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Three students studying together on a picnic bench

Research question

What are some examples of peer learning / support across Cambridge, and which are most effective to support students' mental health and academic performance?


Project team

  • Nat Abbott, undergraduate student reading Education
  • Lucas Pringle, undergraduate student reading English
  • Karan Patel, undergraduate student reading Psychological and Behavioural Sciences


Project report

Report: Peer Learning Project (PDF)



This project investigated peer learning as an educational activity that students identified as a source of both support and anxiety for those with mental health conditions. Cambridge is highly regarded for its opportunities for personal learning experiences, especially within undergraduate supervisions involving a supervisor with very small groups of students. A less formal type of peer learning occurs in Colleges, where 'College families' are a traditional arrangement comprising senior students allocated as 'parents' to peer-mentor more junior students. College families provide holistic support, encompassing both social and accademic, which can be crucial for students with mental health conditions.

These two approaches are very different, but both have a significant impact on both the learning experiences and mental health of students. While supervisions and other types of formal peer learning provide structure to the learning experience, they are not always the most inclusive or accessible learning environments. Conversely, informal peer learning initiatives such as College families might feel more supportive, but the lack of structure can fail to support academic performance.