DO NOT DESTROY THE PUBLIC UNIVERSITY INSTITUTION.
REFORM AND STRENGTHEN IT.
This is a statement of opposition to the recent laws and government
acts concerning the Universities, and an appeal to strengthen and reform
public University in Italy.
For many years the Italian system of University and Research has been strongly disadvantaged relative to other European countries. We have fewer professors, researchers and technical staff, both relative to the population and to the number of students. We spend far less per capita on teaching and research. The resulting obsolete structures and resources impede progress, student costs are high and the services offered inadequate. Many degree programs and research centers work as best as they can, remarkably often producing outstanding results, but an entire generation of brilliant students and young researchers is continually forced to seek better conditions for work and study abroad, which is a great loss in human resources and talent to the Country. All this clearly contradicts the recurrent slogans claiming that research and innovation are the engine for future development and an economic upturn.
Funding cuts envisioned in the economic plan proposed by the present government in July 2008 [DPEF, government economical and financial development plan] are only destructive. They will lead to the progressive dismantling of the public University. The plan limits turnover to 20% just when a huge number of retirements are expected due to both demographic reasons and to the new rules. This will rapidly reduce staff and prevent young people from being hired and we will continue to have the oldest teaching and research staff in the developed world. In spite of this, because of the progressive reduction imposed by the law, the Fondo di Finanziamento Ordinario [the budget granted to Universities by the State] will not suffice to even pay wages for those who remain. As a result, the only alternative will be a strong pressure to privatizing the Universities - something that is already happening in a concealed way - with the eventual, predictable transformation of the Public Universities into private foundations, a possibility that the law allows. Meanwhile, many self-annointed "centers of excellence" have been founded by exploiting the lack of a rigorous evaluation, that cannot offer high quality teaching except to restricted elites of students.
We believe that Italy needs state run schools and Universities, that can guarantee the right to learn and grow and assure a high quality of teaching and research. A University is not a company and its public are not customers and consumers. A university must work responsibly within its budgetary limits. But most of its income has to be provided by the State, to enable it to plan and deliver the fundamental service of higher education free from private interests and interferences, and to guarantee freedom in research activity as prescribed by our Constitution. In the interest of the Country, we believe that teaching institutions, research centers, and individuals who have been able to achieve high standards need to be encouraged, supported, and rewarded, while it is necessary to reform and innovate wherever results are not satisfactory or personal interests have prevailed. A strategic destruction (in the hope of rebuilding?), cannot guarantee quality and represents an unacceptable waste of expertise, people and money.