Rome's academies of art, music, theatre and dance, some of which date back to the Renaissance and Baroque periods, are to merge into one multidisciplinary "arts pole" where students can mix-and-match courses towards a degree.
The project's promoters hope that the plan will make Rome a global centre for research and teaching in the arts, as it was in the past.
The federation, tentatively called University of the Arts, will consist of the Academy of Fine Arts, the Santa Cecilia Conservatoire, the National Academy of Dramatic Arts, the National Dance Academy, and the Superior Institute of Artistic Industry. The Experimental Centre of Cinematography is a possible future member.
The directors of each institution will take turns to run the federation, while students, using a system of interchangeable credits, will be able to move between institutions.
Gianfranco Notargiacomo, one of Italy's best-known artists and a senior lecturer at the Academy of Fine Arts, said: "The idea had been floating around for some time to inject energy into institutions that, in recent years, have not always lived up to their traditions. Last year, new legislation moved the academies from the schools ministry to the university ministry, giving them almost total autonomy and university status."
Money has been earmarked to transform an area that was known for its slaughterhouses into extra space for the Academy of Fine Arts and possibly into headquarters for the federation.
Professor Notargiacomo added: "We will, inevitably, have to raise tuition fees, which are very modest. The statute of each institution is being rewritten, on the basis of the new laws, and we are designing a statute for the federation. Everything could be up to speed in a year, followed by three or four years in which students move from the old to the new system."