Latvia:Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education
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The Law on Institutions of Higher Education says that higher education institutions have to ensure:
that the students are given the opportunity to acquire knowledge, an academic education and professional skills in accordance with the science development level and cultural traditions of Latvia in as concentrated and didactically wholesome a form as possible. (Section 5.2)
The Law also defines the right of students to receive information in all matters, which are directly related to their studies and possible career.
Student service centres of some institutions of higher education provide also psychological counselling to students. Also, HEIs are responsible to provide students with the possibility to play sports. This is an important support to students’ physical and psychological health.
Career GuidanceThe University of Latvia – the largest university in Latvia – provides the most advanced student services. Most other higher education institutions in Latvia provide some elements of academic guidance, psychological counselling and career guidance system.
Student support provision at the University of Latvia is based on a model that allows the integration of all support services for students, including academic (education), career, psychological issues and assistance to persons with disabilities. Administration of these activities within the University is coordinated by Student Services. Based on the interdisciplinary nature of the career concept, the integrated approach ensures the provision of the appropriate type of aid concerning a particular problem and co-operation among counsellors (and other staff). The main target groups are: students, pupils, employers, academic and administrative staff. Guidance provision as a centralized service within the University is offered through individual counselling, group workshops, thematic lectures, information activities (career day, meeting with company representatives) and specially created online resources (Student Service Centre home page and for job search the "e-career" tool - a job offer and student CV database). The e-career tool has been developed to allow employers who are registered users of the database to establish direct contact with applicants in whom they are interested. In order to expand communication channels with young people social networks - Twitter, Skype are used.
In the University of Latvia, activities in cooperation with employers are planned to integrate guidance elements within the study process. For instance, lectures of invited representatives from the industry are providing current information on the development of the industry field. Lecture planning takes place by coordinating the study program content and the employer's competence (expertise). This gives students not only new knowledge about the labour market and industry specific issues, but also allows them to see their options within the profession and industry. There have been visiting lecturers in chemistry, finance, banking, information technology, retail and other sectors in various programs. Further plans are to establish a unified support system at the institutional level, combining different types of services provided at different levels within the institution into one system, such as the introduction of peer mentoring, tutoring, personal development planning, to promote cooperation between the university and employers.
The State Education Development Agency’s Information and Career Guidance Department offers informative support for higher education institutions’ career guidance centres and also for students. The Department hosts the Latvian Euroguidance centre which provides information on guidance policy and practice in Europe and promotes mobility through information on learning opportunities in Europe.
Support for Foreign Students
National Integration Centre offers free consultations with the following specialists intended also for international students:
- A social worker who evaluates a person or family’s individual case and offers advice on improvements with the help of other specialists.
- A family support worker who introduces families to Latvian cultural and social traditions.
- A psychologist who gives emotional support and assists in developing harmonious relationships within the family circle and the wider community, as well as strengthening self assurance and trust in one's own abilities.
- A Latvian language consultant who evaluates the client’s level of language proficiency, in addition to creating the best language acquisition plan and choice of Latvian language training method.
- A legal advisor who assists with the understanding of Latvian legal norms and processes, and in the preparation of support documentation that may be necessary to communicate with state and municipal authorities.
- A professional career guidance counsellor who will evaluate the client’s professional skills and qualifications to fit the requirements of the Latvian labour market, assist with finding employment and with the accreditation of qualifications.
There are also developed general informational guides for international students: Compass for Living in Latvia for Students.
The form and number of services for HEI students depend on respective HEI. There are for instance, Latvian as a foreign language courses which focus both on linguistic and cultural aspects, fellow local-mentor students and other forms of informational support (on employment, living, professional accreditation etc), events intended for meeting local students, psycho-emotional support etc.