What is it? Mentoring, counselling and role model interventions are designed to encourage students to perceive higher education (HE) as a desirable destination and a place where they would belong. These interventions often offer support to apply to higher education.

Evidence? There are a number of studies from the UK which suggest these interventions are associated with an increase in students’ attitudes/aspirations, and in some cases attainment and HE progression . However, it’s important to note that the existing evidence is not ‘causal’ (in other words, it can’t tell us definitively that the intervention is effective) although there is some stronger evidence of impact from the USA, which would benefit from replication in a UK context.

It is also important to note that recent analysis conducted by TASO in collaboration with the Higher Education Access Tracker suggests mentoring is associated with lower HE progression and found mixed results in relation to attainment. However, this analysis was based on large-scale data from a number of different programmes, and could mask significant diversity in the activities included.

Should HE providers use mentoring/counselling/role model interventions to support to widen participation? Providers can use these kinds of approaches to influence students’ attitudes/aspirations.  There is a less strong evidence base for an associated effect on HE participation. Given these are intensive interventions (both in terms of staff and student time) there is strong case for seeking more information on the efficacy versus other less intensive approaches. Where Higher Education Providers (HEPs) run mentoring or counselling programmes, they should seek to evaluate them to understand if they are having the desired impact see the TASO evaluation guidance for more information on how to do this.

The existing evidence also suggests approaches differ substantially between programmes, so there is a clear need to evaluate these activities locally.