Mentor scheme to help freshers

October 4, 1996

Booze, buddies, boogie and boredom. Chris Johnston samples the ups and downs of freshers' week. A scheme designed to help freshers cope with their difficult first year in higher education has been launched by London Guildhall University Student Union.

The peer support programme aims to help the growing number of students who do not progress through their subjects at normal pace, and to personalise courses as lecture groups become larger.

A group of 29 second-year students has just finished training to become peer supporters. They will each be paid a small amount to conduct a weekly one-hour session, which students attend voluntarily, and which will initially cover four courses - sociology, communication, accountancy and information technology. Students can choose between a minimum of five and a maximum of 13 sessions each week. Academic staff have contributed to developing a different model for each course.

Janice Baker, the programme's development officer, said the peer supporters would not introduce new material, but take queries from students and turn the sessions into "mini discussion groups". "Their role is to bring the students around to realise that they can do the work . . . it will really build the confidence of first-years," she said.

The scheme is being promoted during induction days, lecturers and through ads on campus noticeboards and publications.

Although Ms Baker said it was difficult to predict how many students would take advantage of the sessions, she predicted numbers would increase before exams.

Several universities have similar programmes, but London Guildhall's is believed to be the first set up by the student union. More than Pounds 32,000 has been provided by the John Cass Foundation, London's largest education charity.

Neil Taylor, research assistant and former Guildhall Student Union education vice president, said the foundation wanted to help students in an innovative way.

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