Berlinguer bows out of ministry

October 30, 1998

Luigi Berlinguer, the Italian university and schools minister who spearheaded a radical reform of Italy's higher education system, is no longer university and research minister following a government crisis and the formation of a new ruling coalition led by Massimo D'Alema.

In keeping with the most recent Italian governments, almost half of the ministers hold university posts in the D'Alema government, Italy's 56th since the war.

Professor Berlinguer's successor, Oreste Zecchino, is expected to continue supporting the reforms, launched by Berlinguer, which are almost complete.

Mr Berlinguer remains schools minister, considered the more important of the twin ministries he held in the Prodi government.

The university reform, which hinges on academic and administrative autonomy for each university and a new system for recruiting academics, is all but complete. Only a few operative details still need to be defined. Schools' reform is only just beginning. But a planned reform of the state's scientific research system is still not under way.

Berlinguer belongs to the same party as D'Alema, the ex-communist Democrats of the Left. But in the complex negotiations to share out ministries among the eight coalition partners the higher education ministry was assigned to Senator Zecchino of the Italian Popular Party, one of several descendants of the defunct Christian Democratic Party.

Senator Zecchino, 55, was president of the senate's justice commission and is professor of the history of criminal law at Naples University. The universities ministry appears dazed at suddenly losing Berlinguer, who for over two years had imparted strong personal energy. Undersecretary Luciano Guerzoni, directly responsible for universities, is still in post to ensure continuity.

In his opening address to the chamber of deputies the new prime minister emphasised that his government plans to "carry on the good work" of the Prodi government.

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