Mentoring Scheme for Newly Appointed Lecturers

  1. Introduction
  2. What is mentoring?
  3. Mentoring arrangements for probationary lecturing staff
  4. The responsibility of the Head of School
  5. The responsibility of the mentor
  6. The responsibilities of the person being mentored
  7. Probation arrangements and mentoring
  8. Disagreement between mentors and mentees


The University strongly supports the continued professional development of its staff. This can best be achieved by a supportive structure that encourages and enables colleagues to pursue professional development across the whole spectrum of their work in the University. The University Court has decided to put in place mentoring as its chosen approach to these developmental needs. While the scheme described here only applies to newly appointed lecturing staff, some Schools may also wish to include Teaching Fellows in these arrangements.

This document describes the roles and responsibilities of mentors, mentees and Heads of Schools. Mentoring already takes place in an informal manner in almost all Schools across the University. The University's approach to mentoring is to provide a basic framework on which Schools may build their own practices. The process does not require a complex bureaucracy, however, it is undeniable that those colleagues who act as mentors will have to put aside time if the process is to be successful. The support of new colleagues is one of the most important tasks for us all and therefore the University Court believes that time and attention spent in this way is highly desirable.

This document should be read in conjunction with the Academic Review for New Starts (All Academic Staff).

What is mentoring?

The term mentoring is used widely in a range of situations at work usually referring to help of varying sorts provided by senior colleagues. In the St Andrews scheme mentoring has a specific meaning: it is an activity that takes place outwith the normal Head of School-colleague relationship. Thus, a key element of mentoring is that the professional development of the person being mentored is unfettered by the necessary constraints of the managerial role of a Head of School.

The mentor is not in a managerial relationship to the individual; instead he/she offers guidance, support, encouragement and informed feedback to the individuals involved. The mentor her/himself is also a beneficiary from the process by the opportunity provided to make contact with new colleagues and ideas and from the scope to reflect on her/his own skills in research, teaching and administration. Successful mentoring enables the individual to develop a realistic assessment of her/his skills and to develop a strategy that will establish a career path within the context of the University's objectives.

Mentoring arrangements for probationary lecturing staff

Within each School every academic probationer will be provided with a mentor. Some Schools may also wish to include Teaching Fellows in these arrangements. The Head of School will assign a mentor after consultation with both the mentor and the member of staff. Heads of Schools will provide an alternative mentor if asked.

Each School will have a number of colleagues to act as mentors. It will be for the Heads of Schools to select mentors; in some cases these may be senior members of the department, while in others it may be appropriate to appoint less senior colleagues for this role. Occasionally it may be appropriate to arrange the allocation of a mentor from outwith the School. In any event, successful mentoring depends on both parties being able to form an effective working relationship.

The mentor and member of staff will meet regularly throughout the period for which the mentoring relationship lasts (until probation has been completed successfully). The responsibilities of Heads of Schools, mentors and members of staff are dealt with in more detail below, however, broadly these individuals will meet regularly to discuss issues of progress with the member of staff and identify areas for future action, as outlined in the Academic Probation Scheme.

A close developmental relationship is established between the mentor and mentee. At the same time the person being mentored will establish a managerial relationship with the Head of School (or delegate) and there may be times when the person being mentored finds it helpful to have her/his mentor involved in discussions with the Head of School. The person being mentored is in control of any such involvement by the mentor. These arrangements can be displayed as follows:

Mentoring academic staff flowchart

The responsibility of the Head of School

Mentoring is not a substitute for day-to-day management within a School. The Head of School will ensure that appropriate arrangements in this regard are maintained for probationary staff. In addition to the responsibilities outlined in the Academic Probation Scheme Policy, the Head of School is responsible within the mentoring scheme for:

  • maintaining a group of mentors within the School and ensuring that they are fully briefed for their roles.
  • meeting mentors regularly to ensure that as a group they are aware of the research, teaching and administrative objectives and needs of the School and to discuss general issues relating to the operation of the mentoring arrangements in the School.
  • working with mentors to ensure that probationers have appropriate support for research and realistic levels of involvement in teaching and administration during the probationary period.

The responsibility of the mentor

The mentor is neither the manager of the member of staff nor responsible for the work undertaken by the individual. The mentor’s role is to work with the member of staff to help that person develop her/his career in research, teaching and administration so as to meet the University's objectives and to ensure that (s)he has sufficient support and constructive feedback to be able to achieve this objective. The range of roles a mentor fulfils will vary over time depending on circumstances and the needs of the individuals involved. Typically the activities include being a sounding board, coaching, supporting, providing expert academic advice, providing advice about general matters, identifying sources of information and advice, especially about both short and long term career plans.

The mentor is responsible to the Head of School and (s)he is responsible for:

  • keeping in touch regularly with the member of staff;
  • ensuring the probationer is aware of the research, teaching and administration objectives within the School and the University;
  • ensuring that the member of staff is fully aware of the criteria in relation to their own probation objectives;
  • accompanying, if requested, the member of staff to review meetings with the Head of School; giving advice to the member of staff when requested and offering advice when (s)he believes it appropriate;
  • offering to observe the probationer’s full range of teaching (lectures, seminars, tutorials, laboratory classes etc.) and providing constructive feedback and advice;
  • discussing any evaluation of teaching through feedback obtained by the member of staff, e.g. student questionnaires, peer or head of school observation of teaching;
  • discussing regularly research plans and other activities appropriate to the discipline (e.g. discussions, group meetings), assisting in drawing up grant proposals, commenting on draft publications etc. and providing constructive feedback;
  • if not an expert in the research area of the member of staff, with the agreement of the person being mentored, discussing performance with other researchers in the members of staff’s area of expertise and providing constructive feedback;
  • offering to sample part of the administration work, discussing performance with peers and users of the service (i.e. the School office, Registry) and giving feedback to the member of staff.

The responsibilities of the person being mentored

Mentoring imposes a range of mutual responsibilities covering the Head of School, the mentor and the person being mentored. The mentor is neither the individual's manager nor responsible for the work or performance of the person being mentored. The mentoring relationship requires that the person being mentored takes responsibility for her/his own work and:

  • keeps in touch with the mentor and seeks advice when necessary;
  • provides the mentor with open access to her/his research, teaching and administrative activities;
  • develops a career in research, teaching and administration in line with the requirements of the School and as outlined in the Q6 objectives;
  • works closely with the Head of School and colleagues to meet the School's and the University's research, teaching and administrative objectives.

Probation arrangements and mentoring

The discussions that take place between the mentor and the probationer have no direct link into the Probation Scheme, in that the mentor is not asked to make judgements about the person being mentored nor is (s)he privy to any information not already made available to the probationer. The mentor is intended to act as a resource for the probationer who is strongly urged to make full use of these arrangements in planning and developing her/his academic career.

With this in mind the mentor will be kept up to date by the Head of School about the School's and the University's research and teaching objectives. This will ensure that the probationer has ready access to a mentor who is properly informed about the relative priorities within the School and so can give realistic advice. Probationers are encouraged to ensure that their mentors are informed about the objectives and feedback provided to the probationer by the Head of School and the Probation, Development and Review Sub-Mentoring Committee so that realistic and informed support can be given throughout the probationary period and beyond.

Disagreement between mentors and mentees

Occasionally the relationship between the mentor and the mentee may not be as productive as one party or either party may wish. Sometimes, this is inevitable especially since probationers and other new colleagues will have been allocated a mentor on the basis of limited information. Neither the mentor nor the person being mentored should feel obliged to continue with such an unproductive relationship. Furthermore, neither should feel that they should take responsibility for a less productive relationship. If at any point during the probationary period either the mentor or the person being mentored wishes to withdraw from the relationship (s)he should contact the Head of School. In the first instance the Head of School will seek to allocate the person being mentored to another mentor.

However, if a complaint has been raised by the person being mentored about the quality and nature of the mentoring being received, the Head of School will deal directly with the mentor but ultimately may need to contact or advise Human Resources. A colleague being mentored Probation Arrangements and Mentoring Disagreements between Mentors and Mentees may raise directly with OSDS her/his dissatisfaction with the performance of a mentor. After consultation between OSDS and the mentor, and probably the Head of School, it may still be necessary to advise the Director of Human Resources. Advice and support is available to Heads of School from both OSDS and Human Resources in identifying alternative mentors or in responding to the breakdown in relations between the mentor and the person being mentored.

Key Contacts:

If you have any queries, please contact:

Jenny Campbell who will be able to advise on queries regarding the probation/academic review process;

Academic Staff Developer (OSDS) who will be able to advise on general queries regarding the mentoring of academic staff