President calls halt to university growth

October 6, 2006

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano has criticised the proliferation of universities in the country.

As president of the republic, his role extends beyond that of a figurehead and he has important functions as supervisor of the political machine and defender of the Constitution, so his comments carry great weight.

Fabio Mussi, University Minister, concurred. "The President is perfectly right. In recent decades we have observed an unfettered proliferation of university locations, sometimes connected to the ambitions of local politicians.

"I have started to put a brake on this phenomenon, preventing the creation of new universities and new faculties for which no need exists."

The President's statement re-awakens criticism of the previous government, led by media mogul Silvio Berlusconi. In the past two years, the Government has granted recognition and university status to four institutions and ten virtual universities.

In some cases these establishments were connected to individuals close to the Government.

One glaring example is Ranieri University in Calabria. It was named after its rector, a local supporter of Mr Berlusconi's government.

Renato Guarini, rector of La Sapienza University, said: "These new universities lack adequate facilities and do no research. Therefore they cannot be called universities."

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