BM 62 – ESU resolution on degree legal value in Italy

02.05.2012
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In the last year, the financial crisis brought a change in the national government in Italy and a new Prime Minister was nominated with the aim to save the country from the financial default.

This new government is now trying to liberalize the economy, saying that too much regulation and rules are restraining any kind of economic growth. After reforming the labour market, it is trying now to focus on the higher education system and its link with the labour market.

Even though we often see dishonest behaviour during competitive job interview processes in the public sector, the legal validity of a degree is something that can prevent discrimination of candidates during the selection process. The main result of abolishing this legal value, according to the government, is a more competitive system for the university system with supposed positive consequences on the market. After abolishing the legal value of the degree, the students should select a university only because of the quality recognized by the private labour market. This new system would not have any kind of real guarantee on the educational process and would not see education as a human right, but only just a step in the employment process, commodifying education as a product. The entire Italian and European law, even the University Reform we had in 2010, moved towards the opposite direction from the abolishment. In fact, it controls the teaching level of the courses and the recruitment of teachers.

The abolishment would lead to an educational system based on a deep separation between few HEIs of high quality, and likely with increasing tuition fees, and the vast number of institutions of low quality. This is not what a HE system should provide, and we think instead that we should go on with a system in which all willing learners can get a high quality education regardless of their economic and social background.

The Italian Government has also opened a public consultation about the abolishment of the legal value of the degree. This consultation had negative aspects like involvement neither of the students nor of the academics, no serious system of the accreditation, and no transparency in decisions on the formulation of the consultation in itself. It resulted in a failure to be objective on the topic.

To clarify the previous negative aspects, we believe that the formulation of the consultation was not objective and well focused on the topic. In some questions it was asked why the abolishment could be useful, not giving the opportunity to disagree with the statement, politicizing the consultation with the aim to impose Italian cabinet’s opinion.

The consultation was opened in March and is ending in 24 April, partly coinciding with our Board Meeting. In order to give importance to this consultation, the University Ministry should have promoted a broader discussion trying and giving everyone a general view on the reasons in favour and against. Instead, nothing has been done and many people are not taking part in the public consultation. They do not have sufficient information.

Additionally, the public consultation has a very weak control system. UDU checked that fake identities could vote in the public consultation. We point out that such an important public hearing should not be treated as a joke, due to the fact that we are talking about the future of the HE system and therefore of our nation.

The Italian Government should not abolish the legal value of the degree, and it should start a debate with all the academic world, first of all with the students, to understand which are the weak points of our system. Then it should finally recognize education as a public good and should bring the funding of HE at least to the average European level. The education must be guaranteed for everyone and HEIs without basilar funds will never improve their quality.

The public consultation should be used as a tool for large discussion and not just to prove a point of view. They should also provide the best information possible, letting everyone participate.

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