Italy's 70-odd state universities are intensifying their marketing campaigns this summer to attract students for the coming year despite budget constraints.
Street hoardings, TV, radio and newspaper advertising, sponsored rock concerts and websites are being used to promote universities.
Some institutions are firing off thousands of messages to young people's cellphones, many have launched open-door programmes to entice school-leavers to visit their campuses.
The boom in marketing has been encouraged as state funding has become more closely linked to the number of students at a university.
According to a poll, all universities now run a "communications" programme, compared with only 37 per cent in 1992. Some 41 per cent do marketing in-house; the rest use agencies.
Cuts in spending to this year's budget, which recently prompted Italy's rectors to threaten to resign en masse, mean that most universities' expenditure on marketing has dropped slightly this summer.
But advertising is still seen as an essential investment. Maurizio Boldrini, lecturer in communications at Siena University and coordinator of the communications commission of the Rectors Conference, said: "Spending on advertising campaigns has been cut back somewhat this year. There is a return to less spectacular forms of marketing."
A growing number of Italian students go to universities away from home in a break with the tradition of attending local universities.
Professor Boldrini said: "This new mobility of students who are no longer 'captive' but choose freely has made effective communications an essential job for any Italian university."