health and wellbeing services, facilities, and social life. The Essex Students' Union is one of the best in the UK and offers a fantastic array of support and information, so be sure to check them out too. Did you know that, as an enrolled student of the University, you are automatically a member of the Students Union? This means they are there to help you as much as they can. But sometimes, when you have exhausted all these options, there may be still things you need help with. What we are going to talk about next is what you can if you are experiencing difficulties with your learning on a module.

Speak to us, we don’t bite

By far the most effective way to ask for and get help quickly is to approach your lecturer directly. This could be immediately after a class, going to their office, or contacting them by email. If you worry about doing this alone, then go with another student which, of course, is fine.

But you shouldn’t worry because it really is OK to ask questions. In fact, lecturers like it when students ask questions because it shows they are interested in the subject, motivated to learn, and want to improve. It could be to explain a certain topic in more detail that perhaps you didn’t quite understand the first time around, or to give more advice on what they expect in assessments. Please do ask you lecturers questions because they want to help and most likely they will have come across whatever problem you are raising before. We are sure you will find the encounter a very positive one and much less scary than you imagine.

Speak to your personal tutor

Another way of getting immediate help, especially if you don’t feel comfortable contacting a lecturer directly, is to speak to your personal tutor. If your tutor can’t help you directly, they will certainly be able to speak to somebody on your behalf who can, including your lecturers. Your personal tutors are there to help you with this kind of thing, so do get to know them and ask them for help whenever you need it. You can find your personal tutor’s details under the 'education' tab on MyEssex.

Other ways of giving feedback

Periodically, we will ask you to complete a short survey about each of your modules as well as a survey each year about your overall experience. We really do pay attention to what you say in these surveys, and they do help us make improvements, so please do take the time to fill them out. You can also find out who the student representative is for your course and talk to them about your problem because they regularly meet with staff in your department through the Student Voice Groups and can take up your issue with them.

We are a living and learning community

We know how important it is to get the quality of your lived experience right so you can succeed with your education. We have lots of support to help you fix any problems you might be experiencing. Please don’t suffer in silence; everyone needs help from time to time and we want to support you in whatever way we can to make sure you have a great experience and succeed in your studies. As already mentioned, your first port of call should be the Student Directory because from here you can find out how to get support about a very wide range of issues including accommodation, technology, finance, accessibility, and health and wellbeing. Also, don’t forget: our award-winning Students’ Union is one of the best in the UK and can also be a great source of help.

Remember, whatever issues to do with your education or lived experience you find yourself experiencing, we are here to help. Your voice really matters. We promise to listen and will do everything we can to help resolve your problems. We are always working to make sure you have the best experience and get the most out of your education.

Professor Dominic Micklewright (Dean of Undergraduate Education)