Italy's university minister, Luigi Berlinguer, has launched a series of radical reforms to reverse decades of chronic overcrowding and to reduce the 70 per cent of students who fail to complete their courses.
The reform plan has the preliminary approval of university rectors, student representatives and labour unions and is due to go into effect next year.
Under the reforms, would-be students will receive guidance on university careers in their penultimate year in school, and in their final year will have to reserve a place on the degree course of their choice. In the first three months at university they will be free to switch to another faculty.
On enrolment, students will have to declare if they wish to study full-time and be obliged to attend lectures and graduate within the prescribed years, or to study part-time, and have extra years to complete their course.
To help them overcome bureaucratic and academic obstacles, each student will be assigned a mentor from among more senior students to guide and assist them.
School-leavers have the right to choose any faculty and can take as long as they like to complete the course. Many of those who finish a course take any number of years to do so, contributing to overcrowding and the high dropout rate.
Professor Berlinguer has also ruled that from next year admissions to degree courses in medicine, dentistry and veterinary science will be limited by quotas established each year by the health ministry.
Previous attempts to regulate access to these faculties led to legal appeals to regional courts on the basis of the 1969 law guaranteeing free access creating a web of bureaucratic confusion.
The reforms were prompted by the 10,000 students in bureaucratic limbo, first excluded and then reinstated by regional courts.