Guidance in higher education is actually based on 4 fundamental phases:
- In the first phase guidance activities are carried out at the level of upper secondary education leading to the so called pre-enrolment in the University, not compulsory.
- In the second phase, when students enrol and begin to attend University, the contribution of teachers, tutors and older colleagues of the different faculties is fundamental.
- In the third phase educational support is provided to progress in the selected branch of study, as well as in case of change of faculty and training stages.
- In the fourth phase vocational guidance is provided to know which the future possible work opportunities are.
Guidance services are offered through specific offices inside universities.
Many universities offer psychological guidance to their students. This service is offered for free and it is addressed to students who need to deepen or to clear doubts and difficulties they meet, especially when they enter university, and that can interfere with their studies.
These services are often organised with the support of the faculties of psychology. Interventions can include interviews with professionals, meetings with other students, etc.
Many initiatives have been taken inside and outside the University to make occupational outlets easier; the Universities promote the formation of consortiums and agreements with enterprises which provide grants, stages and apprenticeships, etc.
The stage or apprenticeship can be carried out during or after the university studies, combined with the qualifying State exam for practicing a profession, according to the Law concerning the admittance to regulated professions (professional bodies and rolls). An apprenticeship or stage can be foreseen in the teaching regulations of a study course or be carried out through international projects, or offered to students and teachers by an enterprise, with or without a previous agreement between the company and the university, with or without any academic acknowledgement.
Law no. 196 of 24 June 1997, 'Regulations on the topic of employment promotion', establishes the general criteria to carry out apprenticeships and stages through its article 18 'Training and guidance apprenticeships'. In particular, this law lays down what follows: stages must be carried out within training and guidance projects, and according to agreements between the involved subjects (universities, associations of employers and employees, public bodies, etc.), the participants to the apprenticeship must be insured (civil liability and occupational accident); a tutor who has responsibility for didactics and organisation of the activities must be foreseen; it must be possible to consider the activities carried out as CFU credits.
Associations of private enterprises and universities draw up framework agreements to regulate uniformly the stage offer of the various enterprises. Sometimes also local authorities, public bodies and professional associations agree to the framework agreements. Many universities have instituted an office dealing with stages for the management of these opportunities and to inform students about apprenticeships provided by the university courses, stages offered through agreements between university and enterprise associations and stage offered by individual companies; companies can offer their stage opportunities directly to students or to university teachers who chose the candidates among their students.
Beside the offices for the stage management there are also student associations in many universities dealing with the stage offer. They are mainly international associations which group together students from certain study areas (economics, engineering, law, medicine, etc.) and act through a network of local seats. Many graduates' associations aim also at establishing a connection between university and enterprises and at facilitating the transition from the university to the labour market also through the stages' promotion.