References for Students

References for Students

The advice below is general and applies whether the reference is written by an adviser, tutor, lecturer, examiner, or other member of staff, or results from consultation of the individual's record.  For further guidance on writing references for staff, please consult the HR guidance on references for staff.

• A reference must state whether it is written on behalf of the University or in a personal capacity, and whether the individual is known to the referee.

• Advisers should indicate to students whether they will provide a reference based on the factual record in the individual's file, or only provide a reference when the student seeks the adviser's prior permission.

• If an adviser is not able or willing to provide a reference, then the refusal must be neutral and not imply a negative reference.

• A reference that is very brief or overly enthusiastic may undermine the reference in the eyes of the recipient.

• A reference must be factually correct as far as is practical and state within what parameters the reference is given, e.g. as an adviser, tutor, lecturer, examiner, or other member of staff, or from consulting the individual's record.

• Any evaluative comment in a reference must be clearly identified as such.

• An opinion, within a reference, about an individual's suitability must be based on facts available to the referee.

• A reference must not provide any sensitive personal data, such as health information, without the explicit consent in writing of the student. If necessary a response such as "I am not in a position to comment regarding X's health/sickness/etc." is acceptable.

• A copy of a reference should be retained for one year.