Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Life in Italy 2: Escamotage

I learnt a new Italian word this week escamotage. Of course it is not Italian but is used here for a precise purpose.

The setting is the following. In order once more to reform the universities, the minister has introduced a law, the duesettanta (270), which increases the number of staff needed to support a degree course. Previously a three year degree required 9 staff, now 12. Previously a further two years advanced course required 6 staff, now 8. The faculty of Science in Como had 6 three year courses and 5 two year course which were covered by the 84 staff.

However suddenly now the faculty needs 112 staff.

Naturally there are further complications. We are a bipolar university, with a two science faculties, one in Como (us) and one in Varese. To have a single combined three year course at Como and Varese requires 21 not 24 staff.

In any case we clearly have desparate problems to satisfy the 270. Enter the word escamotage. It sounded to me like it meant an subterfuge, which is clearly evil. However what it seems to mean is "doing something that is not illegal, but gets around the intention of the law", which is something positive.

Actually our faculty has not spoken of escamotage, but it has been discussed in the Como press. The escamotage consists in giving a course which is not a course but a "curriculum".

The current proposal of the science faculty in Como for Computer Science is to devote 6 staff from Como and 6 from Varese to a joint 3 year course thus "saving" 9 staff (one might say "depriving" the students of 9 staff).

Disclaimer: I have only been in Italy 10 years; it is very possible I have misunderstood what is happening.



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