Guidelines for mentoring of postdocs and assistant professors

May 2022

At the Department of Political Science, Aarhus University, all postdocs/assistant professors will be offered a mentor (in Danish also known as “adjunktvejleder”). The mentors will support postdocs/assistant professors in their professional development as researchers and teachers, as well as their integration in the department.

The mentor should be a senior member of the department’s academic staff. For postdocs financed by external funds, the project owner can be mentor, but other senior staff members are also available. The vice head of department helps postdocs/assistant professors find mentors and approves them.

A mentor has two main responsibilities: supporting the academic development of the postdoc/assistant professor and mentoring in matters related to personal development.

The nature of the mentoring will depend on the exact employment of the postdoc/assistant professor in terms of how many teaching obligations they have and whether they are employed in an externally funded project.

Supervising academic development comprises research and teaching:

1. Research:

  • Advice on publication strategies, plans and choices. In terms of obtaining a tenured position, it is important that postdocs/assistant professors have the opportunity to develop and publish research on their own. At the Department of Political Science, AU, some sole-authored work is required to qualify as associate professor.
  • Guidance/feedback on grant applications.

2. Teaching:

  • Help work out a suitable plan for teaching activities.
  • Guidance/feedback on content and planning of the postdoc’s/assistant professor’s teaching activities and development of didactic skills.
  • Guidance concerning the mandatory course for assistant professors (also offered to postdocs who do not have a position as assistant professor). The mentor has some formal duties in connection with the course, which thus cannot be taken without a mentor. Information on the course University Pedagogical Programme

Mentoring on personal developments comprises the following issues:

  • Introduce postdocs/assistant professors who are new to the department to the department and inform about relevant activities.
  • Guidance in decisions that generally affect the postdocs’/assistant professors’ career options/opportunities.
  • Be available for small or big work-related issues that bother the postdoc/assistant professor.

What is not the mentor’s job:

The vice head of department is responsible for the overall well-being of the group, including staff development talks. Any major problems and challenges should be referred to her/him. This includes:

  1. Major personal issues concerning, for instance, illness or stress.
  2. Problems related to the organization and division or labor in research projects in which the postdocs/assistant professor is involved/employed.
  3. Major challenges regarding planning and execution of teaching.  

The mentor is not “responsible” for the postdoc/assistant professor in the way a PhD supervisor is, and there is no reporting etc. The mentor and the postdoc/assistant professor are mutually responsible for settling on a suitable mode of dialogue. However, mentoring is an offer to postdocs/assistant professors and should be driven by their needs and interests; this includes the frequency of meetings.

A mentor should be found as soon as possible after the postdocs/assistant professor has started at the department, and a first meeting should take place within the first weeks thereafter.