How can I provide pastoral support to students?

Getting started


  • What is pastoral support?
  • To what extent am I expected to provide pastoral support for my students?
  • What resources are available to help me to proivde effective pastoral support for students?


Providing Effective Pastoral Support

It is often difficult to say where academic guidance ends and pastoral care begins, but we usually think of pastoral support as that which considers the mental and emotional well being of the student and the general welfare of the student. For example, a paper by Sayer et al (see Taking it Further) reports that stress among medical students is a well recognised problem. Helping a student to deal with stress is a pastoral care activity.

However, as Sayer et al note (see Taking it Further), the provision of pastoral care can impact on learning through improving a student's mental and emotional well being and through creating a culture in which mistakes can be acknowledged and valued as learning experiences. Sayer et al also note that ultimately, good pastoral care may lead to better examination results, improved student retention and completion rates, reduced psychological stress and increased student satisfaction.

Pastoral support includes supporting students:

  • in identifying and achieving career and professional aspirations;
  • applying for jobs, scholarships or bursaries;
  • with special educational needs (such as dyslexia or dyspraxia);
  • with physical or sensory impairment or disability;
  • with mental health or emotional difficulties;
  • who are parents or who have other domestic responsibilities;
  • from other countries and cultures, especially if they are in Auckland or New Zealand on their own or for the first time;
  • with finance, accommodation or visa issues;
  • who have been subject to bullying or harassment; and
  • in other personal or professional circumstances. 

Sanjay Garg talks about providing pastoral care to his students:

Click to play the video (requires Flash Player).

As an educator you are not expected to provide the full range of pastroral care yourself; however, you do need to be aware of university and other support agencies that are available to help students to deal with the wide range of issues that may arise in a pastoral care situation. For example, students may come to discuss physical health problems and/or mental health problems and/or a conflict with another student and/or a conflict with a teacher and/or philosophical/religious issues to do with meaning in their lives. The "Taking if Further" section provides a list of resources.

Unless you have serious grounds to believe that a student is a danger to themselves or others (in which case you need to inform someone who can deal with this professionally and do not need the student's consent) it is good practice to consult with the student and gain their agreement about who you need to discuss issues with, how the process will be taken forward and any consequences for the student. In the vast majority of cases, a student who asks for help will be very pleased that you are helping them to deal with their problems.  

The Taking it Further tab provides a summary of University support structures for the provision of pastoral support. The Addressing Diversity activity area also includes discussion of issues relating to provide education to diverse student groups.


Merit in Student support, guidance and supervision might be achieved through e.g. being proactive in meeting the academic and pastoral needs of students through planning supervision and carrying out supervision appropriately. Supervision was covered in the previous two sections of this "module". This module has provided information on pastoral care.

  • You can start an ePortfolio record to evidence your progress towards achieving merit in supervision and pastoral care.
You might evidence excellence in supervision and pastoral care through e.g. leadership in supervision and pastoral care and through providing evidence of successful PhD completions. Distinction might be achieved through e.g. being sought after as a supervisor at an international level.

Taking it further

Melissa, M. S., Brian, T. C., & Diana, F. W. (2002). The Pastoral Pool: an evaluation of a new system of pastoral care provision. Medical Education, 36(7), 651-658.
Medical students experience significant stress and stress-related problems. The benefits of support during training are described in this paper. Recently, student support systems have become increasingly stretched as medical schools merge, courses become modular and staff face increasing clinical and research pressures. The pastoral support system at St Bartholomew's and the Royal London School of Medicine has been changed in response to an evaluation of the old system of personal tutors. Pastoral care is now provided by a group of willing staff members known to have an interest in student welfare. The group is known as the `Pastoral Pool' (PP). Students and staff PP members completed similar questionnaires addressing their expectations of the PP and identifying the need for support systems in general. Pastoral Pool activity was investigated using confidential record sheets stating the frequency, duration and content of each PP encounter.

 University of Auckland Resources

Student Support and Services

The  pages include links to information on accommodation, WAVE (Welfare, Advocacy, Voice, Education) an Auckland University Students' Association organisation, offering students help with a wide range of issues; personal support (including counselling, spiritual guidance and medical and dental practitioners); support for students with disabilities, international students, Māori and Pacific students and parents, and careers guidance and other services.

Academic and Learning Support

These web pages provide a wide range of information about groups and individuals who provide pastoral support for students. This includes student groups, the UniGuide mentoring scheme for new students by current students and the Tuākana mentoring programme which assists new Māori and Pacific students to settle into life at the University.

Pages for Postgraduate students

These pages provide information on all aspects of study and a specific page identifying personal and spiritual support for postgraduate students.

Computer Assisted Learning for the Mind (CALM) website


This website produced by Antonio Fernando and Fiona Moir at the University of Auckland, is a resource designed to help students to manage their emotional well-being.

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How can I provide pastoral support to students?

“A teaching philosophy can help you to reflect on how and why you teach. If you don’t have a teaching philosophy, you might want to consider writing one. You can take a look at What makes a good teacher? to get started. If you already have a teaching philosophy, you might want to reflect on how the work that you are doing here fits with that philosophy”.