Students trying to sign up in Italian universities have met confusion and bureaucratic uncertainty following a succession of policy changes regulating access to degree courses, writes Paul Bompard in Rome.
At Rome's La Sapienza University, with about 190,000 students, thousands of bewildered first-year students are queueing to fill forms, queueing to obtain information, and often queueing to take admission tests for courses without knowing how many will be admitted.
The roots of the confusion go back several years. According to a 1969 law, admission to any degree course in any university is open to anyone with a secondary school diploma.
But a couple of years ago, on the basis of their newly won autonomy, some universities started limiting admission, mainly in medicine, dentistry, veterinary science, pharmaceutical science and architecture, but also in any other courses under great demand.
In early 1997, university minister Luigi Berlinguer announced legislation that would introduce "programmed" admission across the board.
All over Italy rejected students appealed to regional courts, which upheld their right to admission. This led to confusion, with students joining courses months late or left in limbo. There was also a rash of demonstrations and occupations in many universities.
Last spring the ministry backed down and negotiated with student organisations, rectors and unions to reach a viable compromise.
In late July it was agreed that only medicine, veterinary science and architecture should have limited admission.
However, single universities are allowed to limit access, subject to ministry approval, in degree courses in which staff and/or infrastructures are deemed insufficient. As a result many students are uncertain on which degree course and in which university to enrol.