How Mentoring Can Help You Join the Dots at Uni and Reduce the Pain Points

In this article, Simon Brown shares insight into how mentoring can be used effectively within universities.

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Many years ago, I enjoyed my time as a student at University of Portsmouth (formerly Portsmouth Polytechnic), I was fortunate enough to be enrolled in the first year of a new degree. It was called Cultural Studies and it felt like we were pioneers! The degree entailed social economic history, philosophy, sociology, psychology, literature, and film.

I was elected to be the student representative on the Board of Studies at the time. I also had a passion for poetry and became the editor of the college poetry magazine entitled “Grassroots” which was published on recycled Friends of the Earth paper. I remember spending lots of time in the students union bar – listening to the music “Purple Haze” and “Hey Joe” by Jimi Hendrix.

My other university experience in my younger years was to spend weekends at King Alfred’s College (now Winchester University) which was then a teacher training college where my girlfriend studied, and a few years later when we got married, we visited my brother-in-law who was studying English at the University of Warwick and staying in student digs in Leamington Spa.

When my career developed into Management at Unigate Dairies (now Dairy Crest), I was invited along with other leaders to attend a general management course at the University of Bradford Management School, where we studied total quality management budgeting and forecasting and running a business simulation over four quarters. In the evenings we sampled the many great curry restaurants in and around Bradford. So, this was my university student experience.

More recently, in my 60s, I completed some employed work with the Open University looking at user experience on their intranet and the readability of HR processes and procedures, and I visited their leafy campus at Milton Keynes. Last year, I was invited to Oxford to deliver a talk on global business to summer school students at Pembroke College.

I would say that there are some great things about university life: the intellectual stimulus, the time and freedom to think, seminars where you can discuss different perspectives, the diversity of different backgrounds of the students and the lecturers and of course the extended holidays!

From my perspective, however, there are some pain points about universities. These can be intense.

So what are some of the challenges and pain points at uni?

Firstly, as a “fresher” in your first year, it's a massive change from home life for some students. It's their first experience away from home and for international students, it can be an even stranger experience coming to a new country experiencing a different culture and feeling lonely thousands of miles from home. For freshers the first year is about navigating your way around the campus, the social life, the lecture theatres, and various societies - it takes a while to settle down.

The second pain point can be the one-year work experience in the middle of your degree – usually year two or year three. For example, when my daughter was at uni, in year 3 she went out on a one-year placement into a company and this was an experience very different from years one and two at uni, and quite remote from base camp as the interaction back with the university was limited to a quarterly call from the tutor. So the pain was in being disconnected from the community where she had studied for the previous two years.

The third and most significant pain point is in the final year where, as an undergraduate student, your attention is split between final exams, rigorous swotting and thinking about your career, and where will I go from here. Again, at my daughter’s university, she was fortunate enough to be connected to alumni professionals - those students who had graduated some two years before and were now working in her chosen profession. She was lucky she was assigned a mentor in digital marketing, and this helped her to prepare for her first career move.

So, three big pain points for students – transitions to be managed with careful focus and the need for support. That support can come in the shape of a mentor. For example: in her second year my daughter was a freshers angel, a mentor helping a first-year student to settle into University life. In her final year, she was a mentee to an Alumni mentor and got her first career move within weeks of graduating.

Being at university as a member of staff can also be both a rewarding and challenging experience. Particularly if your university is on a large campus with dispersed faculties and units, and with more than 1000 employees you can feel isolated, cut off, and siloed into your faculty.

Wouldn't it be great to have the opportunity to meet with others from different faculties, other units and get a wider experience? A true full employee experience and a diversity of perspectives.

At PushFar we work with dozens of universities and colleges, to find a way to address these pain points and join the dots to enable wider collaboration and personal development beyond the curriculum of one’s course and beyond the confines of one’s office. We help join the dots by enabling mentoring and as a form of social networking with support, plus learning and development - it really works!

Mentoring achieves the following:

1. It helps to onboard and integrate new students (freshers) and new employees into the world of university life.
2. It enables learning pairs to work together matching people from diverse backgrounds who might otherwise have missed the opportunity to meet and learn together.
3. It maintains the bridge between those students who are out on work placement and students and staff back on the university campus, and this maintains engagement and a sense of belonging.
4. For undergraduates in their final year to be matched with a mentor from the university alumni network, who have already started on their career journey is a great way to accelerate their understanding of work post-graduation. It helps to open networking doors to find first career moves. Very good for graduate placement scores - as Imperial College have found.
5. For university staff, diversity mentoring is a great way to build a more DEI-integrated community and break down the silos between faculties and units and connect people who may be on dispersed sites or several campuses. Again, it can help create a greater sense of community, belonging, and a wider understanding and increasingly effective communication across the whole spectrum of the university.

There are dozens of universities PushFar is currently working with, including:

Bath Spa University, The University of Sheffield, Reading University, The University of Manchester, Imperial College London, Royal College of Music, University of East London, London Metropolitan University and The University of California.

With all of them, we work primarily on student mentoring but a couple on staff mentoring too. You can read more about how PushFar was able to help Bath Spa University in this case study.

Endorsement of PushFar Mentoring by Rachel Oliver Herbert, Careers and Student Enterprise, University of East London:

“Student engagement in mentoring heavily increased with the introduction of the PushFar platform to University of East London’s mentoring service. Our Industrial Advisory Board for Civil Engineering and Construction, consisting of professionals from Balfour Beatty and Atkins have appreciated the ease in which mentoring for student/professional interactions is more seamless and more interactive than ever before. The articles and leader board were of particular interest to students, who approached the platform’s gamification elements with excitement.”

Interestingly, in 2023 Imperial College is ranked on google search as 3rd in the UK as the best University, with the The University of Manchester ranked 7th. In the Sunday Times' top 10, Imperial College is ranked 5th. For student satisfaction, London Metropolitan is ranked 5th at 82%, with Imperial College ranked 8th at 81%. Finally, Imperial College is currently ranked top University for graduate career prospects with 92%.

Typically, the leader of the university mentoring program is the head of employability for students or learning and development for employees.

PushFar is a cloud-based mentoring platform which enables the matching of mentoring pairs, the scheduling of meetings using video meeting technology goal setting and tracking of progress. The programme can be administered by the relevant officers at the university and the software can be configured to meet the specific needs of the various mentoring groups that will use the platform.

It's a cost-effective solution with licence costs based on the number of participants typically priced like two coffees per person per month.

If your university is looking to onboard new students (especially international students) more seamlessly and if staff employee engagement is important to you and if you want to have a high career placement rate for your graduates, contact us at PushFar for further information by clicking the link here to arrange a demonstration of how PushFar can support you.

This article was guest written by Chair of the PushFar Advisory Board, Simon Brown. You can contact him at or find him on LinkedIn. February 2023.

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