Mentors for higher education students in companies who are expected to provide high-quality mentoring in addition to their regular tasks encounter numerous challenges. The Bologna Process has been a huge challenge for the reform of the European higher education system, its aim being to raise Europe’s higher education to a new level of quality, equality, comparability and compatibility of studies and degrees across Europe. In the European Union (EU), Directive 2005/36/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications (10) regulates embedding practical training into certain, professionally oriented study programmes. As a result, universities and employers are now supposed to jointly participate in the systematic process of introducing students to their respective jobs. This should be achieved with the help of entrepreneur education and practical training along with the process of determining the graduates’ employability.
The article published in the European Journal of Higher Education describes the characteristics of mentoring higher education students in companies (formal mentoring, mentoring as a dyadic relationship and mentoring functions) which is a field the least researched, particularly when evaluating effects of mentoring. The purpose of the study was to determine what mentors working with students in companies in certain European countries (Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Slovak Republic) think about mentoring after adoption of the Bologna Process. The research was based on the analysis of written self-reflections provided by 57 mentors who had participated in a programme of education and training designed for mentors between 2011-2014 at the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Arts (Slovenia) within the international project of the Operational Programme Human Resources Development which was financed by the European Social Fund (ESF), Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology and some companies. Invited to the programme were mentors from various companies who accept students of the I and II level of Bologna studies of sociology and humanity, Faculty of Arts, Ljubljana to practice. Invitees were also foreign mentors who presented good practice after the introduction of the Bologna process.
The aim was to find out mentors’ perceptions of their work, their positive and negative experiences. This study’s findings bring new insights into how the Bologna Process has altered mentoring and its formal organisation. The effects of mentoring are both positive and negative. Mentors’ views demonstrate that mentoring is a complex and very responsible work which should be more appreciated. Mentors from all four countries are aware of the significance of their proper work, personal traits and a positive professional self-concept. That is why mentors in companies require training in the field of mentorship, a proper status, remunerable mentoring work and the exchange of views and experience with mentors from other companies.
Mentors from all the countries concerned stressed that quality mentoring in companies depends on pre-planning, better implementation and planned evaluation. This formal planning introduced by the Bologna process, which requires universities and colleges to prepare new or updated curricula for practical training. These curricula require students to be actively involved in the work of companies, thereby gaining specific skills, competencies and professional growth. Types of such practical training and higher education were presented: two-cycle system in the United Kingdom, three types of higher education institutions in Germany (dual type, etc.), Hungary (universities of applied sciences) and Slovenia (public universities which have various study programmes, and have compulsory practice for students as well as Career Centres).
The research suggests that faculties create a common web portal and forum involving a list of companies which can present themselves, offer practical training and employment opportunities. The portal should not only be accessible by one university or country but should have an international dimension. This would also improve the Erasmus exchange of students in practical training in various companies across Europe, enhance cooperation, exchange of knowledge and experience and promote student employment.
The findings are important for improving the quality of mentoring in companies and establishing an EU network of mentoring companies in the future. On the basis of the identified mentoring effects, new proposals for better mentoring in companies in some European countries have been made. As the results of this study are quite limited, further research is needed in wider European arena.