As we approach the new semester and welcome week at Manchester Met, Bethany Jay (Social Care PhD student and PGR Rep for the Faculty of Health and Education) and Dr Sue Caton (Reader in Social Care and Social Work) reflect on their efforts to help the PGR community by piloting a mentoring scheme back in January through to June this year.
We have always wanted to help postgraduate researchers (PGRs) feel a sense of community and belonging in our faculty and department, as a PGR Representative in Health and Education, and a previous Research Degrees Co-Ordinator for Social Care and Social Work. In 2022, we both took part in a mentoring scheme through the University’s Future RKE (Research and Knowledge Exchange) Leaders programme (Beth, a PGR mentee, and Sue, a PGR mentor). By taking part in the scheme, the value of mentorship for PGR students was clear. We found PGRs felt supported by researchers in departments and faculties away from their own and felt a sense of belonging in the wider research community. We experienced first hand the benefits of mentoring. Therefore, we decided to explore the value of a mentoring scheme departmentally, in the Department of Social Care and Social Work.
Following seamless approval from departmental leadership, we organised a six month pilot mentoring scheme between PGR students and Research Associates/Senior Research Associates (RAs). We organised the pilot with the intention of building more of a research community for both RAs and PGR students in the department. Thanks to support from staff in the Graduate School, we were able to use and adapt the training and introduction material from the Manchester Met PGR-ECR leadership mentoring scheme in our departmental pilot scheme.
The introduction took place in January 2023 and provided mentors and mentees with information on what mentorship is, how it differs from PhD supervision, mentoring principles, potential benefits, rationale, expectations, introduced relevant documentation (mentoring agreements and logs) and gave PGR students and RAs the opportunity to ask any questions before the scheme began.
PGR mentees were then matched with RA mentors. four RAs mentored four PGR students for six months, meeting online, once a month. Once the pilot had finished, we collected feedback from those who took part, to find out about their experiences.
Although mentees and mentors did feed back minor challenges within their mentorship, such as scheduling, time commitments and with discussion topics, overall feedback was overwhelmingly positive. All mentors and mentees agreed that they would like to see a mentoring scheme rolled out more widely.
Mentees found their partnerships to be a source of support outside supervision during their studies, and liked the informal and developmental partnership that was nurtured. Further, mentoring partnerships were viewed as a networking opportunity between RAs and PGRs in the department, something that otherwise would not have happened with mentors and mentees working predominantly remotely.
The PGRs that took part in the pilot mentoring scheme in Social Care and Social Work shared our positive experiences in mentoring, feeling more support and more belonging in the departmental research community. Combining our own experiences with the experiences of Social Care and Social Work PGR mentees, the value of mentoring to the research community at Manchester Met is clear.
With welcome week soon approaching, new PGRs will be enrolling onto courses across the University. Whether they are embarking on the start of their PGR journey, continuing, or finishing their journey, in the new academic year, mentorship can provide an opportunity for PGRs to feel part of our research community.
We have experienced the benefits of mentorship and want to share them far and wide.
If you have any questions or want to find out more about our experiences of facilitating the pilot mentoring scheme, don’t hesitate to get in touch: