This study had two aims: firstly, to determine whether participation in a peer support scheme called Study Buddy Support (SBS) improves pass rates of “at risk” students, and secondly, to examine the advantages of this model over hierarchical models where senior students tutor junior years.

Bachelor of Nursing and Midwifery students in a first year Bioscience course completed an assessment early in the semester. Based on their performance, “at risk” students (Buddies) and high achievers (Buddy Leaders) were identified to participate in this scheme, either on campus (internal) or via Virtual Classrooms (VC) (external). Quantitative percentage failure rates for those “not at risk” and those “at risk” utilising and not utilising SBS were compared. Qualitative comments were also examined.

Of those in the SBS scheme, 72% passed, while only 49% of those not participating passed. Buddies identified the reassurance of not being alone, as well as a friendly, non-intimidating learning environment, as SBS positives. For Buddy Leaders, consolidation of learning, developing networks, and improved team and leadership skills were positives. The current SBS scheme increased percentage pass rates and Buddies and Buddy Leaders alike suggested personal benefits for the initiative.

The networks developed in this SBS scheme can progress throughout the entire degree but are lost in a hierarchical model as senior mentors graduate. This suggests that the advantages of the SBS scheme may persist beyond first year and may further strengthen retention in later years.