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6 October 2004

The Heidelberg Centre for Study Counselling and Continuing Education: A Three-Way Liaison Agency

Centre at the University of Heidelberg provides assistance on getting into university, making the best of one's studies and finding the right job — A single facility for counselling on all matters connected with studying

Liaising between school, university and the labour market — this might be one possible definition of the work done by the University of Heidelberg's Centre for Study Counselling and Continuing Education. While this is quite a rough generalisation it does indicate the very special status of the Centre (ZSW). In Heidelberg young people in search of advice can obtain all the important information connected with studying at the University from one central facility.

"That means we can offer tailor-made solutions," says Dr. Andreas Barz, director of the ZSW. "At many other universities students have to contact different facilities depending on the kind of advice they need. This is not the case with us. It enables us to respond much more systematically to a variety of inquiries, whether they refer to supplementary courses or to the transition from university to the world of work."

Heidelberg graduates feel particularly well prepared for that transition, as is plainly revealed by a survey conducted by the news magazine Focus last summer. "One of the reasons for this is the large number of internships we arrange. Our general recommendation is not only to attend a workshop on a given topic but to gain practical experience in an actual working environment," Andreas Barz emphasises. "But we have other close contacts with industry and the business world — representatives from those areas visit us and provide courses for the students." This paves the way for job entry before students have actually graduated.

Another important aspect is the acquisition of so-called "key competencies" that are not only required during studies but are even more essential in working life. These are skills that transcend knowledge or ability in a student's chosen subject: actively facing up to challenges, target-orientation, self-controlled learning and working, communication, cooperation. "Here we have a degree of catching-up to do, caused mainly by the switch to the new Bachelor and Masters degrees. These new courses set out to provide a more compact grounding in the subjects concerned, so we have to modify our services to adapt to the new requirements." A catchword frequently encountered in this connection is "employability". The idea behind it is to assure a higher quality of education and training enhancing the students' potential as future employees, a central requirement in the Bologna.

Here too, the onus lies with the universities, not least because the quality gauge in future will be determined more than ever before by the kind of service they provide. "Counselling is very much a case in point. So we do all we can to respond to inquiries addressed to the Centre as quickly as possible," Andreas Barz affirms. "We are very sensible of the constantly increasing need for information evinced by students and would-be students. With the job market changing more and more quickly all the time, they turn to us for advice more often than they used to."

Of course these efforts on the part of the ZSW do not imply that academic qualifications have become less important. But non-subject skills are gaining ground all the time. And very soon this could have a major bearing on the reputation and standing of a university: "In the future competition between universities, the kind of service they provide will become even more important than before. That's incontestable. So if they want to establish a good reputation for themselves they will do well to think very carefully about such issues as how best to facilitate the transition to university for school-leavers or to give graduates the best possible preparation for their working lives."

Thanks to the commitment of the Centre for Study Counselling and Continuing Education the University of Heidelberg is already doing sterling work in this sector. But this advantage is at the same time an obligation to respond to new developments and thus to cut a good figure as a liaison agency mediating between school, university and the world of work.

For more information go to
Heiko P. Wacker

Please address any inquiries to
Dr. Andreas Barz
Centre for Study Counselling and Continuing Education
University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542451, fax: 543850

Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

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