Higher education advice worker: job description

Higher education advice worker: job description

Higher education advice workers or student services advisers provide a free, confidential, non-judgemental, independent information, advice and advocacy service on a wide range of issues for current and prospective students.
Higher education advice workers may also be called student services advisers, student welfare officers or other similar titles.

What does a higher education advice worker do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Advice workers are employed by colleges of further and higher education and universities. They offer an advocacy service to students and staff working for the organisation. There is some variation in responsibilities between organisations, although key duties of the job include:

  • interviewing staff and students
  • providing advice about debt/finance, health, disability, disciplinary matters, personal problems, academic studies, welfare benefits, employment, housing issues etc
  • assessing problems
  • writing reports
  • producing information for publications and web pages
  • mediating on a students’ behalf with landlords, banks, academic staff or other students
  • providing legal representation at court cases, disciplinary hearings and tribunals
  • maintaining information systems
  • compiling statistics
  • researching cases
  • giving talks
  • interpreting legislation
  • maintaining confidential case records
  • keeping up-to-date with appropriate legislation and policies

Liaising with other internal departments and external organisations is a key feature of the work. Dealing with large numbers of enquiries from students that may be in crisis situations can make the work emotionally demanding.

Vacancies are advertised in local, regional and national newspapers and Adviser magazine, as well as on higher education institutions’ own online job boards.

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into advising in higher education for both graduates and school leavers; graduates are often preferred due to their experience of university, but personality and relevant experience are often more important than qualifications.

Relevant degrees for this profession are: law, counselling, guidance, psychology, education, social/community work, public administration or social sciences.

Work experience can be gained by helping in a local advice centre or students' union welfare office. There are also opportunities to volunteer for Citizens Advice.

To find out about how you can get into careers in this area via a school leaver route (for example through an apprenticeship or school leaver training programme) see the advice, guidance and advocacy section of the careers in social work page and public service page of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.

Key skills for higher education advice workers

Higher education advice workers should be highly organised, resourceful, mature, confident, caring and patient. Empathetic listening skills and good communication skills are essential, as are analytical, presentation and teamwork skills. Knowledge and/or experience of relevant legislation is also useful.