International Educator - May/June 2012 - 67
“We are in the midst of an attempt that older universities with more full professors have a severe funding crisis. “All the universities with old professors have a big hole in to shrink public universities that started a couthe barrel and the younger universities with fewer professors have ple of years ago with [former Italian Prime Minister smaller holes in the barrel,” Martinotti says. Silvio Berluscon]i,” says Martinotti. “One of the major actions Martinotti says that one university that fell into the former cat- was to block the turnover and diminish recruitments. The egory had to push many professors into retirement and close many pretense was that there were too many professors, courses, courses because it lacked resources. As a result, he says there is a curricula, and universities. But Organisation for Economic push to let the universities negotiate their own fees and raise stu- Co-operation and Development (OECD) comparative dent tuition, which currently, on average, covers only 10 percent statistics show exactly the contrary, that Italy is way beof cost. However, he says this raises issues of inequality among low average in all these measures.” national regions, with institutions in wealthier regions likely to be able to impose increased fees without too The lack of an Italian debt crisis until many complaints, while there would be major protests in poorer regions. “No one wants 1 million students recently hasn’t stopped Italian governments fighting them in the public squares, so that reform from imposing strong measures to limit hasn’t happened,” Martinotti says. higher education spending. In the past four Doctoral programs also tend to be among the most years, Italy has suﬀered a 30 percent cut severely affected by the funding crisis, as these students in public university funding, are paid by the state. Martinotti says at SUM in 2010, only with further cuts expected. four of his six PhD students were paid, and various cuts have whittled down the program’s resources to the point last year where the PhD program had to skip one full course due to A new reform introduced by the Monti government includes lack of resources and no new students were admitted to the program. a measure that would establish an independent benchmark for valuing degrees and student performance, says Martinotti. The traditional practice for hiring in public employment, a huge sector Management of Italian Universities’ Role Poor management of universities is another problem, says Walston. in Italy, has been to require employers to recognize the value of “There are many problems inherent in Italian labor laws and a uni- degrees from any university as being the same, despite large differversity some years ago was on verge of bankruptcy. A friend of mine ences in quality. Under consideration is a test that would attempt found himself deputy director in charge and he found that, like to place jobseekers on an even basis, rather than relying upon unmany Italian universities, the university had not followed normal dergraduate marks, says Martinotti. However, past political instability has hindered the implerules. It, and they, ran up huge debts. Finally, the last government required that they balance their books but they had enormous debts. mentation of such reforms. “Each new minister of education has It is unclear how that will be resolved. If you can’t pay your wages, introduced new reforms and none were completely carried out,” Walston says. “Higher education is in a state of confusion. What is you need to behave like any business, but they are not a business. “You also still have extraordinary monopoly over the courses offered necessary is to bring stability, rationalization of the courses that are at the university level. Many degree courses are there because some offered, and personnel to deal with the courses.” McCourt says funding higher education improvements by charglocal professor persuaded the local senate or university that it was in the national interest to have a course on Byzantine literature in the ing undergraduates more than the current €1,000 per year does not thirteenth to fourteenth century—and that’s only a slight exaggeration.” appear to be an option. “They don’t have the money,” he says. “It’s a big This is an area where Ireland has an edge, says McCourt. “One problem. Italian youth have an unemployment rate of 30 percent. The big difference between Italy and Ireland is the age of who’s running only thing that’s fair in the system is if the family is poor they pay little.” The Italian Ministry of Education is looking at adopting aspects the show. In Ireland, they are in their late 40s and have worked abroad and were renowned in their fields academically before taking of the U.S. model by trying to set up a series of university foundaover. So they bring more innovation and connection with the world. tions to raise private funds and introduce private investments. “But In Italy, the system is run by people who in other countries would the U.S. model works because those who give money to the university get tax breaks and there is no such system here,” McCourt says. be retired. We would like to see a generation change.”
Eﬀorts for Reform Research Funding at Risk
M AY + J U N E . 12 InternatIonal educator
Efforts to reform the system are underway and all eyes are on new Prime Minister Mario Monti, himself formerly rector and president of the private Bocconi University in Milan and popularly dubbed Il Professore (“the professor”).
At many Italian universities, the research function has been on the chopping block, forcing academics to find their own time and resources for such functions. “At a lot of universities, funding for research has been eliminated, especially in the humanities. You fund