Italian education minister Letizia Moratti plans to abandon the recently introduced three-plus-two-year degree, based on the "European degree" structure to which much of Europe is committed under the Bologna Process.
She wants to introduce a common curriculum for first-year students who would then choose, or be chosen for, a programme of either a further two years or a further four years in two two-year stages.
The reform was drawn up by a committee of 13 "wise men" appointed by Ms Moratti and headed by the rector of one of Italy's few private universities.
Ms Moratti also plans to replace the automatic job-for-life for lecturers in state universities with three-year contracts. Academics would be eligible for lifelong tenure only after their second contract. There would also be an increase in their workload.