A guide to winning over your tutor

Image Description: An Oxford tutorial being conducted

In a article published earlier this term Asher Weisz, OxYou’s foremost (and arguably only) journalist, argued that the best way to ensure success at Oxford is to ‘do as little work as possible, and make sure your tutors love you’. This bold and (let’s be honest) accurate statement begs the question: but how does one make one’s tutor love them?

After all, tutors are difficult and chaotic people to understand. Yours might be a hip young DPhil student, someone who replies to you asking for yet another essay extension with ‘totally cool, stay vibey x’; or a dinosaur fossilised from the 60s, trapped in a prison of tweed and emotional repression with no idea how to type your reading list; or a person of total bitterness who is enraged by the fact the university is making them teach at all.

Either way, despite these discrepancies there are still easy ways to win over your tutor regardless of their age, college, or sanity. They are as follows:

1. Light-hearted banter targeted at the 40-70 age demographic

Although some grad students do teach, the majority of Oxford tutors will likely have been born between 1950 and 1980. In order to win them over, it is therefore key that you harness all the powers of Boomer/Gen X humour in order to get them on your good side.

This age demographic has terrible taste: it is thanks to them that Chris Evans exerted a tyranny over breakfast radio for so long and Ed Sheeran continues to sell records. But they are also a simple breed, easily won over by a well-timed comment on last night’s episode of Bake Off or an extended discussion about how Prince Harry has ‘let the Queen down’. 

Consider the kind of topics that will be being discussed at neighbourhood book groups/clubs across the country, and employ as necessary.


Tutor: I was disappointed by the quality of this essay.

Student: I was too, but what was more disappointing was Noel Fielding’s shirt choice in last night’s Bake Off episode.

Tutor (eagerly): Oh, yes! Horrendous… Not to mention Prue’s glasses…

2. Notes of affirmation

Tutors, as members of an older generation, are often not as in touch with their emotions as students. This, however, doesn’t mean that they don’t still crave the validation they staunchly refuse to offer their pupils.

It is worth peppering in a few subtle platitudes and generic quotes throughout your work, both to raise their spirits subconsciously and assuage the angry remarks they will inevitably want to leave after reading through your muddled arguments.

See here this exemplar from a historian’s essay:

Furthermore, throughout both ‘Science as a Vocation’ and The Protestant Ethic Weber is acutely aware of the impermanence of all academic work due to the infinite nature of Wissenschaft and ever increasing specialism. (You are loved and valued.) In the ‘Science as a Vocation’ lecture he makes it clear that, since specialization ‘will continue into the limitless future’. old works and ideas will be subject to continual revisions and reappraisals as the work of specialists delves deeper into the original problem. (Today you will be the best version of yourself; don’t give in to hate.)”

Thanks to this cunning subliminal method, the student in question received only one ‘Yuk!’ written in the margins of their essay, a significant decrease on the usual average of five.

3. Repeating their own research back to them

Got a book or paper written by your tutor that is relevant to the subject of this week’s tutorial? Read it very carefully and present their arguments as if they were your own. If your tutor has beef with another academic, be sure to shit all over their opponent’s work and describe it as ‘a naive piece of academia’ or, even more damningly, ‘poorly researched’.

It doesn’t really matter whether you agree with your tutor’s arguments or not. What, you thought Oxford was a place of integrity?

4. Mentioning ‘the faculty’

This is not only a good way of getting on your tutor’s good side but also an easy way to stall for time should your essay for that week be on the raw side of half-baked.

Most tutors have inexplicable but potent anger directed at the faculty executive that looms above them with all the menace of a Star Destroyer made from cotton wool. Do your best to play into these hostilities. 


Student: Am I supposed to have classes for this module? The faculty seems to prescribe them.

Tutor: The faculty? How would I know, they never tell me anything!

Student: Oh, right –

Tutor: Never listen to anything the Faculty says or does. All they do is create ridiculous and superfluous rules that muddy the whole system and supersede the tutor’s authority. Creating external legislation on personal teaching styles completely ruins the whole point of the personal side of Oxford learning, and the amount of EMAILS they send out …. [They continue in this verbose and tangential manner for the next 15 minutes.]

5. Not doing the work

My tutor made things very clear in his meeting with his First Years in Freshers’ Week: “You,” he announced in supercillious tones. “Are not your tutor’s priority.”

This was quite a blistering assertion to proclaim before a cohort of students who had probably been coddled by enthusiastic teachers delighted by their ‘love for learning’, and ability to read the difficult Biff, Chip and Kipper books, since primary school. My teacher, not really caring about my work! Shocking!

Yet herein lies the truth. Some tutors might enjoy teaching, yet is is undoubtedly very low on their list of priorities and eats away at the time they could be spending doing their own much more important research, which is why they bothered to become academics in the first place. 

You doing the work, therefore, doesn’t really matter to them that much. One less essay to mark, they might think, hooray! More time to spend investigating snail shells/Chinese coal mines/the dust particles in my curtains!

They might think like this, but it won’t stop them from giving you a scathing report complaining about an ‘absence of diligence’ at the end of term. I did say this article would detail how to get them to like you: a completely separate (and much duller) article is required to learn ‘how to actually pass your degree’. Stay vibey x

Image credit: Ilmicrofono Oggiono via Flickr