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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 university 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 are typically based in a university's advice service and offer a support and advocacy service to students. They may have a particular focus on providing support to students from disadvantaged backgrounds and disabled, part-time and mature students.

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 and other issues
  • assessing problems
  • writing reports
  • producing information for publications and web pages
  • mediating on a student's 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
  • providing targeted careers advice to help a student move on to employment or further study

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, which is published by Citizens Advice, as well as on higher education institutions’ own online job boards.

Qualifications and training required

Graduates are often preferred for roles in higher education advice due to their experience of university. However, personality and relevant experience are often more important than qualifications and there may be routes into this area of work for job hunters who do not have degrees.

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.

Employers typically offer their own training programmes. There are various qualifications available in general advice work at a range of levels, and the charity Advice UK provides information about these.

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.

Supported by

This describes editorially independent and objective content, written and edited by the GTI content team, with which the organisation would like to be associated and has provided some funding in order to be so. Any external contributors featuring in the article are independent from the supporter organisation and contributions are in line with our non-advertorial policy.

Advertising feature by

This describes content that has been written and edited in close collaboration with the organisation, who has funded the feature; it is advertising. We are committed to upholding our ethical values of transparency and honesty when dealing with students and feel that this is the best way not to deceive consumers of our content. The content will be written by GTI editors, but the organisation will have had input into the messaging, provided knowledge and contributors and approved the content.

In Partnership

This content has been written or sourced by AGCAS, the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, and edited by TARGETjobs as part of a content partnership. AGCAS provides impartial information and guidance resources for higher education student career development and graduate employment professionals.

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