Wednesday, October 28, 2009

University reform in Italy

I have written several times, always as a foreigner trying to understand the Italian mind, about university reform. I think however I have not emphasized an important (perhaps the most important) aspect. What follows is my imperfect understanding.

Money comes the the universities for two reasons - from research applications, and from the student enrolment.

Research money is fickle and allows one to employ temporary staff. (Research staff and graduate students are of course almost essential for certain areas of research.)

Student money is hard, and allows one to employ permanent staff. The desire to employ permanent staff in ones area seems to be a main driving force for Italian (maybe all) academics.

So what did Italian academics do in recent years? Create courses to attract students. Insubria university in Como created in Science an Informatica course and a Bene Culturale course. In Giurisprudenza the university created Scienze di Turismo and Mediazione Linguistica. These courses did attract students.

However the resulting money coming to the university from student numbers was used, not for permanent staff in the new areas, but for staff in the old areas.

With the contraction of the reform these new courses may/must close for lack of staff, with a resulting loss of a large proportion of the student numbers.

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