The rector of Turin University wants a European "marque" to regulate which institutions have the right to call themselves universities.
Rinaldo Bertolino drew an analogy with the quality label that some countries apply to their wines, guaranteeing their origin and quality.
"We are witnessing the birth of a great number of courses that, quite rightly, respond to the growing demand for professional training," Professor Bertolino said. "However, they do not have the characteristics that distinguish a university from other types of school.
"A 600-year-old university such as Turin, for example, cannot be easily imitated.
"It is a question of teaching tradition, economic weight, libraries, laboratories and so on. We must defend the deep significance of university teaching.
"It is not a defence of tradition but rather of content. It is like comparing an exceptional Barolo with a good run-of-the-mill vintage."