Guidance actions play a decisive role in the complex and articulated process of higher education of the new generations. The choice of a higher education curriculum is indeed a very delicate moment in the life of the student who has to make a conscious choice in order to build his or her own life project; shortcomings in guidance contribute to an increase in the number of study drop-outs, as well as to slowing down student careers by disproportionately increasing the time it takes to obtain a degree.
First entry to university is therefore an extremely delicate phase of a student's education, as evidenced by the fact that most drop-outs occur during the first year of enrolment. It is therefore extremely important for the university to organise, at this stage, activities capable of supporting one of the most delicate passages in a young person's training career, through assistance and information services aimed at alleviating perplexities and uncertainties related to the impact with the university world.
The University of Parma pays particular attention to advising/guidance projects aimed at high school students, in order to promote an accurate and in-depth knowledge of the University's course catalogue and, at the same time, to stimulate conscious choices of their university career also through appropriate preparatory activities aimed at verifying the possession of the knowledge and/or skills or the adjustment of personal preparation necessary for access to degree courses.
At the same time, advising/guidance activities, in addition to focusing on investigations into the motivations and expectations of incoming students, contemplate the use of innovative teaching experiences, as a function of orientation itself, in order to achieve career regularity. With this in mind, the service is aimed at enhancing the tools for assessing students' incoming skills, particularly for those degree courses with a high drop-out rate.
The procedures for enrolling, admitting students and managing their careers are set out in the Prospectus and the University's Academic Regulations and communicated through specific sections of the University website; a specific section of the University portal is dedicated to first-year students:
University of Parma the world that awaits you. An important network of activities and services, described in the document University Policy for Student Services and coordinated by the Delegate for Advising and Guidance, is constantly updated and optimised to accompany students throughout their university career, from guidance to tutoring, internships and internships to job placement, taking into account the dynamic needs of students, University strategies and the opportunities offered by national or regional calls for advising/guidance.
In order to facilitate students in their curriculum and to develop their soft skills, the university has adopted a number of special regulations such as, for instance, the Regulations for the enrolment of part-time students, the Regulations for free participation activities and the Regulations for the activation and management of an alias career for subjects in gender transition. The university pays particular attention to the problems of students with disabilities, so much so that since 2000 it has set up a support unit for vulnerable groups and students with disabilities, Specific Learning Difficulties and Special Educational Needs, called Le Eli Che, currently within the Grants, Right to Study and Student Welfare Unit. Recently implemented is the establishment of the Prison University Pole with the aim of fostering the right to study of those in a state of restriction of personal liberty. A specific mentoring activity is planned for high-level student athletes.
The actions implemented by the University are reported annually in the Performance Report document and are monitored annually in a report by the Rector's delegates.
For the reception of foreign students, a number of activities have been launched that can be consulted on
the English version of the university website. In order to promote the recruitment of foreign students, the university has stepped up its reception activities, as well as supporting them in finding accommodation and lodging, and is testing the feasibility of establishing a Foundation Year, a preparatory training course for foreign students with less than 12 years of schooling.
In general, the advising/guidance service consists of guaranteeing all the activities related to the guidance processes for students, supporting future students and their families in making informed choices of the university pathway, and welcoming students, including foreign students, into the university environment.
The main activities of the Advising and Guidance Unit are carried out in support of and in close collaboration with the professors delegated for Advising and Guidance, appointed for each degree courses, and range from the organisation of and participation in orientation meetings held at upper secondary schools to the organisation of educational visits to Departments, aimed at helping students in the final years of upper secondary schools choose their degree course, from participation in national orientation fairs, organised in various locations throughout Italy, to collaboration in the organisation of the "Studiare a Parma" (Study in Parma) open days, held annually at the University in the spring, and the "From High-School State exam to University" info days, held annually at the University in the summer, to coincide with the opening of enrolment.
It is also worth mentioning the dissemination of information to future students on how to access degree courses, the care of projects in collaboration with upper secondary schools as part of advising/guidance activities, support for the structures involved in 'Alternanza Scuola-Lavoro' courses and the holding of information and advising/guidance interviews for students and families; finally, the service handles the management of reorientation processes for enrolled students, in collaboration with the professor staff and the psychological counselling service.
In connection with high schools, the university has launched a series of specific projects involving school teachers in coordination with UNIPR teachers with a view to supporting the preparation of school students for university enrolment.
These projects specifically are:
- CORDA Project, established in 2001 as an advising/guidance initiative for students in their last year of some high schools who intended to undertake studies at the Faculty of Engineering in Parma, now extended to all the University's scientific courses;
- Scientific Degrees Plan (PLS), established in 2004 with the aim of combating the growing disaffection of young people towards scientific disciplines.
The activity of welcoming foreign students and refugees deserves a separate discourse, which over the years has become increasingly important within the objectives that the University has set for itself, also from an administrative point of view, especially with regard to the evaluation of foreign qualifications that students submit upon enrolment and which, in some cases, they send before arriving in Italy for prior evaluation for admission to Second-cycle degree courses. With regard to the delicate and current context of the refugee situation, the university recently joined the National Coordination on the Evaluation of Refugee Qualifications (CNVQR) with which the MIUR, with the support of the CIMEA, has set itself the objective of providing universities with useful tools to proceed with the recognition of the qualifications of refugees with little or no documentation. The University of Parma, within the framework of this project, which is also part of the University Plan for Refugees, was able to receive precise notions on the procedure to follow in cases of poor or absent documentation, establishing important contacts with other universities and with CIMEA staff, for fruitful cooperation. Based on this protocol, the Careers and Services for Students Unit provides accommodation for refugees with confirmed status, as well as asylum seekers. For everyone, i.e. both those with recognised refugee status and those with a status that is not yet final and with partial or deficient documentation, the qualifications submitted are assessed. In this context, numerous discussions are scheduled, both with students and with the mediators of the associations, as well as with the Presidents of the Course Councils to which the students approach, and with ERGO for possible benefits.
In addition to all these centrally coordinated activities, there are other actions implemented on the direct initiative of individual departments, degree courses and their delegates. These initiatives take the form of internships activated at individual departments by the guidance delegates of the various degree courses and take place over one or more days; the relevant information is collected in a digital brochure published annually on the website; the same brochure is sent by email, through direct contact with school guidance directors and teachers, to all schools in the catchment area (Parma and neighbouring provinces as well as other provinces in which guidance meetings are organised in schools or where guidance fairs are held).
In addition to internships, it is worth mentioning the more specific initiatives organised directly by professors/instructors (not necessarily delegated for guidance). These actions are thematic and are once again aimed at high school students in order to provide them with further information on curricula leading to more or less 'canonical' professional profiles.
In addition, it was also intended to conceive advising/guidance as a function of the choice of a Second-cycle degree, so as to orientate it, favouring vocation and talent, through more intensive contacts with students enrolled in first-level degrees.
Lastly, it seems appropriate, in this context, to mention the Customer Satisfaction project undertaken by the University of Parma, capable of allowing, among other things, the assessment of the effectiveness of advising/guidance actions, an open issue and not entirely resolved in the national panorama, in order to allow a more conscious and targeted choice by students and, in particular, to verify that orientation actions are productive, not so much in terms of attractiveness to the University, but in terms of improving the performance of students who then enrol at the University of Parma.
The incoming advising/guidance activities of the degree course in 'Modern Foreign Languages and Civilisations' are divided between activities organised by the University and activities organised independently by the course. Among the former, the course takes part in the Open Day (lasting three days, in which professors and student tutors provide information and give presentations, in the context of the Humanities Area, on the course catalogue and the professional opportunities of the course) and Info Day (lasting one day, in the period immediately preceding the opening of enrolment). To encourage the participation of interested parties, some of these information days are also held on Saturdays.
Among the activities organised by the degree course, also on the basis of a close relationship with the University's Guidance and Internship Sector - Course Orientation and Tutoring Service, are course presentation meetings at secondary schools; cycles of classes, during the first and second semester, open to students in the final classes of secondary schools; alternating school-work activities, aimed at welcoming high school students (usually in the fourth year) to the Department's facilities where the course activities take place, especially in agreement with the high schools with which a solid collaboration has been established. In addition, since a.a. 2016/2017, the Degree Course has participated in the University's 'Bridge' project, coordinated by a DC professor, with the aim of further consolidating collaboration with local secondary schools.
Since 2019, advising/guidance activities have been further enhanced thanks to the Guidance and Tutoring Plan (POT), for which Prof. Nicoletta Cabassi is responsible.