The Central Student Advisory Service advises prospective students, their parents or relatives as well as students at all stages of their studies (e.g. study orientation phase, graduation, doctoral studies, continuing education).
The advisory activities comprise three core processes: informing, instructing, and advising. The methods used in the advisory services include providing information, individual consultation (clarifying and counselling) for individuals on the one hand, and workshops, presentations, and training sessions for groups on the other hand. Advisory services can be provided in person, by telephone, or in writing.
The Central Student Advisory Service supports its clients when they have questions or experience difficulties during their course of study and while studying. Essentially, our advisory service is practice-oriented support based on reflection of the given conditions, for example, for organizing studies, study orientation, and decision-making processes. Under the motto “Helping people to help themselves”, we are aware of the fact that the advisers cannot make decision instead of the persons seeking advice.
The Central Student Advisory Service is part of the extensive advisory network of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena. Our team collaborates with other advisory units of the University (e.g. the subject-specific academic advisory service) and with external services (e.g. Student Services Organization Studierendenwerk Thüringen, local employment agency). The aim of joint projects is to guarantee and improve the quality and the range of advisory services.
Advisory services should focus on the individual situation of persons seeking advice and their perception of the problem. In the consultation, the adviser and the person seeking advice define the concern together thus putting the emphasis on the individual situation of the client.
Student advisory services combine the person-oriented approach with the context-oriented one. Advisers are familiar with the complexity of the educational organization (university) and are able to see the concerns of their clients in the social context. This systemic approach highlights the multifarious facets of the given concern as part of the advisory process.
The student advisory service should assist persons seeking advice in overcoming difficult situations by giving them basis for a change. Possible changes can relate to the clients themselves, to their social environment, and to the general conditions at the university (e.g. learning, working). At this point, the counselling adopts resource-oriented approach and proceeds on the assumption that the clients themselves have the skills, potential to help themselves, and a sufficient level of autonomy. In the advisory process, the advisers can show the way to these resources and thus help the clients to overcome the given situation. The adviser does not make decisions instead of the clients, but empowers them to help themselves.
The advisory service must whether processing cases itself or forward them to other competent unit to resolve the problem. As a general rule, the Advisory Service hears all concerns first, but can, if these do not fall within its field of competence, forward those to other advisory units as binding and precise as possible. It is therefore crucial to know who has the necessary competences. The Advisory Service can gain this information from various networks in which it cooperates.
A good student advisory service follows a voluntary decision of the client to take part in the consultation and should be transparent at all stages. If persons seek advice as a result of a social pressure or because of an emergency, the ultimate decision to participate must come from the person seeking the advice. The desire to seek advice must never be forced by third parties.
The advisory process and its conditions should be arranged in way that is transparent and comprehensible to the persons seeking advice. As far as the conditions are concerned, this primarily relate to the options available in the given time (What can we achieve in the given period?); regarding the process, it is the phases of the consultation, securing the results, and transparency with regard to the methods used (What should be done and why? What are our goals?).
All employees in the Central Student Advisory Service must provide professional advice confidentially. Persons seeking advice need the assurance that the consultation is confidential if the communication between the adviser and the client should be open and helpful for the client. The facilities in which the counselling takes place must also foster an atmosphere of confidentiality. A breach of confidentiality is only possible if the clients endangers themselves or other persons (e.g. suicidal tendencies, threats to other people). Upon request, the advisory service can be anonymous.
Every student or prospective student is entitled to an easy access to the advisory service. Characteristic of this concept is constant time frame (opening hours), a separate setting (separate consulting rooms), and practice-oriented specific courses for particular target audiences (e.g. course on how to deal with doubts during one’s studies). Easy access, however, also means that the advisory services are visible to the outer world and that they are recognized as such.
The quality of the advisory result depends on the interests of the persons seeking advice and not on the adviser’s point of view. What conclusions the clients draw from the advisory service is their business alone. It is not the purpose of counselling to push their clients into specific directions influenced by institutionalized and other social expectations.
Advisers need general advisory expertise, advisory methodology, and a field-specific knowledge about studying and the university system. In addition to personal qualities, for example, openness, impartiality, and self-reflection, the basic requirement for qualifying as a student advisor is a university degree, preferably in the field of social sciences. The specific knowledge required is usually gained during an extensive induction phase.
Regular and sufficient exchange with colleagues is an essential quality criterion for any advisory service (e.g. staff meetings, discussion of individual cases among colleagues, conferences). The advisers regularly engage in advanced training sessions and keep pace with advisory- and field-specific developments. Moreover, they are active in various professional networks. The internal knowledge management system ensures that subject- and person-specific knowledge is available to everybody (e.g. internal continuing education, documentation of courses visited).