The University of Pavia has been ordered to return EUR 4.8 million to students!
In Italy, due to the underfunding of the HE system, universities largely exploit the income from student contributions to make up for state shortfalls. This results in university fees being excessively high, often exceeding the legal limit. According to the law, the student contribution cannot exceed 20% of the Ordinary Financing Fund, but unfortunately, this is seldom respected, as the only way universities become liable for an out-of-law budget is if an appeal is filed, at which point they can still try to use the loophole of “off-track” students (students enrolled in a degree course for longer than the defined duration). In fact, in 2012, the Monti government introduced the possibility of deducting the fees paid by “off-track” students from the 20% limit, subject to an implementation decree of the Ministry of HE. This decree, however, has never been published, making the unbundling of “off-track” students totally illegitimate.
As student representatives, whenever an irregular budget is presented to us in the decision-making bodies, we vote against it and, whenever possible, take the appeal route.
Thanks to this work, on 19 January, we obtained another important victory: the Council of State’s ruling was published, certifying that, in 2013, the University of Pavia had illegitimately requested 4.8 million euros from the students. Added to the appeals of previous years, the University of Pavia must now reimburse 13 million euros for the years 2010-2013. Now the university will have to take action to return the undue sum received.
Reiterating the fundamental principle that taxation for “off-track” students cannot be deducted from the total calculation, the ruling has a national effect: it shows that there are many universities that violate the law by asking for contributions in excess of the limit set by current regulations.
As UDU, we will continue to fight so that the law is respected and fees lowered towards the direction of a HE free-of-charge. We are demonstrating to institutions and universities that their conduct in recent years constitutes discriminatory and illegitimate behaviour that places on the shoulders of students the responsibilities of a state incapable of adequately funding HE. It is time for the government to realise once and for all the difficult economic situation of the Italian HE system.
We believe in the need for a public HE system with adequate resources, which should not use student taxation to ensure its sustainability.