Students socialising
Students socialising

Junior Dean Training

Overview of Junior Dean Training

  • The Junior Dean training has been running since 1995, inspired by the stated needs of those in the Junior Dean position who felt they would be better able to fulfil their roles with training in support and referral skills.
  • The training addresses the unique role of the Junior Dean, one that balances pastoral and disciplinary responsibilities.
  • There are over 45 Junior Deans as part of this trained community.
  • 25 colleges subscribe to this training.

Thinking about doing the training?

  • Can you commit the time to the training and attending the supervisions?
  • Junior Dean Training is an extensive course of 24 hours of training, provided by the Student Welfare and Support Services (SWSS).
  • Please consider carefully whether you will be able to commit yourself fully to the training programme, as it is imperative that you attend every session.
  • Training is experiential (including the use of self-reflection and personal experiences) and practice-orientated and cannot be caught up on, as the sessions link together. This is not a didactic training, rather it involves peer to peer learning that is generated from within the training group. Also, regular attendance is essential for group consistency, to build group trust and to help establish confidentiality.
  • All applicants must complete an online application form in the Junior Dean Training Portal.


  • This training is for Junior Deans with a welfare role. That means postgraduate students receiving a stipendiary income and who are in the role of ‘Junior Dean’, ‘Sub Dean’, ‘Assistant Dean’, ‘Welfare Officer’, ‘Student Warden’ etc.
  • The training is not for staff or senior welfare, as that would change the dynamic of the training and would need to be reflected in the content.

Content of training

  • The training covers pastoral care and focuses on listening and support skills.
  • In addition, the training covers:
    - Exploring the role of Junior Dean
    - Learning from other colleges about good practice and successful examples
    - Issues and themes regarding mental health, resilience and wellbeing
    - Referrals and getting to know welfare structures within and outside the university
    - College confidentiality policies
    - Dynamics of working in a welfare team and working directly with students
    - Issues around liability insurance
    - GDPR and note-keeping
    - Making referrals, signposting and using resources
    - Boundary setting and resilience
    - Practicing assertive communication
    - Suicide prevention
    - Crisis management and prevention
    - Working with complex student presentations and high service-usage
    - Active listening
    - Communication styles including verbal and non-verbal communication
    - Noticing, exploring and reducing assumptions including stereotypes, especially around seeking support
    - The pros and cons of giving advice
    - Integration into college and departmental welfare
    - Diversity awareness including stereotypes, assumptions, unconscious bias, intersectionality and privilege

Length and type of training

  • 8 sessions of 3 hours each, 24 hours in total.
  • Condensed over two weeks and runs over 4 spaced full-days (Mondays and Wednesdays, 10AM-5PM) in the last 2 weeks of September, before 0th Week.
  • The training will only run if there are at least 6 people enrolled on the training.
  • An additional training occasionally runs in the Christmas vacation depending on interest levels.

Location of training

  • Virtual training takes place over Teams.

Training fees

  • The cost is £500 per student, which includes the 24-hour training and fortnightly supervision.
  • The Peer Support Programme is non-profit, and the charges made cover the cost of running the programme.


The training is facilitated by Dr Tim Knowlson who is the Peer Support Programme Manager and a Counselling Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. Dr Tim Knowlson has many years of experience working in the Higher Education Sector as a psychologist, trainer, lecturer, clinical supervisor and research supervisor.

Testimonial 1

The Junior Dean role is complex and demanding, and is as multiply defined as there are Oxford colleges. It can be difficult to navigate your way through the responsibilities of the role, and sometimes it can feel overwhelming. But I have found great guidance from and community in the Junior Dean training and supervision, which draws together Junior Deans to learn helpful strategies to employ in their role, to reflect on best practice, and to support one another through our shared work. It took me a while to find this incredible resource, and I can testify to the peace and solidarity it has provided me since joining. What is perhaps most inspiring is the collective determination of the Junior Deans to do well by their role. If you want to hear Oxford's heartbeat, you might look here: to a group of committed individuals trying and intending to do well by the students they serve. I am grateful that the training and supervision have nurtured me and filled my work with more wisdom, care, and kindness.
Carrie (Oriel College)

Testimonial 2

The JD training and supervisions have been incredibly helpful in tackling the daily challenges of a JD. The training covered not only how we provide welfare services to the students, but also taught us how to navigate any issues that might arise within the college welfare team. The training is organised interactively, which allows us to practice our listening and communication skills. In addition to this, we are also encouraged to question our own position and point of view.
Having had to think through potential challenges of the role during the training means that I am more prepared for them as they arise. When there is something that I am currently struggling with, I can always go back to our training package or speak about the issue during supervision. During the supervision sessions I receive support as my peers show understanding, ask questions, and challenge my point of view. I have found it very helpful to hear outsiders' perspectives on a given situation, as this allows examining the case by taking a step back. When one of our students died by suicide, the group was especially supportive. As JDs we sometimes struggle with establishing boundaries with students and supervision helps us to reassess our own role. I have found supervision sessions not only helpful when I can discuss one of my own cases, as listening to and supporting my peers forces me to think about how I would behave in a given situation. I always enjoy going to the biweekly supervision sessions, as it provides a space to reflect on our role on a regular basis.
Friederike (St Anne’s College)

Testimonial 3

I took part in the 2018 Junior Dean Training session, and it was vital in helping me build up my pastoral skills and in preparing me for the challenges of the role. The work we carried out on active listening and boundary setting has been particularly useful to my everyday practice. Dr. Tim Knowlson provided us with insightful and compassionate mentorship throughout the training period, and his post-course fortnightly supervisions have been a much-appreciated source of support. Meeting Junior Deans at other colleges was an opportunity to establish best practices for taking care of ill students and responding to mental health emergencies; after the course ended, we then went on to set up our own peer-support network. I highly recommend this programme to anyone taking up a Junior Dean role within the university.
Annabella (Wadham College)

Testimonial 4

I have found the Junior Dean training and supervisions to be invaluable for carrying out my role, in terms of the skills acquired the self-assurance to actually do the job. The exercises in active listening, crisis management, and the resources for signposting were all highly useful, but I think that the exploration of ourselves as individuals was equally so. I came away confident that my skills and qualities as a person would make me an effective Welfare Officer, and I was determined to show myself the same kindness in carrying out that role that I would show to my students. This was solidified by the strong sense of community developed between the Junior Deans in my training cohort, something sustained and nurtured by our regular supervisions together.
Ed (St Peter’s College)

Was this page useful?*