Pay rises for Italy's academics could soon be subject to periodic "quality checks".
University minister Letizia Moratti has said that quality evaluation is "fundamental for the growth of the university system and to help students make their choices".
She has formed a special commission to develop a system for measuring performance in teaching and research. Academics have until now remained free of evaluation, discipline or monitoring and are protected by lifelong tenure and automatic pay hikes, The commission, headed by Adriano De Maio, former rector of Milan Polytechnic, is examining implementation of evaluation.
But the plan that emerges from unofficial comments by commission members is that examination of an academic's performance could take place every two years. Academics currently get an automatic 8 per cent pay increase at this time, but under the plan the rise would become dependent on the results of the evaluation.
Although many lecturers work hard for their universities, thousands of others dedicate most of their time to a private profession.
There has been virtually no control, a privilege some see as a guarantee of academic freedom. A rector cannot sack a lecturer, and while this is a defence against political manipulation, it also allows many to receive a good salary while giving little in return.
But academics constitute a very powerful political lobby and even a minister as forceful as Ms Moratti could find it hard to attack the privileges of the professori .