Guidance for inclusion: practices and needs in European Universities

Executive Summary

Purpose and Scope of this Deliverable

This Deliverable presents the results of STAY IN work package 1 – Analysis. The overall aim of work package 1 was to review the ‘landscape’ of student guidance and counselling, taking into account the policies, programmes and practices that have developed in the field, and using the lessons learned to feed into the design of the STAY IN services in work package 2.


The detailed methodology for the research that fed into this deliverable is set out in STAY IN Deliverable 1 – Research Handbook. The overall methodology adopted is based on a ‘Realist Review’ approach (Pawson, et al, 2005). This combines three methods of data collection and analysis: a set of Key Informant Interviews; a Literature Review of theory, research and practice on student guidance and counselling; a Student Survey.

Key Conclusions

Triangulation of the results of the Key Informant Interviews, Literature Review and Student Survey shows a high degree of congruence and consistency across the data with regard to identifying target groups and their needs. In all three sets of data, there is a clear consensus that:

  • students should not be homogenised into static target profiles. Their needs are shaped by a process that is continually evolving, as they progress through the study life cycle, and as their circumstances change
  • guidance services need to reflect this process, addressing a spectrum of needs that begin with the transition between school and university, and end with the transition between university and the external world, particularly the world of work

The survey results clearly show that there is a potentially high level of demand for student counselling and guidance services. The overall potential demand for such services would run somewhere in the region of 13.4 million students within the EU-27.

There is in general a big gap between support needs and support provision.

There is also a gap between the supply of support and perceptions of the utility and usefulness of the support provided.

The provision of basic information and support appears far from adequate.

The counselling and guidance areas that are seen by students themselves as the key areas for improvement are orientation services; regular monitoring of student issues; awareness-raising actions on counselling and guidance; support for financial problems. There was also strong support shown for providing training for students in counselling; for providing a Student Charter in all institutions and for providing regular workshops in study skills

Recommendations for service design

The STAY IN service design should be based on an over-arching framework that is holistic, adaptive and flexible.

The service design should not be based on targeting specific ‘target groups’ of students but should be based on configuring a set of support elements that address five broad ‘support scenarios’: the ‘Unproblematic Scenario’; the ‘Kick Starters’ Scenario; the ‘Self-supporting’ Scenario; the ‘Complex Needs’ Scenario; the ‘Pragmatic’ Scenario.

The service design should be based on a ‘blended model’. This would incorporate: information and advice elements aimed at the whole student community (for example website; Handbook); face-to-face advice and support elements (for example one-to-one counselling); group elements (for example student ‘buddying’); on-line elements (for example an on-line Forum).

The optimum benchmark the service design should aim at would provide: an on-line information service; a Student Handbook; one-to-one consultation; personal guidance tutors; ‘one stop shop’ in which services are integrated; 24 hour access to services.

Within the overall design, a set of counselling and guidance support elements needs to be configured to reflect the context of the specific institution and the range of support scenarios that need to be addressed. The possible range of support elements could cover the following:

  • A basic ‘Entry Pack’. This would provide information, advice and support mainly aimed at first time students. As well as the basic Student Handbook, the service would include: orientation support; advice on course and subject choices and how to change them; advice and support on study skills.
  • A basic ‘Exit Pack’. This would provide advice and support on preparing for life after studying; work experience; careers advice; financial management and planning.
  • ‘On-demand’ counselling and guidance services, customised to the individual needs presented. This would cover: disability support, mental health support, learning needs support, family support, relationships support, social support, living support , financial problems support, legal support, studying support .
  • Ancillary services aimed at improving the quality and effectiveness of service provision. This could cover: awareness-raising actions; a Student Charter; training for students and staff; regular workshops for students in study skills; continuing professional development for professional counselling and guidance staff; a monitoring system to continuously assess the level and nature of student issues and potential problems, and to assess the performance of the counselling and guidance services provided.

On-line counselling and guidance services would be welcomed by students. These should cover two essential items, i.e.: a basic information service and on-line Student Handbook; individual guidance from professionals (for example on-line psychological counselling). Optional elements could include: an on-line discussion forum; on-line group counselling; on-line mentoring.

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