Family fiefdoms blamed for tainting Italian universities
Saturday 25 September 2010
The decline of Italy's universities, none of which currently appear in the world's top 200, is a constant source of lament among the country's chattering classes.
But the reason for this sorry state is laid bare by new research that shows the extent of nepotism in higher education. The grip of family fiefdoms is being blamed for a nationwide brain drain.
The investigative magazine L'Espresso and the newspaper La Repubblica have revealed the astonishing degree to which lecturing jobs are kept in the family in Italy's sclerotic higher education system. In Rome's La Sapienza University, for example, a third of the teaching staff have close family members as fellow lecturers. Overall, the country's higher institutions are 10 times more likely than other places of work to employ two or more members of the same family.
Roberto Perotti, a professor of economics at the private Bocconi University in Milan and the author of L'universita Truccata ("The Rigged University"), said: "Of course the nepotism is connected to the lower university standards. If a professor at Stanford gave a teaching job to his wife, there would be an outcry. But then in the top [US] universities, people are there on merit."
Professor Perotti said the Espresso findings reflected new research he was preparing to publish. "In some of Italy's state university departments 30 per cent of the staff have a close family relative present. This is nepotism and corruption, and it's everywhere. Though some places are particularly bad."
The University of Bari, in the southern region of Puglia, springs to mind. The economics faculty must seem like a home from home for Professor Lanfranco Massari as he bumps into sons Lanfranco Jr, Gilberto and Giansiro, or his five grandchildren who work in the same department. At Palermo's architecture faculty, Professor Angelo Milone enjoys the company of his brother, son and daughter as fellow researchers.
The chancellor of one of Italy's top institutions is also named in the report. Luigi Frati, chancellor and professor of medicine at La Sapienza University, has both his wife and daughter employed in the same department. His son works in a neighbouring medical science faculty. The Dolci clan, led by Professor Giovanni Dolci, has an even greater family presence in the Rome Institution's medical faculty.
Professor Frati said: "We've got to start seeing the value of meritocracy. Italy is not used to meritocracy." He denied that his family members had got their jobs through favouritism.
However, one psychiatrist who recently qualified in medicine at La Sapienza, told The Independent he had left Rome to find work in Milan because nepotism was less widespread in the north of the country.
Dr Alessio Vincenti, who has also conducted research at Harvard, in the US, home to arguably the world's top medical school, said: "I couldn't get work in Rome because I'm not connected. This is Italy, the land of the surname. It's disgusting. But that's how it is and everyone knows it."
Reports have repeatedly emerged over the past few years of brilliant Italian academics moving US or UK universities, to receive recognition for their teaching and research rather than for their family ties. Not one Italian institution appears in the Times Higher Education 2010 world university rankings. Taiwanese, South Korean, and Egyptian universities are present, however. In the rival QS world rankings, the highest-placed Italian university is Bologna at 176. La Repubblica pointed to the tragic personal consequences as well as the economic stagnation of the corruption. In Palermo last week, Norman Zarcone, who had recently completed a PhD in philosophy, killed himself after telling his father there was no way he could progress in his university department.
- 3 Daily Show's Jon Stewart destroys Fox News for its Ferguson coverage
- 5 Brother and sister, Christopher Buckner and Timothy Savoy, arrested for 'committing incest after watching 'The Notebook''
Ashya King missing: Police hunt five-year-old boy with brain tumour snatched from Southampton hospital by his parents
Keira Knightley topless: Usually conservative actress does own take on #Freethenipple campaign for Interview Magazine
YouTube video posted by Isis militants shows 'execution of 250 Syrian soldiers'
Botched ice bucket challenge leaves man critically injured after plane drops hundreds of gallons of water
Papua New Guinea Mount Tavurvur volcano eruption sees international flights diverted
Exclusive: We share blame for creating 'jihad generation', says Muslim strategist
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Ukip Douglas Carswell defection: Tory MP jumps ship to join Nigel Farage
- < Previous
- Next >
£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...
£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...
£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...
£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...