A political comeback for Silvio Berlusconi may be a diminishing possibility after his heart operation in the United States, but the Italian media mogul has dreamt up another way to leave his mark on his nation.
Convalescing in his mansion at Arcore north of Milan, he has intimated to close friends that he plans to launch a private university to perpetuate his "liberal" ideas, as opposed to the "communist" notions he claims are propagated by existing state universities.
According to sources who declined to be named, the university, which is likely to feature the name "Berlusconi", will be of the American type, with a sprawling, verdant campus containing student and professors' housing, a library and sporting facilities. Four faculties are envisaged: economics and commerce; jurisprudence; political science and communications.
As well as an array of Italian conservatives from his own circle, Mr Berlusconi hopes to cash in his chips with world leaders, inviting the likes of Tony Blair, Jose Maria Aznar, George Bush Snr, Junichiro Koizumi, Mikhail Gorbachev and Vladimir Putin to drop in as guest professors.
"We cannot leave culture in the hands of the left," he said. "The party of the moderates will be my legacy, and the university will form the base of the future ruling class of the centre-right. It will relaunch the culture of the centre-right, much as the Italian Communist Party did [for the left] after the war."
Mr Berlusconi is reported to have identified a campus, the mansion and surrounding parkland of a property belonging to a big Italian bank, a few kilometres from his Arcore estate. Negotiations to buy the property are already in train. Some of Italy's best universities are private foundations, including Luiss in Rome and the economics university of Bocconi outside Milan.
Mr Berlusconi has been obsessed throughout his political career with the alleged domination of Italian culture and public life by communists and by leftist ideas. "The Berlusconi University of Liberal Thought," as it might be styled, would provide the counterbalance.Reuse content