Italy to abolish HE accreditation

Nieuws | de redactie
15 februari 2012 | The Italian cabinet wants to liberalize the country’s higher education sector. In order to increase competition among universities, all official state accreditation would be abandoned. Can the market alone guarantee for quality?

Mario Monti, Italy’s new Prime Minister, has launched a numberof liberalization reforms ever since he took office last November.One target is the higher education market. The Italian cabinetdecided recently that it wants to abolish the legal validity of alldegrees in order to increase competition among universities.

Leaving it to the market

Following the American approach, the value of university degreeswould no longer be determined legally, but simply by the reputationof the individual university. Italy’s Education Minister, FrancescoProfumo, argues that the current official accreditation is not fitto evaluate nuances between different universities.

Part of this accreditation process takes into account studysuccess. This, however, is unreasonable given that universitiesdiffer substantially in the extent that they give out goodgrades.

After wide-spread protests by professors, university officialsand students, Monti decided to postpone the issue. Still, he firmly believesthat it is important to overcome “the formalism surroundinguniversity degrees.”

State needs to guarantee a minimum level ofquality

Higher education stakeholders, meanwhile, remain skeptical.Andrea Ichino from the University of Bologna, and DanieleTerlizzese, economist at the Italian central bank commented that “without creating the basis forreal competition in terms of research and education amonguniversities, abolishing the legal status of degrees alone isineffective. The state has to guarantee a minimum level of quality.Anything beyond that can be assessed by other professionalagencies.”

ESU Chairman, Allan Päll, further added that the higher education sector “is notjust a sector of the market as any other. This is about the futureof people’s lives, about the future of a society. This cannot justbe handed over to the free market which, as we have seen in thepast years, is anything but perfect.”

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