The Eastern Arc Mentoring Scheme

Eastern Arc offers us the chance to go beyond the limits of our own university and work creatively with colleagues across the consortium.

This may take the form of a research collaboration, but it may also be an opportunity to get a different perspective, alternative insights, and supplementary skills in a wide range of areas relating to our academic life and practice.

Mentoring is a key way to facilitate this.

What is mentoring?

Mentoring is a voluntary, but formal, arrangement whereby ‘an experienced individual, outside the reporting relationship, holds regular meetings and discussions and takes a personal interest in guiding and supporting the development of a less experienced person in progressing within and beyond their immediate role’ (Hale, 2000).

Mentoring can cover all aspects of your career. You can be either – or both – a mentor or a mentee. In standard mentoring it is usually a more senior colleague who mentors; in reverse mentoring the more junior colleague can offer specific insights and knowledge to senior mentees.

Mentoring should be viewed as a relationship rather than a management activity. It should be a safe non-judgmental relationship that facilitates a wide range of learning, experimentation, and development.

Benefits of mentoring

Mentoring across Eastern Arc and between different institutions will have a benefit to both mentors and mentees.

  • Mentees: for mentees, it offers a source of support outside institutional structures, therefore clearly separated from management structures, providing a fresh perspective on many issues, and allaying potential concerns about confidentiality;
  • Mentors: for mentors there is personal satisfaction; the opportunity to gain insight into a different institution, and to expand networks; evidence of taking on a senior role within the academic community.

Feedback from last year’s cohort

After the 2020/21 round of the scheme, we got feedback from those who took part. Mentees appreciated having ‘an external, objective view, sounding board, and advice’, ‘having someone to talk with about my feelings towards the new role,’ and ‘finding someone who ‘gets’ me and having unconditional support from someone with lots of experience of what you have been through.’

For some, the experience was significant. ‘I am not exaggerating when I say this experience has been life changing,’ wrote one mentee. ‘It made me realise I do have a place in academia and that I am allowed to take up space, and find meaningful ways to work, I don’t just have to be grateful for whatever scraps my employers throw my way.’

Mentors welcomed the chance to have ‘a mentoring relationship with someone outside of your own institution. It forces you to listen to the issues rather than seeking to provide solutions based on your understanding the structures. It also allows a greater sense of honesty.’

Another wrote: ‘It was hugely rewarding to see the mentee benefiting from advice and becoming more confident. On a personal level, I also found their energy contagious so it did boost my morale when I was feeling less motivated about my own work and plans for the future.’

For both, it was an opportunity to ‘shake up set ways of thinking, whether that be ‘It doesn’t have to be done like this’ or ‘Thank God my institution doesn’t do things like that’: both are equally illuminating and helpful.’

Finally, one participant concluded that the scheme was ‘a way of providing mentoring for those who wish to make use of it from within a small group of institutions with distinct similarities, connections, and overlaps. It helps to provide something I think can be lacking elsewhere.’

How does the Eastern Arc mentoring scheme work?

The scheme is intended to be as non-bureaucratic and as non-hierarchical as possible.

Once the application deadline has passed (see below), we will match mentors and mentees. They will then be invited to a launch meeting at which they will meet others on the programme. We will outline the next steps, and there will be an opportunity to ask any questions.

Depending on what you wish to be mentored for, the mentor will look at your career profile as a whole and share experience about promotion, grant capture, teaching with support and encouragement. In other words, academic mentoring gives a space to discuss academic life and career progression that does not otherwise exist.

Mentees will then have responsibility for setting up meetings after the initial introduction. Mentors have a responsibility to commit to a certain number of meetings. Although we are not prescriptive about the number of meetings, we would suggest that there should be a minimum of three.

Meetings can be face to face, or via phone, Zoom, etc. There is no fixed time period for a mentoring relationship; it is led by mentor and mentee.

Eastern Arc will act as a point of contact for any potential issues arising from the scheme. After the initial meeting, mentors and mentees can ask to be re-matched on a ‘no-fault’ basis if it does not seem that the particular match will work.

At the end of the year, we will collate any feedback on the scheme and adapt the process as appropriate.

How to apply for the scheme

To apply, fill in this form this form (Word) together with a two page CV and submit them to Phil Ward. The deadline for doing so is 31 October 2021. 

Further information

We will keep this page updated as the scheme develops. This may include FAQs, based on the queries we get.

For specific questions about the scheme, contact Phil Ward. If you would like to talk informally to the academic lead for the scheme, contact Tracey Loughran.

Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels