Building Stronger Relationships in Cambridge SU’s Mentoring Scheme

Cambridge SU is the representative body of all students within the University of Cambridge. A key goal is to widen the participation of students at Cambridge and to broaden the pool of potential applicants to the University and its Colleges, focusing on those from wider backgrounds and from schools which would not traditionally send applicants to Cambridge.

Cambridge SU has been using sfG MentorNet’s secure online mentoring system since 2016 and continues to benefit from its being in place – even more so this last year during the global pandemic, when students were unable to physically stay at the university for shadowing scheme events and where activities were instead run over a period of 4 weeks online. When asked how the usage of sfG MentorNet varied this year, Kate McIntosh, Student Rep Coordinator at Cambridge SU said, “We used forums in sfG MentorNet so much more this year, so potential applicants could be on different forums to gain more insight. Forums around the application process for example, around different subjects to their main planned ones and many more. And we used the mobile messaging app, which made it far easier for applicants and mentors to communicate with one another.”

The different forms of technology helped keep mentors and their ‘shadows’ in touch after the online events took place. It helped them with communication, in a situation where communication and the relationship with the mentor is so important in their decision as to whether to attend Cambridge University.  “People found it good to keep talking to their mentor after the few weeks of the scheme. Relationship is such a key part in their decision and being able to message easily from the sfG MentorNet mobile messaging app or through the sfG MentorNet online platform meant they could stay in touch afterwards, but also during the event. They could be reminded of events going on – and getting a notification straight to their phone was easier than email.”

“We asked our participants if they used the app and 46% of people had downloaded it and many said it was easier for them to stay on top of communications with their mentor through the app. It is also a key part of keeping the safeguarding in place, so no personal information is shared through telephone numbers and other messaging apps. It all stays within the secure sfG MentorNet environment.”

The shadowing scheme at Cambridge usually runs in January, so this is when most activity takes part.  In a 2 week period at the start of the 2021 shadowing programme, 350 messages per day were sent with about a third sent using the mobile messaging app.

sfg MentorNet Mobile app useage

Cambridge SU continues to use sfG MentorNet’s online platform to send reminders about things to do and events to attend, to share timetables, to inform if an event has changed time and these reminders can be sent to everyone. “We have 312 people doing the scheme and 89% of respondents to a survey said that using sfG MentorNet was easy or very easy. What didn’t make it to 100% was merely related to the process measures we have to put in place for safeguarding, as opposed to the technology,” Kate confirms.