Far-right medicine plans would 'collapse' Italian universities

Far-right medicine plans would ‘collapse’ Italian universities

Italy needs more doctors, but a proposal by far-right parties to push back entrance exams until the end of the first year would be calamitous, according to a centre-left academic who opposes them.

Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party, leading polls since May, wants to replace national medical entrance exams with a free entry system for the first year of study , moving the selective examinations to the beginning of the second year .

“Italian universities do not have the capacity to support this influx of students,” said Andrea Crisanti, a professor at Imperial College London and a candidate for the centre-left Democratic Party. Times Higher Education.

“For every student who attends medical school, there are at least five applications. Multiplying the number of students by six will lead to the collapse of Italian universities,” said Professor Crisanti, who is running in the foreign constituency of the Italian Senate, which represents Italian voters abroad, calling the idea “genuine demagogy”.

Andrea Gavosto, director of the Giovanni Agnelli Foundation, an education think tank, wrote in an analysis that the change would mean enrolling 50,000 more students nationwide. Factoring in additional teachers, lectures and lab space, he priced the proposal at an extra €200m (£174m) a year.

Giliberto Capano, professor of political science and public policy at the University of Bologna, said the idea of ​​postponing the selection was presented to voters as the end of the national cap on the number of students. “The way this is framed, on Twitter, on Facebook, in public speeches, looks to normal people as a proposal to completely abolish the closed number“, he said, referring to the cap.

The Brothers in Italy also want to put an end to the standardized duration of diplomas introduced by the pan-European reforms within the framework of the Bologna process. Changing from a three-year bachelor’s to a two-year master’s would put Italian universities out of sync with others on the continent and would likely be opposed by universities, Prof Capano said.

One issue on which the main parties of right and left seem aligned is the return to meritocracy in the selection of students and scholars. The theme runs through the program of the Brothers of Italy, and Professor Crisanti said the Italian system needed reform based on “transparency, accountability and selection on merit”.

“We need to benchmark competing universities against each other, to make sure they select the most talented people, and those who don’t, we need to put in place a system that punishes them,” he said. -he declares.

As well as raising standards in itself, a move toward meritocracy would make universities more attractive and accessible to foreign scholars, who he said are often excluded due to nepotism. “It’s not just impervious to them, it’s impervious to any other Italian who isn’t in that particular connection ring,” he said.

Professor Crisanti, who met academics from the Italian diaspora during his campaign tour of Switzerland, France, Belgium and the UK, said current tax breaks for repatriated researchers were not enough and that a new system of research grants was needed.

Other Italian academics may take a somewhat optimistic stance ahead of the September 25 election: whoever wins, the education sector is set to receive more than 20 billion euros from the Covid-19 recovery fund of the European Union.

“Part of the increase in public funding should come, by law, from hiring more academics,” Professor Capano said. “The academic world isn’t so interested in what’s going on in the debate because they think, ‘We’re going to get some money for a few years; let them say what they want.

ben.upton@timeshighereducation.com

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