One size does not fit all: Tailoring Peer Support Programmes for optimal student engagement

Rosey Davies, Amanda Pocklington, Simon Allington


Peer Support Programmes (PSPs) have long been a feature of student engagement activity at the University of Exeter. Peer Support at Exeter started over eight years ago, with just two discipline-specific programmes. Since then, the number of programmes has increased significantly, but throughout this period of growth the bespoke nature of the programmes has been retained. All PSPs are student-led and, crucially, they are tailored to meet the specific needs of the student group involved. We, the authors, are firmly of the opinion that one size does not fit all and that tailoring every programme to the specific needs of each student group is vital if it is to be successful. It is now recognised that engagement in interventions such as PSPs can play an important role in improving student retention and success (Thomas, 2012) and that an understanding of local contexts can enhance the efficacy of such programmes (Thomas et al, 2017). However, this was not as well understood when PSPs were first introduced at Exeter. This short paper seeks to present an overview of the evolution of PSPs at the University of Exeter, which may provide others with a useful insight into the development of tailored PSPs for optimal student engagement.

Full Text:



Andreanoff, J. (2016) ‘The impact of a peer coaching programme on the academic performance of undergraduate students: a mixed methods study.’ Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, Special Edition: Academic Peer Learning, Part Two.

Andrews, J. and Clark, R. (2011) Peer Mentoring Works! How Peer Mentoring Enhances Student Success in Higher Education. Birmingham: Aston University.

Capstick, S. (2004) ‘Benefits and Shortcomings of Peer Assisted learning (PAL) in Higher Education: an appraisal by students.’ Peer Assisted Learning Conference. Available at: (Accessed: 20 June 2017).

Cree, V., Hounsell, J., Christie, H., McCune, V. and Tett, L. (2009) ‘From Further Education to Higher Education: Social Work Students' Experiences of Transition to an Ancient, Research?Led University.’ Social Work Education, 28(8), 887-901.

HEFCE (2017) Student Characteristics. Available at: (Accessed: 20 June 2017).

Keenan, C. (2014) Mapping student-led peer learning in the UK. York: The Higher Education Academy. Available at: (Accessed: 20 June 2017).

Kember, D., Lee, K. and Li, N. (2001) Cultivating a sense of belonging in part-time students. International Journal of Lifelong Learning, 20(4), 326-341.

OFFA (2017). Topic Briefing: Care leavers. Available at: (Accessed: 20 June 2017).

Sims, S., Guggiari-Peel, C. and Luebsen, W. (2017) Reacting to the ‘hard to reach’ through Student Engagement Initiatives. Paper presented at the REACT Conference 2017: Reacting to the ‘Hard to Reach’ through Student Engagement Initiatives, Winchester, UK.

Stuart, M., Lido, C., Morgan, J., Solomon, L. and May, S. (2011) ‘The impact of engagement with extracurricular activities on the student experience and graduate outcomes for widening participation populations.’ Active Learning in Higher Education, 12(3), 203-215.

Thomas, L. (2012) ‘Building student engagement and belonging in Higher Education at a time of change.’ In: What Works, Student Retention and Success. London: Paul Hamlyn Foundation. Available at: (Accessed: 27 May 2017).

Thomas, L., Quinn, J., Slack, K. and Casey, L. (2002) Student Services: Effective Approaches to Retaining Students in Higher Education, Staffordshire: Institute for Access Studies, Staffordshire University. Available at: (Accessed: 20 June 2017).

University of Sheffield, Department for Lifelong Learning. Available at: (Accessed: 20 June 2017).



  • There are currently no refbacks.