The current university orientation courses hark back directly to the courses held in the 1960s by the Ministry of Education in Erice, Sicily, to which the Scuola Normale Superiore provided a fundamental teaching and organizational contribution.
In 1980 in Cortona, Tuscany, taking up and developing the experience of Erice, the SNS organized the first of a long series of university orientation courses that from that year onwards have been held regularly without interruption. In addition, to respond to an increasingly strong demand for participation, the annual number of courses has increased since the 1990s. In June 2017, the one hundredth of these courses was organized in Pisa.
Also in the summer of 2017, following the federation of the SNS, the Scuola Sant'Anna and the IUSS of Pavia, the joint "Scuola di Orientamento Universitario" was established. The Scuola Normale Superiore, the Sant'Anna School of Pisa and the IUSS of Pavia represent, in the Italian university system, public institutions with a special status for the training of particularly gifted and deserving students. The idea is to favour, through the Scuola di Orientamento, a more informed and motivated choice of university studies, through a project shared among the three Institutes.
Organisation of courses
Each of the Normale orientation courses involves around six days of activity. The courses are residential: all the selected students reside for the entire duration of the respective courses in the facilities of the SNS; this gives them, first and foremost, a unique opportunity for sharing and comparing their plans and their aspirations with peers coming from different school and social settings and from different places in Italy and abroad.
At the heart of each course are the teaching activities, which include lectures by university professors, seminars, opportunities to acquire information and other study meetings. Contributions are envisaged in a wide range of fields of study and teaching (not only disciplines available at the Normale) and / or on topics of significant scientific and cultural relevance. At the end of the lectures and the meetings, the participants are invited to actively contribute to the ensuing debate, by directly talking to each other and with the lecturers, giving full rein to their curiosity and intelligence.
The students also have the opportunity to talk with the lecturers during free time, to focus on the proposed topics and to ask for information - also from the staff of the course - on the various university courses.
The participants are guided by academic tutors, undergraduate students and young PhD students, who in their turn are called to present and share recent and updated study and research experiences with the students.
The experience offered by the Scuola di Orientamento Universitario envisages a similar organisation of the courses: a multidisciplinary activity, organized in round tables, dedicated to macro-themes presented by exponents of the main research fields of the three federated Institutes and open to the contribution of the participants; afternoon workshops where students can directly test themselves on some practical applications of the topics dealt with in the morning. All this in a residential context of aggregation, with the constant intervention of tutors from the three federated Institutes.