Rome's La Sapienza University, the largest in Europe, is looking at the structure of London University's autonomous colleges and schools as a possible model for its own reorganisation.
Senior academics and administrators from La Sapienza plan to visit London to study how it manages a number of independent institutions operating within a single framework.
With over 180,000 students, La Sapienza is the world's second-biggest university after Mexico City and suffers dramatic overcrowding and organisational and administrative problems. The Italian government has declared that it must be broken into smaller and more flexible institutions.
Rector Giorgio Tecce initially rejected any suggestion that his university should be broken up, but finally bowed to university minister Luigi Berlinguer's campaign of reform, although he wants it university-led.
"We have already studied the system at the Sorbonne," said Dino Guerritore, coordinator of the university's commission for international relations. "But we did not feel it could be adapted to La Sapienza. What we find interesting in London is that each of the university institutions enjoys great autonomy and flexibility."
Contacts between La Sapienza and London were initiated by Richard Halford, director of the British Council in Rome. London vice chancellor Andrew Rutherford said he would be glad to show a delegation from La Sapienza around.