Italians' cunning plans secure extra course credits

April 6, 2001

Italy's academics are in a frenzy over the transition from degrees based on a series of exams to a system of credits.

Faculty councils are using any means necessary, from academic clout to treacherous thrusts of the academic stiletto, to secure as many credits as possible.

As the Corriere della Sera newspaper said, Italy's academics are "jubilant if, through cunning alliances, they can chip away at the credits of a hated colleague".

Under the system, which starts next autumn, the university ministry has given the three-year first-level degree 180 credits, while two years of a specialised degree is worth a further 120 credits.

But individual universities and faculties assign credits to each course. Discussions are still under way, but eight to ten credits is emerging as the average, lightweight courses get four credits, heavyweights 12 or more.

Roberto Finzi, who teaches economic history at Trieste University, said: "Teaching a course with more credits means access to greater human and financial resources. Formally, it is the faculty councils that are supposed to assign credits; in practice there is a power struggle in each faculty.

"Absurdly, we find that exactly the same course is worth more credits in one university than in another, presumably because the professor there is more powerful."

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