Peer Assisted Study Session (PASS)

Peer Assisted Study Sessions are an adaptation of a Supplemental Instruction (SI) model, initiated in 1973 at The University of Missouri–Kansas City (UMKC).  It is an internationally renowned academic support and retention program which offers peer mentoring with recognised National and International networks.


PASS @ Ulster

PASS was first introduced to Ulster University by the Schools of Psychology, Law and Computing and Intelligent Systems in 2010. Since then other schools have offered PASS. During 2018-19, 14 programmes (5 new) are offering PASS.



The benefits for inclusivity at Ulster are recognised. In 2017 the Widening Access and Community Engagement Sub-Committee (WACESC) endorsed a 3-yr pilot (2017-2020) to embed PASS institutionally for widening access and inclusivity objectives.


PASS Elsewhere

Currently, over 1500 institutions (including Ulster) in 29 countries have had Supervisors trained to develop PASS at their institution. PASS has been highlighted externally as good practice by QAA and professional bodies.


PASS Network

A UK National Centre was established in 2009 at the University of Manchester. A European Centre was established in 2016 in Lund University. An Academic Peer Learning Leadership Forum has been created.


How does PASS work?

Trained student PASS leaders (mentors) usually work in pairs to facilitate weekly timetabled study sessions with students from earlier year groups (mentees).


PASS Leaders and Mentees

Students (mentees) set the sessions agenda with their PASS leaders (mentors). PASS leaders share their experiences and facilitate discussions.

PASS is a quality assured peer mentoring programme which adheres to the following 21 principles.

  1. PASS is a methodology for learner support
  2. PASS is small group learning
  3. PASS is facilitated by other students acting as mentors
  4. PASS is confidential
  5. PASS is voluntary
  6. PASS is non-remedial
  7. PASS is participative
  8. PASS is content-based and process-oriented
  9. PASS encourages collaborative, rather than competitive learning
  10. PASS benefits all students regardless of current academic competency
  11. PASS gives privacy to practise the subject, make mistakes and build up confidence
  12. PASS gives opportunity to increase academic performance
  13. PASS is pro-active, not reactive
  14. PASS targets high `risk´ courses, not high `risk´ students
  15. PASS decreases drop-out rates and aids retention
  16. PASS encourages learner autonomy
  17. PASS does not create dependency
  18. PASS integrates effective learning strategies within the course content
  19. PASS enables a clear view of course expectations
  20. PASS works in the language of the discipline
  21. PASS challenges the barrier between year groups

From PASS / SI Supervisor Training, Cork, November 2017
Copyright  University of Manchester

Who benefits from Pass?

  • Pass Leaders (mentors)


    • Personal and Professional Development Opportunity
    • Skills Development
    • Leadership skills
    • Communication skills
    • Teamwork experience
    • Opportunities to reflect, review and re-evaluate
    • Increased academic performance
    • Increased relationships with staff
    • Sense of being part of the University community
    • Reward and recognition
    • Learning Gain
    • Future Employment
  • Student Mentees (e.g. first years)


    • Provides support and guidance
    • Sense of belonging and identity
    • Settling into course
    • Non-threatening
    • Non-remedial
    • Social benefits
    • Increased academic confidence
    • Improved communication
    • Team working Skills
    • Collaborative problem solving skills
    • Improved interpersonal skills
    • Safe space to admit not understanding
  • Ulster University Staff 


    • Provides staff with regular and ongoing feedback
    • Recognised by QAA and professional bodies
    • Improves student study skills
    • Fosters a spirit of community
    • Improves collaborative problem solving skills
    • Improves interpersonal skills
    • Safe space to admit not understanding
    • Improves the student experience
    • Improves academic performance
    • Reduces student drop out rates
    • Widens access to diverse student body
    • Learning Gain


"I feel the experience was an extremely good one which I enjoyed and I can see it has boosted my confidence as I can talk to people more easily now than I could before. I also feel the experience will benefit me when it comes to future employability as it shows that I can work well with others as well as alone, that I am approachable and friendly. It also demonstrates that I have good time management skills as I achieved everything I planned."


"Not only does it aim to widen participation by providing a support mechanism aimed at helping students stay in Higher Education but the use of PASS has been shown to enhance academic performance and promote the development of skills and attributes to strengthen employability. This is particularly the case for PASS leaders who are often described as the ‘real winners’ in the process."

Staff member


C. O'Donnell, (May 2017) PASS Poster Presentation at the Employability: Beyond the metrics Conference at Ulster University.

PASS Diagram