Australia-wide mentorship programs specifically designed for equity students are performing exceptionally well, new research has found.
As part of the research led by Curtin University Associate Professor Susan Beltman and funded by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education, mentorship programs offered by 39 universities were mapped across three stages: enabling, engagement and employment.
All of the surveyed equity group programs demonstrated good or exemplary practice against evidence-based benchmarks.
“While mentoring has been shown to have benefits for all students as well as those from equity groups, research has typically examined programs in one university or for one particular equity group and little is known about the extent of such programs across Australian universities,” Associate Professor Beltman said.
“This project advances current research by offering a broad analysis of Australia-wide mentoring programs, with a specific focus on programs targeting equity groups.”
Of more than 200 mentoring programs identified for this study, most had built-in mechanisms to provide mentoring for equity students in an inclusive way. Fifty-eight programs targeted specific equity groups including students from low socio-economic backgrounds, students with a disability, regional and remote Australians, students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and women in non-traditional areas of study as well as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders.
“A cross-section of equity group specific programs across four states yielded incredibly positive results. Of the surveyed programs, all met best practice benchmarks, with an overall average of 85 per cent alignment,” Associate Professor Beltman said.
Seven recommendations were made for university practice in relation to mentoring programs and further research, including an examination of the specific support for disadvantaged students during and nearing course completion.
“Seventy-four per cent of programs focused on the enabling phase, most of which were designed for Indigenous students, with less targeted support being provided during the engagement and employment phases,” Associate Professor Beltman said.
“Given that students from equity groups are proportionately more likely not to complete university compared with other students, an increase in support for students from these groups through the engagement phase is recommended.”
NCSEHE Director Professor Sue Trinidad affirmed the value of this evidence-based research, highlighting the growing number of universities using such strategies to support their equity students.
“Mentoring programs, often funded through the Australian Higher Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP), have shown demonstrable success in higher education attraction and retention. The breadth of this research – geographically and across all equity groups – furthers our understanding of the important value of such mentoring programs available to equity students across Australia,” Professor Trinidad said.
“Further analysis of program performance has yielded positive results and will inform future research and practice in the area of mentorships for disadvantaged students.”
The report, Mentoring Programs and Equity Groups: The Australian Story, is available on the NCSEHE website.