Bridge of Sighs
Bridge of Sighs, Hertford College.


Why Peer Support Training?

Welfare Support at Oxford comprises of many interconnected services including the Peer Support Programme. As students pick routes for support, from the very informal (friends) to the more formal, Peer Support falls somewhere in between and is an important addition to College/ Departmental/ Divisional welfare structures. It provides a complimentary level of support to holistic welfare support at Oxford. The Peer Support Programme fits in with the Universities United Kingdom (UUK) and Student Minds ‘whole institution approach to mental health’.

  • Contribute and engage with your student community
  • Promote and create welfare and wellbeing spaces in College/ Department/ Division
  • Be part of student wellbeing and welfare provision in College/ Department/ Division​
  • Invest in building a supportive and collaborative atmosphere
  • Learn interpersonal skills including active listening, assertiveness and diversity awareness

Research has shown the following benefits of Peer Support:

To those receiving Peer Support

  • Empowerment: realising the possibility of overcoming stigma and feeling deserving of support
  • Social support: reducing social isolation by engaging with others AND increasing confidence to do so within social circles
  • Empathy and acceptance: feeling accepted by others through shared empathy
  • Reducing stigma: many students unlikely to seek support in fear of stigma, makes conversation about MH more accessible
  • Hope and motivation: being able to witness others’ journey in MH can keep person engaged and motivated to pursue recovery

To those giving Peer Support

  • Empowerment and self-esteem: volunteers report an increased sense of confidence and benefit from feeling appreciated, emotional growth
  • Turning difficult experiences into a positive: developing reciprocal relationships allow for mutual support through challenges, developing an understanding of own limits and capabilities
  • Personal development and employability: PS offers comprehensive training and tangible experience in a support role

Student Specific

  • Shared context: experience of very specific student context allows for mutual support with an “insider understanding”
  • Access: making it possible to access support within the day-to-day structure of university life
  • Reducing pressure on university welfare services: PS being an integrative component of welfare, as a first-step/early intervention structure that deals with mild MH needs, creating more space for more complex cases to be seen by professional services

History of the Training

The Peer Support Programme was developed in the early 1990s in recognition of the essential role students play in supporting and encouraging one another on a day-to-day basis throughout their time at university. The Programme seeks to better equip students for this role, enabling them to feel more confident in supporting their peers, work closely with College/ Departmental/ Divisional welfare and become more aware of other professional support networks/ services available to them.

Since its launch, it has been embraced by University of Oxford reviews as an integral part of its welfare provision.

Current Training and Supervision Provision

Peer Support Training

  • Training since 1992
  • 450+ active members
  • In 38 colleges, 6 departments, 1 division
  • Last year: 23 training rounds, 552 hours of training provided to 276 students
  • Last year: 182 hours of supervision provided
  • Peers of Colour, Rainbow Peers, Peers of Faiths, Disability Diversity Peers

Junior Dean Training

  • Training since 1995
  • Last year: 48 hours of training
  • Last year: 36 hours of supervision
  • Last year: 49 Junior Deans Trained

Welfare Rep Training

  • Last year: 32 hours of training provided
  • Last year: 6 training rounds provided


  • The University of Oxford Peer Support Programme is managed by Dr Tim Knowlson CPsychol AFBPsS, Chartered and Registered Counselling Psychologist
  • Gail Allan
  • Foo (Philippa) Boston
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