A Comparative Analysis
10. Italy: gradual changes and an uncertain autonomy Gabriele Ballarino and Loris Perotti 10.1 THE ITALIAN HE SYSTEM AND ITS CHANGES The Italian university system consists of 89 institutions, some 28 of which are private. Notwithstanding their relatively large number, however, the private Italian universities represent only around 6 per cent of enrolments,1 and, with few exceptions, they are of poor quality as regards research and teaching. Besides universities proper and three polytechnics, other tertiary educational institutions operate in Italy: the academies of music and of fine arts, which in 1999 gained equivalent status to universities. The Italian system therefore belongs fully within the ‘unitary’ category (Goedegebuure et al, 1996): that is to say, it is a system in which traditional universities are not flanked by other institutions, generally of vocational type or offering tracks shorter than those imparted at the universities (like the German Fachhochschulen or the Dutch Hogescholen for so-called ‘binary’ systems, or the American community colleges for ‘diversified’ ones). Until the early 2000s, moreover, Italy was one of the very few European countries which did not differentiate curricular structures (see Section 10.5 for details). This circumstance, together with the lack of short and/or vocational tracks, had repercussions on the overall efficiency of the Italian tertiary system, especially after the expansion of admissions in the 1960s had produced a student population increasingly heterogeneous in terms of educational background and social origin. During the 1980s, for example, drop-outs at the end of the first year oscillated between 25...
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