Reciprocal Mentoring programme

This is a unique opportunity for individuals from across the University from minority ethnic backgrounds to work with senior colleagues in a partnership.

The University of Bristol’s 2022-23 Reciprocal Mentoring programme builds on the success of last year’s pilot programme where staff from Black, Asian and other minority ethnic heritages were paired with senior colleagues from the University Executive Board (UEB). 

Information on the Reciprocal Mentoring Programme

About the programme

The aim of the programme is to give white staff in leadership roles (mentees) greater insight into the lived experience and development needs of minority ethnic colleagues (mentors), whilst offering a mutually beneficial mentoring partnership. Participants will be equal partners, each taking on the role of both mentor and mentee. They will have an opportunity to develop their skills, knowledge and networks through the mentorship of their partner.

The programme will take place over the academic year, and with formal support, training and facilitation, participants will have the opportunity to self-direct the content of their mentoring sessions to make them as relevant and meaningful as possible.

What are the time commitments?

Participants would need to be able to commit to:

  • Two development sessions for mentors (1.5 hours) - Friday 7 October (10.30 - 12.00) and Friday 14 October (10.30 - 12.00)
  • A development session for mentees (1.5 hours) - Friday 21 October (10.30 - 12.00)
  • Four one-hour mentoring sessions over one year (dates to be arranged by mentoring pairs)
  • One mid-way review session (1 hour)

Information session

The information session will be held on Friday 23 September 2022, 10.30 - 11.00. To attend, please email

To find out more about the Reciprocal Mentoring programme please watch the recording of the Information Session we held on Thursday 27 May 2021.

What is Reciprocal Mentoring?

It is a development intervention that stems from the models of traditional mentoring but is not the same. The pairs are equal partners in the process of learning and the relationship is reciprocal.

The approach aims to focus on systemic change as well as at an individual level. It is about creating genuine understanding of each other’s lived experiences and to connect with each other to create trust for working together as partners.

It won’t always be comfortable. It will require the participants to start on a journey of exploration and commitment to change.

Benefits for the mentors (individuals from a minority ethnic background)

  • Building a partnership with someone at a senior level
  • Opportunity to tap into the experience of their partner, for example: lessons learned, possible openings for networking and shadowing in order to progress development, raise their profile and maybe accelerate their career aspirations
  • Insight into senior level activities and the ways in which politics and power works
  • Insight into the ways in which power works at a conscious and unconscious level
  • Greater awareness of self and organisational systems through the relationship that is formed
  • Confidence in talking to and challenging power and influencing peers within their own networks

Benefits for the mentees (senior leaders)

  • Challenge from a different perspective
  • Increased understanding of the ways in which their behaviours, beliefs, policies and practices impacts upon the lived experience of people within the University
  • Confidence in challenging beliefs and behaviours with peers and influencing decision making
  • Motivating others to take action that would make a change for individuals from minority ethnic backgrounds.

Testimonials from Mentees and Mentors

I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience on the Reciprocal Mentoring Programme! My advice to mentors would be to go in knowing what you want to gain/achieve from the experience. This will help you to direct the focus of your conversations. My partner and I spent our first meeting introducing ourselves. To break the ice and cut through the niceties early, we gave each other some insight on our background, upbringing and experiences that lead us to our current positions. We also outlined our motivations for taking part in the programme as well as what we wanted to gain. This allowed us to get to know each other very quickly and to stay aware of drifting too far from our main objectives over the course of the programme. It's been a pleasure getting to know my partner and we have chosen to continue meeting despite the programme's end.


Taking part in the Reciprocal Mentoring Programme was something that I thought long and hard about before committing to. I found the thought of having very personal discussions about issues I rarely (if at all) openly talk about with someone at work daunting. However, the benefit of the programme is that it has the potential to offer something deeper which is to allow personal connections at all levels of the organisation to be made and over time to flourish. Taking part in the Programme was a worthwhile and thought-provoking experience. I personally felt that I met someone who was just as vulnerable and unsure of what to do and this enabled us to take tentative steps towards having some difficult and uncomfortable conversations in what felt like a safe space for both of us. Truly trying to engage, and share lived experience grows empathy. The conversation needs to continue to generate trust in leadership and provide a platform from which conversation moves to action.


This was an incredibly worthwhile and thought provoking experience. It was sometimes uncomfortable, but as our relationship progressed I think it allowed us to discuss difficult issues in what felt like a safe space. It gave me an excellent insight into someone else’s “lived experience” and challenged some of my pre-existing assumptions. I am very grateful to my mentor for being so honest and open – this allowed us both to share our vulnerabilities and engage.


Photo of Jane Khawaja – Interim GW4 Director, Co-chair Anti-Racism Steering Group, Staff member of the Board of Trustees

I fully support the Reciprocal Mentoring Programme which aims to enable individual as well as systemic transformation.  I see this as a way to build on the work of our Anti-Racism Steering Group, to create a culture of diversity, equality and inclusion, where our differences are respected and valued, our biases are challenged and systemic barriers are dismantled. As equal partners minority ethnic colleagues and senior colleagues will share and understand the lived experiences of each other, as well as share skills, knowledge and networks, enabling each other to champion change, influence peers and inform decision making through our University, together.

Jane Khawaja – Head of Research Development (UK)

Mentoring resources

Link to mentoring resources.

Wellbeing resources

Please use the resources we've listed to help look after yourself and your colleagues.

Contact us

If you have any questions about the programme you can contact

Mentor sign up

We are not currently accepting applications. We will add details here when applications open again. (The 2022 deadline for the Mentor Profile Form was midnight on 3 October 2022)

Mentee sign up

We are not currently accepting applications. We will add details here when applications open again. (The 2022 deadline for the Mentee Profile Form is midnight on 3 October 2022)