Making Connections

Making Connections

Making Connections

What is Making Connections?

Links refugee background students with academics in a one-to-one mentoring relationship

Increases students’ sense of connection and belonging to university

Develops students’ knowledge of university services

Why Does It Matter?

Many refugees and people seeking asylum are keen to study at university to enable pathways to meaningful work, but face barriers in navigating the university system. Students can be intimidated by the impersonal nature of accessing online information about their courses and prefer personal contact.

In 2018, the Academics for Refugees network at Macquarie University, pioneered a mentoring program called Making Connections in collaboration with the Widening Participation Unit. Since the start of the program, we have linked over 25 students with a supportive academic mentor from their faculty to help students navigate the complexities of university life and feel more at home at university. We have also worked with over 30 academic and professional staff members at Macquarie University, either as mentors or steering committee members.

Who Are We?

The program’s steering committee consists of senior academics, a PhD student from a refugee background, a PhD student and and the Widening Participation unit. A distinguishing feature of the program is that it involves academics as mentors. An enthusiastic response from a diverse range of academics resulted in over 115 expressions of interest in becoming a mentor, many Professors and Associate Professors, representing most faculties.

How Does It Work?

The program goes beyond a quick match and a short-term relationship. It involves training mentors and mentees, clear boundaries, a Code of Conduct, careful linking, feedback and ongoing support of both mentors and mentees. Currently, mentoring matches meet monthly for one hour. Mentors and mentees give feedback through regular “debriefs” where mentors and mentees separately meet as a group with the coordinators.

What’s Next?

Evaluation is an integral component to this program, and we gather feedback from mentees and mentors through interviews, surveys and debriefs. Our initial evaluation documented outstanding outcomes, ranging from practical (e.g., paid internships with industry) to intangible (e.g., a previously unknown level of comfort at university).

The program has been presented at the 2019 Refugee Alternatives Conference in Adelaide and our training and other materials shared to support the development of similar schemes. We are currently seeking to formally publish our program to further expand the benefits to other institutions. Making Connections has also been the model framework for four mentoring programs for equity groups at Macquarie University and other higher education institutions in Australia.

As a low-cost innovative program, we hope Making Connections will continue to improve and be taken up by other universities in Australia and elsewhere.

For further information, please feel free to contact the Making Connections team at

Content owner: Widening Participation Unit Last updated: 27 Apr 2020 1:07pm

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