A medical professor at Bari University in southern Italy has given all his students top marks in their examinations in a protest against the favouritism endemic in Italian medical schools.
Angered by the practice of "recommending" that a particular student be favoured at exams, Carlo Sabba', who teaches the emergency medicine course, gave all his students a maximum 30 marks. In this system, 18 is the minimum pass grade.
Professor Sabba', described as "one of the few people in Bari who rides a bicycle, and therefore considered eccentric", said that he was used to getting telephone calls and messages asking that he give a particular student a good grade.
But one student received a flood of recommendations. "Incredible," Professor Sabba' said. "A series of calls for the same student from relatives, friends and other medical professors. I'd always been irritated by the practice of raccomandazioni. I think it is deplorable. But this time it went beyond all limits, so I gave top marks to everyone."
Professor Sabba' pointed out that emergency medicine was one of the easier exams in the degree course, and that in any case high marks were common and failures are rare.
"But they want a high grade to raise their averages," he explained.
In Italy exams are an official process. The results, once registered, signed and countersigned, cannot be altered.
Many of Professor Sabba's colleagues at the university are furious. The head of his department has publicly criticised his gesture.
"I fear this thing could damage me personally," Professor Sabba' said.
"After all I'm only an associate professor."
But he retains his confidence in his students.
"The students understood and appreciated my gesture of protest against the odious culture of the raccomandazioni, " Professor Sabba said.