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Mentoring Programme - FAQ


Published: 17 February 2021

Version: 2.0 September 2022

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What is the NIHR Academy Mentoring Programme?

The mentoring programme is designed to support NIHR Academy Members in their final year PhD and postdoctoral researchers to find a mentor from the NIHR research community. The programme offers a structured and supported approach to working with a mentor. 

It also offers opportunities for mentors and mentees to undertake professional development so that they can develop their mentoring experience and practice. 

Who can join the programme?

We want the programme to be as inclusive as possible and encourage applications from mentors and mentees from across the full range of NIHR-associated specialities, disciplines, professional backgrounds and organisations.

The programme is currently open to:

  • Mentees: To join the programme as a mentee, you should be an NIHR Academy Members who is either in the final year of their PhD or postdoctoral. You should hold an NIHR doctoral or postdoctoral award and/or hold a postdoctoral position and be based in NIHR Infrastructure (e.g. BRC) or in an NIHR School. You will need to have a minimum of six months remaining on your funding or NIHR personal award from the close of applications of the mentoring programme. Mentees that have completed the NIHR mentoring programme must wait a minimum of two years before applying to be considered for a new cohort and matched with a new mentor.
  • Doctoral and postdoctoral award holders on the HEE/NIHR ICA Programme can access funded career mentorship through the ICA Programme’s bespoke Mentorship Scheme. See our ICA Programme page for further information.
  • Mentors: NIHR Academy Members or Associate Members from mid-career to research leader level. You may be an NIHR-based postdoctoral researcher with relevant postdoctoral experience (typically, 5 years plus), an NIHR mid-career award holder or a research professor or senior investigator. Alternatively, you may be an NIHR Academy Member or Associate Member, contributing to NIHR's work at a senior leadership level, for example, an awarding panel member, or a senior leader in NIHR including its Centres, Infrastructure and Schools. You may have also previously engaged in the NIHR mentoring programme as a mentee and wish to transition to mentor.

This mentoring programme is not currently available for Global Health Research Training Programme members. We are actively considering how to support the mentoring needs of our global health community and will update this FAQ in due course. If you have any queries about this please contact 

I am not eligible to join the programme as a mentee. Can you advise on alternative schemes?

We recognise the value of mentorship in supporting professional and career development. As the programme can not support all NIHR Members we are developing resources and guidance to support NIHR Members who are not eligible to join the programme. The first of these resources can be found on the mentoring programme page on the NIHR website. Additional resources can be found in our Leadership development resources section. 

If you are not eligible to participate in the NIHR Academy Mentoring Programme or that offered you might wish to explore mentoring opportunities offered at a local level offers by some Applied Research Collaborations (ARCs), Biomedical Research Centres (BRCs), Health Protection Research Units (HPRUs), Patient Safety Translational Research Centres (PSTRCs), NIHR Schools or NIHR Incubators. You can contact your Academic Career Development Lead who will be able to assist you.

How do I apply to join the programme as a mentee?

Applicants are invited to complete a mentee expression of interest form. In this, you will be asked to indicate which cohort you wish to join.

Following the closing date for each cohort, expressions of interest will be reviewed and places on the programme will be allocated. You will be informed of the outcome of your expression of interest to participate in the programme within three weeks of the cohort closing date. If we do not have the capacity to accept you into the programme the first time you express an interest, you will be notified and asked if you wish to be considered for a later cohort.

How do I register my interest in becoming a mentor for the programme?

If you are interested in supporting the programme as a mentor, you can complete a mentor expression of interest form.

Following the closing date for each cohort, expressions of interest will be reviewed. You will be informed of the outcome of your expression of interest within three weeks of the cohort closing date. If we do not have the capacity to accept you into the programme (due, for example, to not having sufficient mentees to match), we will contact you to ask if you wish to be considered for inclusion in a later cohort.

How will mentors and mentees be matched?

When expressions of interest are closed for each cohort, they will be reviewed by the NIHR Mentoring Programme team to identify likely potential mentor/mentee matches. This will inform the constitution of each cohort. Once all participants have been enrolled, mentees will be responsible for contacting a potential mentor and establishing whether the relationship is likely to provide what is needed for their development. As there will be a range of mentors in the programme, if the first person you are matched with isn’t the right match for you, you will be able to approach a different mentor. We use the following criteria to support the matching of mentors and mentees.

Balancing professional and academic work

A key challenge of developing an academic profile and career alongside your professional  practice is managing how you balance these facets of your work (for example, clinical and academic work). A mentor may be able to share their strategies, approaches and experiences of how they have successfully achieved this, any pitfalls to look out for and lessons they have learned along the way.

Career progression

You already have ideas about what you need to do to move forward in your career, or you may be seeking support to identify and consider your options. A mentor may be able to help you to think through what is important to you and offer you some insights into the approaches they have used to navigate their own career. They may be able to help you to think about areas for development and action to help you to reach your career goals, such as achieving research funding or fellowships.

Career transition

You may be, or have recently, moved into a new role. This can be energising and also a challenging experience. A mentor may be able to help you reflect on what is different about your new role, the approaches you could take to establishing yourself in it successfully, and talk with you about role transitions they have experienced and how they have supported others who have done this successfully.

Developing an international research profile

An international research profile is often a requirement for academic career progression. You may be establishing a strong national research profile and be considering how you can broaden this to either collaborate with or establish new international research partners, or seeking to promote your research on the international stage. A mentor may be able to advise you on different routes you could take and how to identify networks to support you in developing an international profile.

Diversity and inclusion in research

Diversity data show that there is under-representation of groups including women and ethnic minority groups in academia (Advance HE, 2018; Royal Society, 2020). A mentor may be able to share lived experience and provide practical guidance to help you navigate any challenges you may be experiencing. Mentors may also share examples of inclusive practices to support effective working with underrepresented groups.

Leadership development

Career progression often requires the development of broader sets of leadership skills and engagement in a wider range of leadership roles alongside your research and professional practice. Mentors can help you to understand and navigate through the leadership landscape, provide guidance on how to identify leadership opportunities beyond your immediate context, and explore with you the leadership challenges they have faced and the approaches they have taken to overcome these.

Managing research teams

If you are responsible for a team of colleagues you may benefit from mentoring to help you to consider effective ways of managing others, developing team strengths and building team effectiveness. A mentor may help you to consider how to get the best from your team, how to motivate others and to consider what further development might benefit you as you enhance your management skills.

Networking and building relationships

Collaboration and engagement are often key to research success. A mentor can help you to explore your current relationships, collaborators and networks, helping you to think about how you can get the most from these, as well as to identify where there may be opportunities for you to build new relationships. Drawing on their experience, your mentor may be able to share approaches and techniques which you might wish to consider and help you to think about how to develop research collaborations beyond your discipline.

Research funding

Securing research funding is a core enabler (and measure) of success in the academic research landscape. A mentor may be able to advise you about research funding opportunities including fellowship applications, and provide insights into developing successful grant applications.

Research Practice

Your current Principal Investigator, research team or collaborators will be your primary source of support for your research practice, particularly if you hold a current NIHR training award. However, a mentor may have additional expertise they can share with you on aspects of research practice such as knowledge exchange, dissemination, patient and public involvement, research integrity, and developing a research strategy.

Work/life balance

Many researchers find themselves juggling a wide range of responsibilities as they invest in their academic and career development. A mentor can help you to explore how best to navigate the many demands on your time at work and beyond and to prioritise activity, and share with you their own approaches and advice, drawing on their experience.

Collaboration with industry and life sciences

Many mentees want to explore how to collaborate with industry and life sciences. A mentor with experiences in these sectors can help you to approach collaborating and widening your network to include industry and life sciences.

Patient and public involvement and engagement

Many mentees want to know the most effective way to manage patient and public involvement and engagement within their research. A mentor can help you to explore different options for incorporation and share expertise with you on aspects of patient and public involvement and engagement that you may not have explored.

What's expected of you during your participation on the programme

All mentees and mentors are expected to take part in a minimum of six hours of mentoring across the 12 months of the programme.

Mentees and mentors are also expected to support the programme's evaluation process by completing both the interim and end of programme evaluation surveys. The evaluation surveys are sent at the midpoint of the relationship, approximately 5-6 months and towards the end of the relationship, approximately 10-11 months. The surveys are sent via email and you will be given plenty of time to complete them.

How long is the programme?

The mentoring programme is a 12 month commitment.

All mentees and mentors will participate in an orientation workshop before commencing the mentoring programme. This will be a live virtual workshop of 1 hour in duration.

You will also be invited to contribute to ongoing feedback and evaluation activities which will help us further develop and refine the programme for future cohorts and allows us to ensure the delivery of a high quality mentoring provision.

During this time, mentors and mentees will meet regularly. We anticipate that, initially, meetings will take place virtually. Participants should remain aware of the government guidelines relating to Covid-19 and adhere to any requirements.

Mentors and mentees will negotiate and agree how much time to spend meeting together, and how frequently, at the start of the mentoring relationship. Typically, you might expect to spend between 6-12 hours with your mentor/mentee over 12 months. This could constitute a short meeting every month, or longer meetings less frequently.

The most important thing is to discuss your mutual expectations about time and communication at the start of your relationship. Keep in mind that mentoring doesn’t necessarily require large amounts of your time. Even brief phone calls or e-mail exchanges can have a big impact.

After 12 months, mentors and mentees may agree to continue working together, and any future relationship will be independent of the programme.

What support is available to me whilst I am participating in the NIHR Academy Mentoring Programme?

There is a schedule of professional development webinars and workshops available throughout the 12 month programme which can be accessed by all mentors and mentees. Delivered virtually and in person, the programme of support focuses on the key elements of the mentoring relationship, how to get the most from it, and how to enhance your effectiveness as a mentee or mentor. We offer the same development opportunities to mentees as we do to mentors, as we recognise that mentees may wish to become mentors in the future.

A programme handbook, webinars, virtual drop-in sessions, workshops, in person events and a range of online resources will also be available to all participants in the programme. The NIHR mentoring programme team will also support participants and can be contacted via email 

Will the personal and professional information I share through the mentoring programme be kept confidential?

Yes. Privacy and confidentiality will be covered during the orientation event, and guidance will be provided in the programme handbook. Programme participants should also adhere to all applicable privacy policies and procedures instituted by their host organisation.

How will I communicate with my mentor/mentee?

You will agree how you will ‘meet’ with your mentor/mentee at the beginning of your mentoring relationship. Communication may be in person (current government guidelines permitting), via phone, e-mail, web meeting, or other form of communication.

How will standards be ensured on the programme?

To ensure a high standard of mentoring provision, the programme is informed by the recognised standards of the European Mentoring and Coaching Council’s International Standards for Mentoring and Coaching Programmes. The development of the programme is overseen by a steering group. We also provide a range of professional development opportunities to support the development of mentoring practice available to participants on the NIHR mentoring programme.


Advance HE Equality and higher education staff statistical report 2018

Royal Society Baselines for Improving STEM Participation: Ethnicity STEM data for students and academic staff in higher education 2007/08 to 2018/19

Applicant FAQ Version 1 16.2.21