The university and the country

Intervention by Prof. Paolo Rossi, Counsellor CUN (National University Council), physical area.

Any reasoning on the evolution of the Italian university system and on the role attributed to it by politics and civil society should, in my opinion, start from an attempt to answer the following questions:
– Is there an overall and strategic design in interventions on the university system? And if so, which one?
– Does it still make sense to talk about university autonomy? And if so, with which model of autonomy?

It is difficult, even for those who have analyzed the system and its recent history at length, to offer convinced and convincing answers to these questions, because the signals sent out over the years have often been, at least apparently, contradictory and therefore difficult to read.
A trait common to the journalism of the last decade, not to go back even further, has been the scandalous emphasis on deviant behavior, both ethically and organizationally (rigged competitions, useless courses, proliferation of venues, etc). If the facts are almost always incontestable as such, and rightly deserving of stigmatization, what is almost always "forgotten" to evaluate is the statistical relevance and the structural impact of the phenomena.

That said, even without thinking of an extraordinary conspiracy of all subjects capable of influencing public opinion, it is clear that the systematic work of demolishing the public image of the Italian university system cannot be a random fact, but must somehow respond to deep demands of the social body, which is unable (or is no longer able) to recognize the usefulness and strategic value of the institution, and translates this sense of uselessness into contempt and rejection.

I believe that, even without professing a generic economism, one cannot avoid attributing at least part of this contempt and rejection to some structural characteristics of the national production system. Unfortunately, small and medium enterprises and the bureaucratic apparatus of the State are very little interested in the strategic innovation that can arise from synergy with training and research not aimed at immediate applicability to production and management processes. Let us not forget that in this country it has been postulated at the highest levels of the industrial class that patents "are better bought than produced". The Public Administration is in turn highly refractory to any form of innovation, which even when it is imposed is then almost always "reduced to the previous case", not generating simplification but further burdening, as can be confirmed by almost anyone who has had responsibility in recent years for the facility management.
If the productive and managerial classes have not identified in the world of research a possible interlocutor capable of opening new perspectives to their activities, in turn families, understood as a social subject, have seen the mechanism of social ascent linked to higher education that yet he had worked strongly in the country for an entire generation. The almost total disappearance of this mechanism has produced a rejection of the University (and before that of the school) that goes far beyond the refusal of the "effort" of studying, as it involves not only young people but also their families which in the past stimulated and supported the training commitment.
In the protest that follows every attempt to increase tuition fees, therefore, several factors come together, all of the same sign: the structural weakness of the right to study policies, the unfairness of the tax collection mechanisms (which make it more easily taxable precisely weaker subjects) and the perception that it is a "useless expense", as it is not easily convertible into greater job and income opportunities.

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