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Studies — career — health
an evaluation of universities´ and university colleges´ study and career counselling and student health care
The big expansion of higher education, along with broadened recruitment, put new demands on both education and support functions. This makes the various types of student support more important than ever. For this reason, among others, the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education has decided to evaluate study and career counselling, and student health care. Good teaching and generally good conditions on campus are of course fundamental to good studies. But these factors need to be complemented by well-functioning support services. In order for the various types of support to achieve their objective — to provide the student with the best possible conditions for completing his or her studies — a global approach to both the student and the support offered is required. We argue that study and career counselling, and student health care, can be justified in terms of both the students´ well-being and financial realities, because a student who is happy, healthy and handles his or her studies is beneficial to the higher education institution as well. The evaluation focuses on the set conditions for the three support services. Since these conditions are set, to a great extent, by an institution´s management, they are the main target group for this evaluation. Other important target groups include individuals active within the three support services, and students. The purpose of this evaluation is to stimulate the continued development of study and career counselling and student health care. The assessment team finds that these activities function well on the whole and are carried out by many competent and engaged individuals. However, there are areas which we consider problematic and which need further development. These areas are presented below.
Important areas for development
On a general level, the assessment team recommends the following:
- The involvement and sense of responsibility of the management has to increase by their taking an active part in the formulation of goals and guidelines, guaranteeing reviews, evaluations and development, and taking a position on resources. It is particularly important that management ensures that equivalent support is given to all students, primarily in terms of local study counselling and such student health care as is performed by an external provider.
- The forms for reviewing and evaluating support services should be developed and made more systematic. Based on this, and on the institution´s overall objectives for student support, development work should then be carried out.
- Surveys directed at all students, i.e. including those who don´t use support services, should be more frequent.
- Information to students about the support services needs to be improved. However, we do not find that information is generally lacking at the introduction to higher education, but rather that there is a lack of information to follow it up later during term.
- Institutions, students´ unions and students in general must take an active responsibility for improving student influence on support services.
Areas for development in each of the servicesIn addition to the recommendations above, there are a few specific areas we would like to underline for each of the three services.
In order to improve study counselling, the assessment team recommends the following:
- Those institutions with centrally administered study counselling should work actively to achieve good knowledge about, and links to, the institution´s various subjects and programmes.
- Such study counselling as is done at the local level should have consistent guidelines and forms for development throughout the institution.
- There should be routines for training and further education within counselling. This applies primarily to those study counsellors who work at the local level.
- Study counsellors who work part-time should be able to fit competence development into their hours.
- When study counselling is part of another post, such as a teaching post, it must be clarified by means of guidelines for the activity and by training up of the person who is to do the counselling. The institution´s management also needs to take a greater responsibility for reviews and evaluations, and for stimulating development.
- Early warning systems should be used to a greater extent for the purpose of catching potential problems as early as possible.
In order to improve career counselling, the assessment team recommends the following:
- To meet the great demand for career counselling, all institutions should analyse students´ needs and then, together with the students, further develop existing activities or set up an entirely new system for career counselling.
- The institutions that offer career counselling as a credit points-earning course should look more closely at the consequences of this.
In order to improve student health care, the assessment team recommends the following:
- Those institutions that have an agreement with another health care provider for the provision of student health care must ensure that the care services function as intended and that they meet students´ needs.
- Those institutions who have opted not to have medical competence within their own organisation should make sure that collaboration with other health care providers is well structured, so that students have good access to medical care for study-related problems.
- The forms for conducting institution-wide studies of students´ health should be developed. Such studies are useful tools both for developing student health care and for identifying other problems within higher education — either as a whole or in parts.
The best institutionsOur assessment is that Linköping University is the institution with the best study and career counselling and student health care. Sharing second place are Lund University, Göteborg University, Umeå University, the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), and Halmstad University.
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