The Italian government has approved a bill that radically curtails academics' freedom to engage in private work, sets much higher workloads and imposes unprecedented evaluation, controls and discipline.
Private work will only be permitted if it does not interfere with academic duties and only with prior approval from the university.
Masterminded by university minister Ortensio Zecchino, a former professor of law at Naples University, the reform aims to clamp down on lecturers who dedicate most of their energies to private practice in professions such as the law and architecture.
It has been quite common for professori to draw salaries up to E55,000 (Pounds 35,000) a year, depending on seniority, with pension, health benefits and lifelong
tenure, while dedicating only a fraction of their time to teaching, research and student support.
Under the reform, academics will have a basic workload of teaching, counselling, tutoring and other duties of 500 hours a year, compared with the current 250 hours.
"With the preparation of lectures and research, which will come under more rigorous scrutiny, we should come close to 1,500 hours a year," Mr Zecchino said. "This means five to six hours a day for ten months. We can no longer have lecturers who only teach one course to 30 students. Academics, all academics, will have to work more, without
Academics will be evaluated
for teaching and research by
a newly created national evaluation committee. They will be rewarded by promotion and pay increases. In addition, there will be more lecturers with temporary contracts with individual universities rather than lifelong state jobs.
Mr Zecchino's bill has come under fire from academics' unions, but surprisingly because it is not rigorous enough. "I'd like to see which academic institution will deny an academic freedom to practise privately," said Gianni Garofalo, law lecturer and union spokesman.
Only a small number of academics have attacked it for being too harsh. "We will be the only country in the world in which academics cannot exercise their profession outside the university," said law professor Carlo Angelici. "A doctor can work in university hospitals, but engineers or lawyers cannot."
The new bill still has to pass through two houses of parliament, where academics are strongly represented and where any number of amendments may be made. But Mr Zecchino is
confident that it will become law by the spring.