The president of the Italian Rectors' Conference, Piero Tosi, has been suspended from his post as rector of Siena University pending an investigation into alleged abuses in hiring staff.
The suspension was ordered by the city of Siena's investigating magistrate - in effect the state prosecutor.
Professor Tosi, who is a professor of medicine, and several others, including Jolanda Semplici, ex-director of Siena's university hospital, are suspected of irregularities in assigning posts and contracts. Among these was the awarding of a permanent post to Professor Tosi's son before he had completed his doctorate.
According to the prosecutor's office, the only other candidate for the post, who had higher qualifications, was warned not to apply and then told not to complain to the judiciary after the job was assigned to Professor Tosi's son.
It is also alleged that Professor Tosi broke the law that forbids assigning certain posts to doctors who work both in private practice and the university hospital.
Professor Tosi said the charges were "a blow against the autonomy of the university".
The rectors' conference in Rome expressed "confidence" in Professor Tosi and commended his "high moral profile, high and responsible vision of university problems and their solution".