The choice of university study path represents 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 advising 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.
The first entry into 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.
The University of Parma pays particular attention to advising and guidance projects aimed at high school students, in order to promote an accurate and in-depth knowledge of the University's educational offer 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 study courses.
At the same time, advising and 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 advising and guidance 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 courses of study with a high drop-out rate.
An important network of activities and services, described in the document University Policy for Student Services and coordinated by the Guidance delegate, is constantly updated and optimised to accompany students throughout their university career.
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 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 centre for vulnerable groups and students with disabilities, Specific Learning Difficulties and Special Educational Needs, called Le Eli Che, which is currently part of the C.A.I. University Welcome and Inclusion Centre. Recently implemented is the establishment of the Prison University Pole with the aim of fostering the right to study for those in a state of restricted 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.
The main activities of the Academic and career guidance division are carried out in support of and in close collaboration with the Guidance delegate teaching staff members, and range from the organisation of and participation in advising and guidance meetings held at upper secondary schools to the organisation of educational visits to Departments, aimed at the choice of course of study for students in the final years of upper secondary schools, 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 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 prospective new students on how to access courses of study, the care of projects in collaboration with upper secondary schools as part of entry orientation activities, support for the structures involved in 'Alternanza Scuola-Lavoro' courses and the holding of information and orientation 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 counseling service.
The activity of welcoming foreign students and refugees deserves a separate mention, 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 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 at individual departments by the study course guidance delegates and last one or more days; the relevant information is collected in a digital brochure published annually on the website.
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 evaluation of the effectiveness of orientation actions, an open issue and not completely 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 matriculate at the University of Parma.