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Cambridge University goes Live with Online Mentoring for its Widening Participation Student Mentoring Scheme

Cambridge University Students’ Union (CUSU) is the representative body of all
20,000 students within the University of Cambridge and is a registered charity. It aims to support and advance the opportunities of its members, from all walks of life. 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 a lower socio-economic background or from schools which would not traditionally send applicants to Cambridge.

They have a ‘CUSU Shadowing Scheme’, in which sixth-form students from less-traditional backgrounds apply to come to Cambridge for three days and shadow a current undergraduate student. The undergraduate student mentors the sixth-former before they arrive in Cambridge, during the time they reside in Cambridge, and then after the residential visit from February to September.

They required an online platform to facilitate contact between the undergraduate student and the sixth-former while maintaining appropriate safeguarding measures defined by the students’ union.

For this, they chose sfG MentorNet, an online mentoring platform, which allows the undergraduate mentors and sixth-form ‘shadows’ to contact each other via digital correspondence before meeting face-to-face, and then to continue to correspond after the Shadowing Scheme event, without the sharing of personal contact information. They have gone live with over 600 users who will maintain communication using the system.

They chose MentorNet, as they needed a solution that was easy to use and administer, whereby they could edit information, correct mistakes, delete users and define periods of access to the platform.

Of utmost importance to any platform they selected was safety and security. They needed to ensure users feel free to communicate without intrusion, whilst also enabling safe monitoring of the service and the prevention of unwarranted materials or correspondence.

They look forward with anticipation to the enhanced communication this will bring between mentors and their shadows and that this will help ensure participation at the university from a wider pool of applicants.