Mother-tongue lecturers from six European countries who work in Italian universities joined 23 colleagues sacked from the University of Verona at the European plenary in Strasbourg last week to back their case.
The lecturers were sacked when they refused to move to the university's linguistic centre as technical staff. They claim the university is refusing to give them parity with Italian teaching staff.
The European parliament appointed Hugh McMahon, MEP for Strathclyde West, to investigate the sackings and also the whole issue of poor treatment of EU nationals working in Italian universities. Italy has failed to obey rulings by the European Court of Justice on the job status of foreign lecturers.
Padraig Flynn, social affairs and employment commissioner, warned that he would consider the implications of Italy's response to European law. There are misgivings about whether Italy can meet its commitments concerning the Socrates programme.
British MEP Roy Perry said students in receipt of Socrates grants were not receiving their proper entitlements to teaching as a result of the dismissals.
But Cesare Gagliardi, director of Verona University's linguistic centre, has defended the decision to teach students by computers instead of classes with mother-tongue lecturers.
David Petrie of the Committee for the Defence of Foreign Lecturers, said the university could not possibly cope with computer demand if this was the system of study. "With 1,700 students, some of whom are on the Socrates programme, it is reckless cynicism to put out notices saying they could make use of computer technology to teach themselves all the major EU languages. These linguistic centres have been created to replace foreign lecturers and only foreign lecturers," he said.