Someone could say that they had it coming. For decades, Italian Universities have been plagued by nepotism and patronage. With few exceptions, their positioning in international rankings is very low.
Successive Government reacted by simply cutting funds, instead of trying to reform the system. To survive, Universities were allowed to raise their fees. One should keep in mind that most Italian Universities have no campus, and are unable to arrange any accommodation for they students. Therefore, their families have to pay for their rent. But Italian families are becoming more and more cash-strapped.
There is more.
Since the beginning of the crisis, Italian youngsters are perceiving that you can get better jobs if you don’t have a degree, due to economic and legal reasons. First of all, unqualified workers are cheaper, and therefore easier to hire. Secondly, the Italian economy is dominated by SMEs. Those SMEs are staffed by workers and clerks, and they can’t afford to hire researchers or even marketing managers. Finally, if you have a degree you can be hired as a consultant or a contractor. This is cheaper for your employer, and it allows him to give you just a temporary position. After your task is finished, he won’t even need to fire you.
Some Italian politicians have taken advantage of this situation in order to blame youngsters for their own unemployment, thus avoiding to be blamed themselves. Italian youngsters, they say, only want glamorous jobs, while they could make much money by simply working as plumbers or construction workers.
The results of this anti-academic warfare are now highlighted in the last report by the National University Council.
In 2004, there were nearly 340,000 students enrolled in Italian Universities. The number is now down to 280,000.
University funding suffered an average yearly cut of 5 percent since 2009.
Less than 50 percent of Italian youngsters enrolls in a University after finishing high school.
Between Italians who are under 35, only one in five has graduated.
Only 75 percent of students entitled by law to get a scholarship effectively obtains one. Only one Ph.D. candidate in two gets any scholarship.
Nearly 1,200 courses have been suppressed in the last six years, and one professor on five resigned, lost his job or went into retirement.