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Italian university switches to English

One of Italy's top universities has sent shockwaves through the country's higher education system by announcing that from 2014 its courses will be taught exclusively in English.

The radical move by Milan's Politecnico university will, according to its rector, Giovanni Azzone, "contribute to the growth of the country". He said the strategy would attract brain power and yield the high-quality personnel that would "respond to the needs of businesses".

But the announcement has sparked a furious debate among academics and public officials. The higher education minister, Francesco Profumo, told La Stampa newspaper that he hoped other leading institutions would follow suit.

Others expressed alarm at the move. Luca Serianni, an eminent linguist at Rome's La Sapienza university, said the move was "excessive and not only in the ideological sense".

Despite having some of the oldest universities in the world in cities such as Bologna, not one Italian college appears among the world's top 200. Nepotism and closed-shop recruitment of staff have largely been blamed.