We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Organisation Development

Guidelines for the mentoring of academics and research staff


All new members of academic staff, regardless of seniority, should have an appointed mentor to assist in the induction process. The rationale behind this is that even experienced academics need guidance on the procedures of both the department and University. For new academics the need for ongoing support on all aspects of academic practice is particularly important.

The Guidelines

The best way to operate a mentoring system will vary from department to department and with each individual new member of staff. This document provides 'minimum' guidelines for those departments that do not have effective research and teaching mentoring in place. Departments that do have such mentoring in place should ensure that their practices meet or exceed these minimum guidelines. The guidelines are built on the experiences of other universities and from feedback from current mentors and new academics at Durham.

The following table, adapted from Klasen and Clutterbuck (Implementing Mentoring Schemes, 2002), sets out some of the characteristics of a developmental mentoring process.

Listening & questioning with empathy Using coaching behaviours Punitive
Sharing experience & learning Providing help and support Performance management
Developing insight through reflection Opening doors Supervision
Being a sounding board & confidant Brokering or facilitating links Assessment for third party
Professional &/or critical friendship Didactic
Set up with specific outcomes intended

Keeping Records

A mentor may decide, or a Head of Department may request, that brief records of key mentoring meetings be kept. Becoming too worried about paper keeping can detract from the main purposes of mentoring.

Academic Probation mentor

Essentially the role is one of guidance - someone who is able to advise, encourage, support and help to develop an individual's ability to think for themselves and take responsibility for their own professional development. Wherever possible, new staff should be informed of their mentor(s) with their joining information or at the latest within a month of their start date.

A mentor would not act as the Reviewer under the University's Annual Staff Review scheme. However, either the new academic or the Head of Department may ask for input from the mentor at the annual staff or probation reviews.