Peer Support at The University of Manchester
Written by Alexandra Robinson, a 3rd year English Literature student.
All universities strive to make accessing support as painless as possible, but beyond the support offered from a range of services (such as DASS, the Accommodation Office and the Counselling Service), Manchester has developed the Peer Support initiative. This innovative, progressive model aims to build and develop departmental communities outside of each individual yearly intake, and ease the adjustment to university life through providing a friendly face to ask the awkward questions you feel you can’t ask staff!
Peer Support brands itself as being ‘discipline owned; student led’, meaning that it is the students themselves who identify where support is best focused within the parameters of an academic discipline, but also know where students may struggle on a pastoral level. These Mentors/Leaders are higher-level students who have been through all the nerve-racking, and sometimes confusing, elements of first year, and want to share their expertise.
Manchester offers two strands of Peer Support: PASS and Peer Mentoring. Which one you’ll be a part of depends on your specific degree, and the structure and support offered differs slightly between the two.
- PASS provides activity-based sessions tailored to (predominantly academic) student needs, based off a combination of what Leaders feel would benefit new students, and what students themselves are struggling with. These sessions are weekly, and run by a minimum of two Leaders, providing a space for collaboration and comprehension of material. Through this, PASS enhances the diversity and dynamics of university learning, and may just provide an insight into a particular sector of your degree you haven’t seen yet!
- Peer Mentoring focuses slightly more on pastoral support, although there is definite academic elements too. Through signposting to appropriate services, giving presentations on various non-academic issues like house hunting and exam advice, and providing an initial contact for the smaller issues that arise, your Peer Mentor will be there to guide you through the sometimes-scary first steps. I always say to my Mentees that there is no such thing as a silly question – we are all learning! Mentee Meetings tend to be fortnightly or every three weeks in informal settings, and you will have one or two Mentors depending on the scheme size.
This is not all that Peer Support offers, however. Through being both a Peer Mentor and a Student Coordinator, German Peer Mentoring has offered me a wealth of extra experiences that have enriched my time at Manchester in ways I never could have expected. It enabled me to engage in the ‘culture’ of my degree through organising trips to Manchester Oktoberfest and Christmas Market, commands a friendly ethos within the relatively small German department, and I’ve made some real friendships with both my Mentees and other Mentors. The scheme, then, is not just for support with your studies: it’s there as a springboard into so many opportunities.
Schemes pride themselves on their communities, their diversity, and their inclusivity. In Peer Support, there is a place for everyone, so if and when you make those first steps at Manchester, I would encourage you to throw yourself into the scheme available to you. You won’t regret it, and you may even make some friends for life!