Awards aim to go the distance

June 20, 1997

The Italian government has launched legislation to create 60,000 means-linked scholarships over the next three years, bringing the total to 120,000.

They will add to the existing system of fee rebates. According to the university ministry, the scholarships, for students who are "capable, deserving and lacking in means", in conjunction with standardised means-testing, "will promote equality in opportunity while at the same time bringing Italy closer to European standards of state assistance to needy students."

Until now, most of Italy's 1.6 million students have had to rely almost entirely on family support. This has been possible because students could choose the university closest to home, and continue to live with their parents.

But with the introduction of limited access to degree courses in many universities, more students study far from home. Student organisations have demanded an increase in the number of scholarships to offset the higher costs.

The new system will be introduced in the 1997/98 academic year. Part of the cost will be provided by a new 80 billion lire (Pounds 30 million) national fund, while the rest will come from Italy's 21 regional authorities to specific universities within their territory. If university minister Luigi Berlinguer has his way, the national fund will be doubled next year and tripled the year after.

The scholarships will be awarded to students on a points system involving family income and the number of children. Marks in the end-of-school maturita exam will also be taken into consideration. Students who obtain scholarships will then have to pass a certain number of exams each year, or they will forfeit their scholarship.

In addition to the scholarships and fee rebates, needy students will also have a free daily meal in their university. The scholarships will range from about Pounds 1,000 a year for students living at home to about Pounds 2,500 for those away from home. Those from the lowest income groups will have a total rebate of fees, which normally range from Pounds 400 to Pounds 600 a year.

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