What is coaching and how does the Graduate School's coaching programme work?

Julie Starr (2011) describes coaching as a series of arranged conversations between two individuals which stimulates learning, action and change.  Coachees are enabled, through effective questioning and listening from their coach, to view their problem in a different light and identify missed opportunities (Egan 2001).   Coaches may not be experts in all areas of the coachee’s work but they are able to use a variety of tools and techniques to drive the coachee learning process.  Coaching sessions usually focus on one particular concern or issue and it is a fairly short term arrangement over a set duration. 

The terms coaching and mentoring are often used interchangeably and the two processes do have similarities. However, mentors will usually have more subject expertise and knowledge will therefore provide advice and suggest solutions to address the issue rather than working with an individual to find their own solution.  Mentoring usually takes place over a longer period of time and has a broader, less focussed agenda when compared with coaching.  It is recognised that on ocassion, and depending on the topic or issue being discussed, coaches may need to provide mentorship to their coachees.  However, the Graduate School coaching programme is not a mentoring scheme.  

Graduate School coaches are not trained counsellors and they will refer students to other College Support services, as appropriate.  These may include Student Counselling, the Imperial College Union Advice Centre or the Faculty Senior Tutors

Students participating in the Graduate School's coaching programme will be offered up to four one hour coaching sessions with a coach over a period of about six months.   Coaching sessions are confidential unless otherwise agreed by both the coach and coachee or if maintaining confidentiality conflicts with a duty of care towards another student or member of staff or if there is concern for safety.  Should this be the case, coaches will let coachee know who they are refering the case onto.  


Egan, G. (2001). The skilled helper: a problem-management and opportunity-development approach to helping. United States:  Pacific Grove, CA, Brooks/Cole Publishing Co., 2002.

Starr, J. (2011). The coaching manual: the definitive guide to the coaching process, principles and skills of personal coaching. United Kingdom, Prentice Hall Business.