Guidance plays a decisive role in the complex and structured process of higher education for the new generations. The choice of a university course is in fact a very delicate point in the life of students, who has to make an informed choice to pave the way for the future life they want; shortcomings in incoming guidance contribute to an increase in the number of drop-outs from studies, as well as a slowing down of student careers by disproportionately increasing the time needed to obtain a degree.
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 education, through assistance and information services aimed at alleviating the perplexities and uncertainties associated with the impact with the university world.
The procedures for enrolling, admitting students and managing their careers are set out in the Prospectus and the University Regulations and communicated through specific sections of the University website; a specific section of the University portal is dedicated to new students: Università di Parma il mondo che ti aspetta. (‘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 Orientation, is constantly updated and optimised to accompany students throughout their university career, from incoming guidance to tutoring, internships and apprenticeships to job placement, taking into account the dynamic needs of students, the University's strategies and the opportunities offered by national or regional announcements related to guidance.
In order to facilitate students in their studies and to develop their soft skills, the university has adopted a number of special regulations such as, for instance, the Regulations for the registration of part-time students, the Regulations for free-choice activities and the Regulations for changing the name associated with the university careers of students transitioning to a different gender. 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, SLD and SEN, called Le Eli-Che, currently within the Contributi, Diritto allo Studio e Benessere studentesco division (‘Grants, Right to Education and Student Welfare’). Recently implemented is the establishment of the Polo Universitario Penitenziario (Prison University Complex) with the aim of fostering the right to education of those whose personal liberty is restricted. A specific mentoring activity is planned for high-level student athletes.
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, as well as providing support in finding accommodation, the university has stepped up its reception activities and is also testing the feasibility of establishing a Foundation Year, a preparatory training course for foreign students with less than 12 years of schooling.
The main activities of the Welcome and Guidance division are carried out in support of and in close collaboration with the guidance delegates, appointed for each degree course, 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 year of upper secondary school 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 spring, and the ‘Dalla Maturità all'Universita’ (From the Secondary School Diploma to University) info days, held annually at the University in 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 running of projects in collaboration with upper secondary schools as part of incoming guidance activities, support for the structures involved in 'Alternanza Scuola-Lavoro' (study-work alternation) courses and the holding of information and guidance interviews for students and families; finally, the service handles the management of reorientation processes for enrolled students, in collaboration with the teaching staff and the psychological counselling service.
In connection with secondary 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 are:
- The CORDA Project, established in 2001 as a guidance initiative for students in their last year of some secondary schools who intended to undertake studies at the Faculty of Engineering in Parma, and now extended to all the University's scientific courses;
- Piano Lauree Scientifiche (PLS), established in 2004 with the aim of combating the growing disaffection of young people towards scientific disciplines. At UNIPR, PLS is divided into different subject areas:
- Biology and Biotechnology;
The reception of foreign students and refugees deserves particular consideration, and has over the years become increasingly important within the University’s objectives, including 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 Coordinamento Nazionale sulla Valutazione delle Qualifiche dei Rifugiati (‘National Coordination on the Evaluation of Refugee Qualifications’) or CNVQR, through which the MIUR, with the support of the CIMEA, aims to provide universities with tools for recognising 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 detailed information 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 division 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, courses of study and their delegates. These initiatives take the form of internships activated within individual departments by the guidance delegates of the various courses of study and taking 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).
The actions of the degree course in Biomedical Laboratory Techniques are part of this series of interventions, strongly focused on guidance activities. In February 2020, the professor/instructor in charge of this activity carried out three meetings with secondary school students in Parma: the Ulivi and Marconi scientific secondary schools and the Melloni technical institute. From these guidance meetings it emerged that students in final year did not demonstrate any knowledge of the degree course in question, let alone of the professional figure of the biomedical laboratory technician. Therefore, the description of this professional profile and the training offered are a strong stimulus that arouses interest and involvement in those present each year.
‘Studiare a Parma’, the University of Parma's Open Day 2020 in online mode, kicked off on Thursday 2 April. The page dedicated to the Degree Course in Biomedical Laboratory Techniques presents visitors with: the video presentation of the Course (https://ilmondochetiaspetta.unipr.it/laurea-tecniche-di-laboratorio-bio…), edited by the Director of Professionalising Teaching Activities, the details for requesting information directly from the contact professor in charge of guidance and an information leaflet. In the first six days, the course page was viewed by 104 users, indicating a fair amount of interest.
In order to enhance the contribution that students enrolled on the course or already graduated can effectively convey to future students, we are considering using short films, 'mini interviews' of enrolled students, in order to share experiences and suggestions through an immediate channel.
It is believed that this content, suitably supplemented with films describing the laboratory activities, can complete the picture of information available to future students, making it available both on the degree course website and in the context of the Info Day.