Rectors pan 'DIY' venture

April 22, 2005

Italy's academic establishment is furious at a government decision to award degree-awarding powers to a private university that has no students, no faculty and that will be based in a former cinema.

The F. Ranieri European University of Villa San Giovanni, in Calabria, has the right to award degrees. The qualification has the same legal standing as those awarded by state institutions.

Accreditation by the university ministry followed a decision by the national university evaluation committee, a body of experts that answers to the ministry.

The venture is the brainchild of Francesco Ranieri, a former publisher.

From autumn, the university will offer degrees in law, economics and medicine.

Mr Ranieri is rector of the institution, which is named after his grandfather. His son, Rocco, is its administrative director, while his daughter answers the telephone on what seems to be the only line.

The Italian press has dubbed the institution "the DIY university", suggesting that its administrative council is composed of Mr Ranieri's friends and associates.

The announcement that university status had been granted was made by Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister, during a visit to Calabria. It prompted an official complaint from Piero Tosi, president of the Italian Rectors'

Conference.

Alessandro Bianchi, rector of the University of Reggio Calabria, resigned as secretary-general of the Rectors' Conference in protest. Professor Bianchi said: "The committee's decision is scandalous. [This institution] has no scientific recognition. It carries out no research. It has no teachers."

Rocco Ranieri said: "We do not need to defend ourselves. On the basis of the documentation we submitted, Letizia Moratti, the University Minister, has signed our recognition. We have no teachers because we have no students, but we will by autumn.

"The protests have political motivations, because the Left is opposed to private universities on principle, and those who have protested are linked to the Left."

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