With almost 40 per cent of young people now destined for higher education, advice about institutions and what they offer is vital. Higher education conventions, starting in Glasgow and ending in Shetland, are visited by some 38,000 senior school pupils and other would-be students all over Scotland from mid-August to mid-October.
These conventions are run by the careers service with the co-operation of universities and colleges. In recent years the careers service has consulted closely with the Higher Education Liaison officers' Association to construct a national programe.
Financial help comes from various sponsors, including the higher education sector, through the Next Step Network now controlled by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. The involvement of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, the Scottish Committee of Principals and UCAS gives the conventions added credibility.
HELOA has a code of practice designed to safeguard the quality of advice given at these events, and the careers service is equally concerned that the conventions do not become a marketplace in the undesirable sense. The "supermarket" is diverse and includes many English as well as Scottish universities and colleges.
This hectic September is only one episode in the year-long cycle of advice and information given by the careers services and by the schools liaison services in universities and colleges.
Someone wandering into a convention with no background might find the impact of so much information and good advice bewildering. Universities and colleges put much effort into informing and counselling their future clients, to help get the right people into the most suitable places. There is no point trying to fit round pegs into square holes.
Jennifer Carter is chairman of HELOA Scotland