Hi and welcome to this new blog which will provide periodic updates on the progress of our mentoring enhancement project. In this first post I want to provide a little context about what we do here at the University of St Andrews and why we are so keen to put some time and effort into trying to make mentoring better. In later posts I will explain more about how our mentoring schemes work, what the benefits are, the lessons we have already learned about setting up and running mentoring schemes and of course, about how our project to make mentoring better is going.
So, to business. For the last four years we have been running a cross-institutional mentoring scheme which we run collaboratively with the University of Dundee. This scheme, the 'Early Career Academics Mentoring Scheme' is aimed at supporting the professional and career development of research staff and academics. Originally this scheme was run as a pilot for female academics only, as the higher up you look in the academic hierarchy, the fewer women you will find. The pilot was judged to have been successful, but there was demand from academics across the board, so in the following cycle the scheme was opened to all academics and research staff - male and female.
Because our scheme originated as a way to support career development for female academics, it was recently used as a case study by the Equalities Exchange Unit and has been included in their report 'Mentoring - progressing womens' careers in Higher Education'.
The scheme in its current form is now in its fourth cycle and soon to enter its fifth. In the current cycle we have seen a 60% increase in the number of participants, and at the same time we are trying to be more proactive about monitoring progress of mentoring partnerships and in supporting mentors and mentees. This has put a strain on the scheme, generating a lot more data and requiring more resources. In the long run this will be hard to sustain, so we need to find ways to create greater capability in our mentoring schemes, so that we can provide better support, to more participants without using a lot more resources. In particular we want to look at ways to improve data management, so that data handling is easier and more accurate and so that we can automate some of the administrative processes around our mentoring schemes. We also want to look at creating an online mentoring centre, where we can bring together a range of materials, tools and resources which will make it easier for people to find out about mentoring, join mentoring schemes and get ongoing support once they are participating - either as a mentor or mentee.
In my next post I will talk in a bit more detail about the objectives of our enhancment project and the benefits we hope to achieve.