Tutors are frequently asked to provide references for current and past students in response to enquiries by prospective employers and by institutions offering postgraduate courses. When writing references it is helpful to bear in mind the following points:
- Use hard evidence (e.g. examination results, etc.) whenever possible
- Try to make only positive points, hinting at negatives only when essential to do so
- If a pro-forma is provided, do not try to comment on aspects which you are not in a position to assess
- Be aware of legal considerations, for example, Data Protection.
In some cases, it can be very difficult to write a positive reference for students – indeed some may feel that no reference at all is better than a poor reference. It is also extremely difficult to write a reference for a tutee who has not attended any scheduled Personal Tutorial meetings. Tutors can refuse to write references for students, it might be that in certain cases a colleague who taught the student is in a better position to write a reference.
From time to time the Centre for Staff Training and Development run sessions on writing references.