Freestyle policy limbo for students

February 21, 1997

Thousands of university students all over Italy are in a bureaucratic limbo because law courts, legislators and university authorities have failed to adopt a common policy on limited admission to overcrowded degree courses.

The students were initially rejected by universities but subsequently admitted by a regional court ruling. They complain that they are enrolled in the courses, have paid the required "university taxes", but are being prevented from taking exams.

A 1993 ministry directive authorised each university to limit access to degree courses which were particularly crowded or led to professions for which supply far outstripped demand. Thousands of would-be students who were turned down appealed to regional tribunals on the basis of a 1969 law which established the principle that any student could choose any faculty. The tribunals invariably supported the students, but the universities appealed to a higher court which could overrule the verdict of the regional tribunals. A verdict was expected on February 10, but at the last minute the decision was postponed.

Now that the first exams of the 1996/97 year are coming up, many of the 10,000 students enrolled on the strength of the regional court verdicts complain that they are being boycotted by the universities. Certain exams require a minimum attendance at lectures, but some lecturers have been refusing to sign attendance sheets on the grounds that they are illegitimate. Others do not have the required attendance record because they signed up for the courses late, after the regional court verdict.

Student organisations are calling on the university minister, Luigi Berlinguer, to declare the full legitimacy of all 10,000 students so far "provisionally" enrolled, and to reform the system of selection.

For the ministry, under-secretary Lorenzo Guerzoni said: "We are willing to fully admit all the current 'provisional' students if they and the university rectors accept a complete reform of the admissions system."

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