We use a number of different channels to communicate with students:
- in person
- web (public and internal)
- notice board
In person. Most frequently this applies in a teaching context such as a lecture, tutorial or lab session. You can also call into the School office in the Jack Cole building to ask a question, or talk to staff if you bump into them in the corridor or the coffee area. Most people have an ‘open door’ policy, which means that if they’re in their office with the door open, and they’re not obviously in the middle of an in-person or online meeting, it’s OK to knock and ask if they have time to answer a query. Some people may advertise regular ‘office hours’ when they’ll be available in their office.
Email. The School makes very heavy use of email to communicate information relating to teaching. Although University policy requires you to check email at least once every two days, we strongly recommend that you do so more frequently. See also: further notes on email response times and email etiquette below.
Web. The external-facing public website contains mostly information intended for prospective students and other members of the public. Information relating to teaching appears on internal websites including MMS and Student Resources (a.k.a. studres).
Notice board. There is a notice board outside the ground-floor Jack Cole lab, where various events and opportunities are advertised.
How long should you expect to wait for a response to a query emailed to a member of staff? There is no strict rule on this, but we aim to respond to queries within two working days, in line with the policy on students checking email. If you have not received a response within three working days, feel free to send a brief, polite, follow-up. Of course, if you have a query that is genuinely urgent there is no need to wait for three days; you can try one of the alternative contacts listed on the Contacts and Problems pages.
Note the reference to working days above. Many staff work every weekday, Monday to Friday, but some staff work part-time or have flexible working arrangements, meaning that not every weekday is a working day for them. You should not expect an immediate response to email sent during the weekend or on a day that is not a working day for the recipient, or to email sent outside normal working hours. Again, if you need to contact someone in relation to an acutely urgent matter, you should not rely on email, but use the emergency contact details published by Student Services.
It can be difficult to know what is an appropriate style of writing when emailing University staff, particularly for new students. Overall, writing style is not a big deal so long as you use common sense: always remain polite in communications with staff, and try to phrase your message as clearly as possible. The examples below illustrate some commonly-observed email styles.
Dear Ms Jones (or Mr Singh or Dr Collins or Professor Saouli)
I hope this email finds you well.
I was wondering if I could arrange a time to meet you to discuss your project proposal, which sounds very interesting?
This example is fine in terms of appropriate introduction and sign-off, and the request is very clear. Do make sure, if you use a title such as Mrs/Ms/Mr/Dr/Prof, that you use the correct title; these are shown on the School staff list, and there are equivalent lists on the websites of other schools.
More subjectively, the “I hope this…” line is pretty meaningless, and would probably be better removed.
How about that meeting?
Cheers Bilal :)
This introduction is much less formal than example 1. Although many staff are comfortable with using first names in communications with students, don’t assume it. If you have previously corresponded with the member of staff and they have signed using just their first name, or if you are on first name terms in spoken conversation, this will be acceptable. Otherwise, it’s safer to stick to a more formal approach as in example 1.
The body of the email, while commendably concise, is rather vague as to what the student is requesting. It’s usually better to be more explicit.
The sign-off is a bit on the informal side, but not a problem if that’s what you’re comfortable with.
Hey – Ill be late to the tut tomorrow, big party tonight
This is an (exaggerated) example of poor style. Both the ‘Hey’ and the lack of name of the person being addressed are unacceptably informal for email to staff, as is the lack of any sign-off. In terms of the content of the email, missing a tutorial would be something that you ask permission for, rather than just informing, and of course permission would only be granted for a genuine serious reason. Also, most staff work on multiple modules so including the module code would be helpful.
There is lots of advice online; here are a few pages with sensible suggestions: - https://students.unimelb.edu.au/academic-skills/resources/learning-online/email-etiquette - https://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/~mgl/hsds/email_etiquette.html - https://www.unr.edu/writing-speaking-center/student-resources/writing-speaking-resources/email-etiquette-for-students