Italy's university minister, Luigi Berlinguer, has called on rectors to draw up plans for university building projects to be financed by private institutions, primarily banks, to ease the burden on the state of future development.
Is it hoped that private sponsors will provide more than half of the funds for the construction of buildings that, through the revenue generated, would then pay back the financiers in the medium to long term. Professor Berlinguer said the state would also contribute to each project "in the context of the limited resources available".
A letter was sent to rectors in May asking universities to present building programmes by July 15. So far, only four of Italy's 60-odd universities have expressed interest - Tor Vergata and Roma III in Rome, Siena and Trento.
According to the education ministry, these will be "pilot projects" to test the feasibility of the plan.
Only one university, Trento, has presented a detailed project. This includes a complex of mini-apartments for lecturers and visiting academics, housing for students, a training centre, a cafeteria, a parking lot and a sports centre.
According to Massimo Egidi, the rector at Trento, the project should cost about Pounds 32 million. "We expect each billion lire of public financing to generate about one and a half billion in private support," he said.
So far, there has been little response from the institutions expected to provide most of the money. But as many Italian banks have strong regional roots, they could finance projects that would boost their image.
It is also not yet clear what guarantees the sponsors would have of recovering their investments.