The UK's much criticised research assessment exercise has been adopted by Italy as the model for a new national agency designed to evaluate academic work.
The Agenzia Nazionale del sistema Universitario e della Ricerca will be run by a council of seven full-time officials. The agency will begin operating in 2007-08.
Council members will work full time in Italy for five years and will be barred from holding a post in either a university or a research institute.
The previous Italian assessment system, based on groups of academics elected by each other, was seen as ineffectual.
The agency will answer only to the Education Ministry so that it will not be influenced by the deeply entrenched network of patronage, nepotism and personal relationships in Italian academe.
"Our main inspiration has been the UK's RAE and Quality Assurance Agency,"
explained Luciano Modica, the Higher Education Under-Secretary.
"We want the panel of evaluators to be as international as possible, to make independent judgments and reward only merit and talent."
The posts will pay about €4,000 (£2,700) a month after tax, plus a possible living allowance for foreigners.