An Italian historian with links to Cambridge University and the London School of Economics is behind a move to make donations for research and scholarships tax deductible.
Giovanni Aldobrandini, a British history specialist has taught in Rome at the LUISS (Libera Universita degli Studi Sociali Guido Carli) and at La Sapienza, and in 1999-2001 he was a visiting fellow at St John's College, Cambridge, and then at the LSE's European Institute. In 2000, Professor Aldobrandini, the heir of an affluent Roman family, decided to personally finance a PhD at St John's.
"Having enjoyed the excellence of teaching and research at Cambridge, I wanted other Italians to have similar experiences. I spoke to the master of St John's and arranged to give £35,000 a year to support graduates from Roman universities - Jone a year for three years each."
Italian tax laws discouraged such an initiative, so Professor Aldobrandini contacted four Italian senators who agreed to promote a bill allowing individuals to write off donations for study or research abroad.
Currently, Italy allows write-offs only for companies and only for money given to Italian institutions.
Professor Aldobrandini's proposal sets donations at a maximum of 5 per cent of taxable income, with a ceiling of E250,000 (£167,000). It will finance PhD students in Italy and in selected foreign universities and support academics studying or researching abroad. It will also allow lump-sum endowments to universities.
The bill requires approval by Parliament's finance commission and by the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, which could take up to two years.
Professor Aldobrandini said: "The task now is to drum up support among ministers, party leaders and MPs to make sure the bill becomes law as soon as possible."