Five universities have founded the Italian Institute of Human Sciences, to be directed by superstar semiologist Umberto Eco.
The institute will be housed in the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. It will link four institutes of postgraduate studies in the humanities including the higher school of humanistic studies in Bologna, which is directed by Professor Eco.
The venture is supported by the universities of Bologna and Florence and by three Neapolitan universities. It is hoped that it will encourage student and staff exchanges.
The network will specialise in doctoral and postdoctoral studies. Many overseas academics are expected to visit the institute. The network will promote visits to other countries for its students.
Mario Citroni, professor of Latin literature at Florence and a member of the institute's board of directors, said: "We are open to agreements with other universities in Italy and abroad for taking their students."