ACDS Peer Mentoring Program

The ACDS is committed to providing opportunities for our members to engage, connect and develop as effective Deans of Science.

The ACDS is delighted to announce the launch of a Mentoring Program for Deans.  The Peer Mentoring Program seeks to assist new and existing deans in their role by providing an opportunity to exchange ideas and engage in critical dialogue with a member of the ACDS Executive, or another experienced leader in a similar role from an ACDS member university.

  • About the program
  • Areas of mentoring
  • Mentors
  • Mentees
  • Mentoring tips
  • Program evaluation
  • Resources
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About the program

Deans of Science play a crucial role as leaders in higher education—a role that is multifaceted, challenging, and constantly evolving. Despite impressive educational and professional careers, typically as a faculty member, many individuals assume the role of a new Dean with limited knowledge, training and experience of the role of a Dean .

The ACDS Peer Mentors are a confidential, independent sounding board to provide support and guidance, allowing you to put issues into perspective and consider various possibilities. 

The emphasis in the ACDS mentoring program is on:

  • building networks, developing capability and strategies to navigate common challenges
  • assisting new deans to learn more about the ‘ins and outs’ of the Australian Higher Education system
  • providing support by serving as a sounding board to the mentee on a range of issues

Mentees have diverse professional backgrounds and skills and their individual strengths and needs can vary significantly. The program is therefore designed to afford maximum flexibility by allowing for targeted assistance on an as-needed basis to deans. It allows each mentoring pair to personalise goals and to tailor the process for achieving these goals to the needs of the mentee. Given the mentees also bring a range of backgrounds and experiences, it is anticipated that mentors too will benefit from the partnership through the sharing of ideas and discussion of issues of common interest.

Whilst it is impossible to come up with criteria that would lead to a perfect mentor-mentee match, some factors to consider include the characteristics of the institutions (location – rural or urban, comprehensive or research intensive, large or small).

Once a pair has agreed to work together, they should establish goals and a process for addressing these needs, and agree on method(s) and frequency of communicating. The maximum length of the mentoring is one year.

Either a mentor or a mentee can initiate a request for a partnership by emailing:

NOTE: This is a volunteer-only program provided by the ACDS to support mentor and mentees to connect. No formal training on mentoring is provided to mentors but they are required to familiarize themselves with the objectives and structure of the ACDS Mentoring and the list of mentoring tips outlined below.

Areas of mentoring

The following list provides an overview of areas where Deans may wish to engage in discussions with a colleague in a similar position through a mentoring program. The list is provided to assist new Deans to typical areas of responsibilities.

  • Australian Higher Education – framework, funding, policy and standards
  • Academic governance and policy
  • Staff recruitment, management and performance issues
  • Strategic and operational planning
  • Budget management and planning
  • Mentoring and career development
  • Implementing change
  • Women in leadership
  • Student support and experience
  • Grants and contracts
  • Curriculum and teaching innovation
  • Student recruitment and employability
  • Facilities and infrastructure
  • Research collaboration and partnerships
  • Advancement and alumni
  • Professional development


Mentors are a confidential, independent sounding board to provide support and guidance, allowing you to put issues into perspective and consider various possibilities. The ACDS mentors are volunteers with three or more years experience as Deans and who are current or previous staff of an ACDS member university. The latter category includes both retired Deans as well as those who have progressed to other roles.

Mentors advice is general and advisory only. Mentors are not responsible or liable for the outcome of decisions taken on the basis of this advice.

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How to become a mentor

If you are interested in becoming a mentor please send a Bio, a photo and a brief statement of your areas of mentoring expertise to


Individuals who hold current leadership appointments as a Dean (or equivalent) in an ACDS member university and who wish to enhance skills through a year-long mentoring program are invited to submit an expression of interest to   

EOIs should include a short CV, a maximum of one page outlining their vision for their current role and what they wish to achieve from the mentoring program

This program is limited and competitive; no more than eight mentees will be accommodated in any single year.

Mentoring tips

Suggested approaches to mentoring:

  1. Communicate regularly: An agreed communication schedule is one key to a successful mentoring relationship without which participants drift apart. Hence, make an effort to communicate regularly, whether via telephone, e-mail, or Zoom.
  2. Identify goals: The mentee should take the lead by identifying areas of need. The mentor and mentee should review the areas of need and establish goals.
  3. Establish guidelines: How will you go about achieving the established goals? What are the responsibilities of each party? How and how often will you communicate?
  4. Respect confidentiality: The sector is small and both parties should treat personal and institutional information shared as part of the Peer Mentoring Program in confidence.
  5. Understand limitations: Participants should bear in mind that solutions offered as best practices can still be influenced by factors such as institutional culture, practices, policies and local regulations.
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Program evaluation

The ACDS Mentoring Program will be evaluated periodically via a questionnaire to the mentees to determine its usefulness and overall effectiveness in achieving its primary objectives of supporting deans and associate/assistant deans to the dean’s job, leadership development for new deans and associate/assistant deans and the provision of networking opportunities.

The Executive Director of the ACDS will oversee the evaluation process.

Useful resources

LH Martin institute – Developing and sustaining shared leadership in Higher Education
Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA)
ACER – Academic Leadership Capabilities for Australian Higher Education