Letter. Access to education in Italy is declining. If the idea of the university goes away, Italy will be reduced to a holiday destination.

For the right to education and research

The writers of this letter and its signatories are united in the belief that the Italian University is witnessing the dramatic downsizing of its influence on society. In the last seven years, for the first time in the history of the Republic, the University has lost a fifth of its organizational and working structures and the number of university students has gone down.

As indicated by the research carried out by, among others, Gianfranco Viesti on behalf of the Res foundation, the dramatic overall drop in registrations assumes the dimensions of a collapse in the South: comparing 2012 to 2000-2001, minus 16 percent in Sicily, minus 19.8 percent in Calabria and minus 21.9 percent in Sardinia.

The University is squeezed in a death vise between an intolerable reduction of financial resources and a suffocating bureaucracy. We are witnessing a proliferation of regulations, inquisitive practices and administrative controls, aimed at increasing its economic “yield,” to decrease internal costs and to link closely the process of training to the labor market and the professions.

Italy ranks last of the OECD countries for funds for post-secondary education and research with a paltry 1 percent of GDP. Tuition fees have grown by 51 percent over the past seven years, the largest increase on the burden of students and families of any country in the world.

Today, access to university education in Italy is the most expensive in Europe, after the U.K. and the Netherlands; furthermore, the right to study has been in fact dismantled: Only 7 percent of students receive a scholarship, compared with 27 percent in France and 30 percent in Germany.

The already insufficient resources are then allocated on the basis of two parameters: the standard cost needed to train each student in Italy (a totally inappropriate parameter when you have to finance the cultural growth of the country) and the quality of research estimated with the VQR parameter (Research Evaluation), a bloated evaluation system that has created a situation of growing confusion and conflict.

Among other things, this evaluation method is applied to underpaid professors who have been deprived of research funds for years, the basic resources needed to achieve the results for which they would be evaluated. The result has been the penalization of resources, disciplines, universities and regions, especially (but not exclusively) in the South.

The Italian ruling classes want to liquidate the University for the masses and return to a class-based configuration of higher studies. Academia, the training place of critical thinking, would languish in order to shepherd a select few elites. It would only take a few centers of “excellence,” mostly private.

The writers of the appeal call those who will subscribe to it and the academic world to a mobilization day with a general assembly for professors, students, administrative, technical and library staff, to be held on Feb. 11 at the University of Naples.

The goal is to discuss and bring to public attention to:

1. the need for new, organic and constant investment in the public University;

2. the creation of a welfare state to support student access and permanence of young people at the University;

3. support the regions to ensure equal standards of right to education;

4. the introduction of new teaching and TAB staff to cover at least the turn-over;

5. a review of the roles of teaching with new clear rules for career advancement and renewal of employment contract for the contracted staff.

We want to give a sign of hope and encouragement to promote again a moment of critical discussion within the University. If the University for all dies, Italy is no longer Italy, but just another holiday destination for the world.

The drafters:

Alessandro Arienzo, Federico II, Napoli,
Piero Bevilacqua, già docente de La Sapienza, Roma,
Armando Carravetta, Federico II, Napoli,
Bruno Catalanotti, Federico II, Napoli
Ugo M. Olivieri, Federico II, Napoli

First signatories:

Antonio Bonatesta (Associazione dottorandi e dottori di ricerca italiani)
Marcello Buiatti, Università di Firenze
Alberto Campailla (Link, Associazione studentesca)
Jacopo Dionisio (UDU, associazione studentesca)
Angelo D’Orsi, Università di Torino
Paolo Favilli, già docente dell’Università di Genova
Mario Lavagetto, già docente dell’Università di Bologna
Romano Luperini, già docente dell’Università di Siena
Ignazio Masulli, già docente dell’Università di Bologna
Maurizio Matteuzzi, Università di Bologna,( associazione “Docenti preoccupati”)
Tomaso Montanari, Federico II, Napoli
Daniela Montesarchio, Federico II, Napoli
Giorgio Nebbia, Università di Bari
Giorgio Parisi, La Sapienza, Roma
Laura Pennacchi, economista, Fondazione Basso
Tonino Perna, Università di Messina
Ermanno Rea, scrittore
Enzo Scandurra, La Sapienza, Roma
Nadia Urbinati, Columbia University

Per le informazioni sull’evento: https://​www​.facebook​.com/​d​o​c​e​n​t​i​.​p​r​e​o​c​c​u​p​ati

Subscribe to our newsletter

Your weekly briefing of progressive news.

You have Successfully Subscribed!