Power of Italian baroni checked

July 10, 1998

Italy's senate has approved a radical academic recruitment system that university minister Luigi Berlinguer claims will combat nepotism.

From next autumn each university will fill its own vacant posts through local competitive exams held by a board formed by the university itself.

At present lecturers are chosen in competitive national exams and then distributed centrally to vacant posts throughout the country. This led to suspicion of widespread nepotism in the assignment of jobs to relatives, friends and friends of friends of members of the central boards.

The new system is part of reforms to increase the autonomy of state universities.

Professor Berlinguer hopes this will make universities compete for academics, students, research and state funds. "This is a moment Italy's universities have waited for," Professor Berlinguer said. "We will combat nepotism by putting antibodies in the system."

Luciano Guerzoni, under-secretary for universities, who was instrumental in pushing the reform through senate, the chamber of deputies and back to the senate again, said: "This is a decisive step on the road to full autonomy for the universities. It marks an end to national mega-competitions."

This reform affects more than 50,000 professors, associate professors, assistants and researchers employed by the 50-plus Italian state universities. The iron-clad tenure which almost all enjoy will remain, and under the new system they cannot be transferred against their will.

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