It has been pointed out that building a mentoring culture in a university and maintaining it successfully play a crucial role in the success of a university. The academic profession is unique and presents a variety of challenges for both beginners and experienced academics. Mainly, mentoring has been identified as one of the approaches for developing early career academics (ECAs) and assisting in the smooth transition to the academic arena. Mentoring also improves the strength and quality of staff in universities. This is considered to be an essential component of the academic development of well-established universities around the world. Evidence indicates that many university academics face challenges in teaching, research, supervision and public engagements when they work in different institutions compared to the places where they have been trained, necessitating the need of a proper mentoring systemic system for ECAs to overcome the above challenges.
The Academic Mentoring Program – University of Colombo (AMP-UoC) is coordinated through the Faculty of Medicine program (AMP – UCFM) and offers its services to the University and wider academia in Sri Lanka including professional colleges and state Universities now.
AMP-UCFM was established in 2016 to enhance the quality and strength of the academic staff of the faculty. The strength and quality of university staff academics were identified as a key assessment criteria by the University Grant Commission (UGC) Standing Committee on Quality Assurance and Accreditation of Sri Lankan Universities. Considering this criteria and with the goal of advancing the strength and quality of university staff, faculty of medicine, university of Colombo initiated its first ever senate approved official academic mentoring program (AMP-UCFM) in September 2016.
During the first phase of the program the program infra- structure and program guidelines were developed, a working group and advisory panel were identified and a pilot program was conducted for the newly recruited academic staff of the Faculty of Medicine. New academics are recruited to the continued program annually.
Phase 2 focused on developing a culture of academic mentoring within the University of Colombo. Mentor training sessions were offered to academic staff of all faculties/institutes /campuses of the University of Colombo. A series of training sessions was conducted with the support from established overseas university programs on mentoring. These sessions aimed at developing the mentoring skills and capacity of academic staff to serve as mentors. Many of the faculties/campuses/institutes who participated in the program have gone on to establish their programs in their individual institutes.
AMP-UCFM also developed many international collaborations or received support from many international institutions including the Academy of Medical Sciences, University of Birmingham, University of Cambridge, University of Bristol and University of Oxford in the UK, University of California San Francisco, USA and Monash University in Malaysia.
Focusing on wider academia, AMP has also offered many national events. The AMP is now moving into the third phase of the program. During this phase the AMP hopes to continue to provide support to the University of Colombo, other state universities and professional colleges in Sri Lanka. A University Network in mentoring, a university pool of mentors, and the professional colleges network are already in place. We invite interested members to join the interuniversity interest group in academic mentoring this year.
Who can join as mentees?
Probationary academic staff members of Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo (UCFM). Program is also open to any other interested academic staff member of UCFM.
Who would be the mentors?
All interested and volunteering academic staff members of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo and at senior lecturer grade 1 and above can serve as a mentors.
How long should a mentorship last?
It is essential that all the probationary lecturers follow the mentorship program for a minimum period of 3 years. Program is considered complete upon completion of the essential 3 years/confirmation of the mentee or they can continue as mentees as long as they wish to do so. All other academic staff member can join whenever they wish to do so.
What to be done during the first mentoring session?
- The mentor may try and identify
- the characteristics of the mentee
- interests and needs/aims of the mentee
- problems and strengths of the menteeinterests and needs/aims of the mentee,
- mode of communication during mentoring sessions (face to face, skype, email, phone- face to face meetings are encouraged,
- Frequency of meetings – 4-5 per year.
- and draw up a basic plan for the mentee’s progression.
An academic member is expected to play multiple roles in the University. These include role of a teacher, researcher, administrator, student supporter, clinician, supervisor or a coach and many other roles. It is also necessary to ensure quality, professionalism and ethical acceptability of the different outputs expected from an individual. In order to obtain satisfactory outcome in all these multiple different roles, it is necessary for an individual to develop his/her knowledge, experience and skills, together with a positive attitude. However self-navigation by an individual who is new to the field through such a complex system that embraces different aspects, different methodologies and different goals need to be well supported by more experienced individuals. It is also important to ensure that this support is given equally to all who deserve such support, and to ensure such a
Support system is well maintained, monitored and improved to be in line with the changing needs and goals of the individuals and institution.
Mentoring is a strong tool used by University systems in achieving this goal.
Scope of mentoring as adopted by AMP-UCFM
Mentoring covers all key areas in which a newly recruited academic member (either senior or junior in their fields or careers) will have to perform and demonstrate a satisfactory outcome. Selfdevelopment of the mentee that enables mentee to perform in many academic roles (teaching, research, administration, learning, service provision in the field etc.) is supported by the mentor.
Working definition of mentoring as adopted by AMP-UCFM
Mentoring is defined as a process through which a less experienced academic member (mentee) is supported by a more experienced individual (mentor) in his/her overall development that includes professional, career and other related aspects. Mentor acts as a sounding board while mentee leads the mentoring process.
Objective of mentoring and mentoring program as adopted by AMP-UCFM.
- To support overall career progression of an individual while demonstrating quality, ethical acceptability and professionalism in outputs,
- To support improving job satisfaction of mentees.
- To ensure mentoring support is provided to all newly recruited/less experienced academic members.
- To support, monitor and improve the mentoring processes,
- To conduct, monitor and improve the mentoring programs,
- To raise awareness in mentoring among University and other professional bodies,
- To develop capacity in mentoring in University and other professional bodies.