Italian degrees reform 'made in the USA'

January 2, 1998

Italian universities may soon switch to a system of accumulated credits towards a degree in place of exams, Paul Bompard writes.

University minister Luigi Berlinguer made the announcement while parliament works its way through a first package of reform legislation, which includes greater university autonomy and deregulation in the assignment of academic posts.

Professor Berlinguer told a conference at the National Research Council that he wants to create a credit system similar to the United States's. This would replace obligatory exams and a final thesis, which has little flexibility and no compulsory attendance.

The minister also hinted at variable pay for lecturers, depending on their workload, and not on rank and seniority.

The planned credit system would require 240 credits (360 for medicine, architecture and engineering) for a full degree. Credits would be assigned both for exams and for attendance of specific courses and seminars.

After only two years at university, students would be able to obtain a basic university certificate with 120 credits in a variety of fields. They would be free to choose from a range of degree courses for their final two years.

Professor Berlinguer believes the system should reduce the drop-out rate and make allowances for part-time students. He also wants to cut the time taken to get a degree to four years. Italian students graduate on average at , compared to the European mean of 24.

"The text produced by the ministry commission is not a bill yet," he warned. In the meantime, he hoped that "some universities will decide to adopt the new systems in the next academic year".

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