The Role of the Project Mentor
In order to complete your RAP you will need to have a project mentor. The mentor should be someone whom you feel is the right person to help guide you through the RAP process. The role of the mentor however is frequently misunderstood. A degree is about thinking for yourself and conducting your own research and therefore it is not reasonable to expect your mentor always to have specialist knowledge of your particular topic area or specific academic research methods.
The OBU information Pack states that the mentor has two principal roles:
- to support your preparation of your RAP, by providing advice and feedback to you at appropriate times during your RAP activities
- to confirm to Oxford Brookes University that he or she has been your Project Mentor and that your RAP is your own work
Specifically OBU confirms that your mentor should not be expected to ‘give you detailed advice on the structure and content of your Research Report or write any part of it’, neither should the mentor have to tell you what to you need to do to meet the assessment criteria for a pass, as these areas are your responsibility. However OBU suggest the following attributes are beneficial in a mentor:
- Is approachable and has genuine interest in helping students to succeed
- Listens and actively questions
- Respects confidentiality and is trustworthy
- Acts as a sounding board to explore ideas and issues arising from research
- Provides positive and constructive feedback on research being carried out
- Challenges and discusses effective communication
- Offers support and encouragement
- Helps the student meet their objectives
- Helps the student ask the right questions, to think systematically, to learn to apply appropriate evaluation techniques and to analyse and interpret the findings
- Remains neutral and not judgmental
- Provides subtle guidance but ensures student makes the decisions
- Is knowledgeable and competent
- Grasps the essence of the technicalities without becoming a subject matter expert
How to Choose a Mentor
Use the above list to help select your mentor and remember that mentor advice and feedback will be important as you progress and you will need to work closely with your mentor. You are expected to have at least 3 meetings together at various stages of your RAP preparation and completion and so you need to feel confident that you will be able to have a good relationship with your chosen project mentor. Therefore ‘word of mouth’ is probably the best way of deciding who to use as a personal recommendation from someone who has been through the RAP process successfully and has experienced how a particular mentor operates in practice, will normally be a good endorsement.
The current OBU guidelines suggest that persons in the following categories may be appropriate:
- Your tutor at College or University
- A senior colleague at work e.g. your line manager
- A qualified Chartered Certified Accountant
Or if you cannot find someone in one of these specific categories then you can suggest someone who might be suitable by contacting the ACCA office at Oxford Brookes University and providing a copy of your Project Mentor’s CV for approval. If the proposed Project Mentor is a member of a recognised professional body or institute and / or holds a recognised degree equivalent qualification then it is likely that approval will be given.
However as this is not always possible, alternatively you may find a mentor on OBU’s register of listed mentors which requires that to be listed, all mentors must have completed the OBU mentoring course. Please note that listing does not in any way imply that a particular mentor is actually endorsed or recommended by OBU but it does mean that they have received appropriate mentor training. The fee for using a mentor will depend on the individual mentor’s charges and is not within the control of OBU whether they are listed or not.
From 2015 however it has been proposed that it will be mandatory to use a listed mentor and although listing will still not imply a particular recommendation, there will be provisions to remove mentors from the list if there is evidence that they are not performing adequately in the mentor role.
There is further information specifically intended for the mentor in the OBU RAP Information Pack, so you will need to make this information available to your mentor when you have chosen one.