European Universities in Transition
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European Universities in Transition

Issues, Models and Cases

Edited by Carmelo Mazza, Paolo Quattrone and Angelo Riccaboni

This timely and important book provides a critical analysis of the changes and challenges that currently affect European universities. Using both theoretical contributions and applied case studies, leading experts argue that universities as institutions are in need of change – although the routes that the process may take are heterogeneous.
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Chapter 14: European and Regional Disparities in Human Capital: The Case of Italy

Paolo Emilio Signorini


Paolo Emilio Signorini 1. INTRODUCTION Human capital is at the heart of European economic policy. More and better investments in knowledge, according to the Lisbon strategy, will benefit from greater mobility in product, labor and financial markets. Knowledge capital accumulation is deeply affected by the attitude of students, teachers, workers, banks and entrepreneurs towards long-term benefits, risk taking, product and process obsolescence and the like. So far, the interpretation of the Growth and Stability Pact together with a long-standing tradition of continental political economy have hindered the integration of research and higher education investments in a broader and competitive European economic policy. Moreover, the distance between knowledge and politics is written in western political thought, so there may be more than budget constraints or welfare state values to explain the modest contribution of Academia to European growth. Also, universities are often remote from business: apart from in the UK and US, they are not used to competing; they don’t have shareholders or ‘aggressive’ stakeholders; they don’t apply most of the organization principles developed by institutional economics. Similarities should not obscure differences among member states: crossnational data show that Italian universities perform most of the national R&D activities but need to bridge the gap with more competitive European institutions. Notwithstanding harsh political and institutional confrontation, in the last decade Italy has experienced reforms in the university system. There is a general political consensus about the need to intervene in our higher education system but quite di...

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