Research mentoring in higher education in England

  • Hobson, Andrew (PI)
  • Church, Andrew (CoI)
  • Castanheira, Patricia (CoI)
  • Levesley, Tom (CoI)
  • Francis, Ruth (PI)

Project Details


This project examined research mentoring in higher education in England. Our researchers collaborated with Chrysalis Research to investigate current practice, identify challenges and benefits and make recommendations for an effective research mentoring or coaching scheme for the University of Brighton.

The project team at the University of Brighton carried out a review of the international evidence base and Chrysalis Research carried out in-depth interviews with staff in six departments at five universities to explore practice within these institutions.

The objectives of this research project were to:

> understand the practice, purpose and impacts of research mentoring or coaching schemes within universities
> establish the challenges and benefits associated with research mentoring
> identify the range of different mentoring models, and
> determine elements of successful schemes.

Key findings


Evidence from the literature review and the case study research suggested positive outcomes from mentoring. The benefits are reported at both the personal and institutional level:

> personal, in terms of job performance, career progression, increased confidence and resilience for mentees, and personal satisfaction for mentors
> institutional, in terms of loyalty and retention of staff, greater trust, improved job performance, a stronger focus on research and, ultimately, higher-quality research outputs.


Mentoring programmes require a considerable investment in terms of staff time. Even where there is no central resource or training, mentors and mentees must commit to meeting and working together, and this is rarely recognised in workload allocations. Staff time and the availability of a pool of suitable individuals to act as mentors are the biggest challenges to implementing a successful mentoring programme.

Different mentoring models
The mentoring schemes in the Universities that provided the case studies took many forms:

> dyadic mentoring schemes were most common, often between junior and senior staff, however, one scheme was a peer-to-peer group mentoring scheme
> mentoring often took place within research groups or clusters, but one scheme spanned different departments
> mentoring focused on different issues including induction, research outputs or skills for a research career
> schemes involved both formal and informal approaches.

The research highlights that different approaches can work well depending on the institutional context of the scheme and the overall aims of the programme, but all depend on the commitment to, and understanding of, the mentoring scheme by mentor and mentee alike. Despite the diverse range of formats and purposes, it is possible to identify elements of programmes that were reported to be successful.

Elements of successful programmes
The desk research identified that effective mentoring programmes:

> are aligned with the culture of the organisation
> have clear and well-defined purpose, roles and expectations
> are sensitive to power relationships, and are separate from line management and performance
> have frequent and regular contact between mentors and mentees
> have effective communication between mentors and mentees and between the mentoring scheme participants and the senior management groups
>have incentives such as time allocation or salary benefits.

The primary research largely supports these findings and demonstrates some of these aspects in practice. In particular, researchers emphasise the need for:

> common understanding about research mentoring aims by mentor and mentee
> separation from line management and performance to ensure focus on mentee
> regular, but not intensive contact to maintain momentum and allow for implementation of action points
> careful matching, based on trust and respect and common ground
> training or induction to set expectations and ensure positive outcomes
> support from a dedicated resource to administer, promote, monitor and review the mentoring programme
> a loose structure providing guidance on processes and best practice to support mentoring
> willing involvement from mentors and mentees who recognise the value of mentoring
> a large pool of suitably skilled mentors.
Effective start/end date1/01/1531/01/16


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