University of Bristol peer mentoring and peer assisted study sessions
The University of Bristol has run a peer-mentoring scheme since 2006. It has grown to a substantial programme, offering mentoring to some 1,000 students - about a quarter of the first year student body - with 250-300 mentors offering their support. The programme plays an important role in helping people adapt to university life.
The scheme makes contact with students when they get a confirmed offer, to ask if they would like a mentor.
Mentors generally come from the same course as the mentees, and are trained to ensure they can handle the range of emotions which first-years may go through as they start their transition to university life. The scheme also allows new first-years to make a particular request about who mentors them – for example, mature students can ask to be mentored by fellow older students.
Mentors approach mentees a couple of weeks before the university’s welcome week and offer them the chance to meet up in the first week. Many show mentees around as well as meeting them to talk through the transition to university and any last-minute worries. After the first week mentors contact mentees on a weekly basis to offer support.
Many students are unsure whether they will fit in and feel at home at university, and our experience is that mentoring of new first-year students by existing students really helps, whatever your background
Widening participation and student support manager
University of Bristol
Feedback has shown that the biggest benefits are in helping a new student to settle in, answering questions and giving advice on practical topics – for example talking about accommodation or balancing academic work, joining clubs and societies and social life. The scheme also plays an important role in helping to flag up more serious issues faced by a small minority of new students which can then be addressed in other ways.