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Italy’s Budget/4: 500 new university “chairs of excellence” open up to foreign professors and scholars

by Eugenio Bruno

Space for 500 new top university professors. Italians and foreigners. Italy’s draft budget for 2016 unveiled yesterday allocates €40 million to hold an international competition for ordinary and associate professors in 2016 and €100 million in 2017. The recruitment will be a direct call and based on qualifications and it will be focused on strategic sectors for Italy.

How the career path works in Italy
In Italy to become a university professor, the first step is a certification, or a kind of license to verify the candidate’s qualifications. But that alone does not entitle the person to professorship, which is carried out through a local selection for each university.

University professors are divided into ordinary (first level) or associated (second level). The mechanism for the selection of future academics was revised last summer by the reform of Public Administration, which effectively erased the previous system that worked almost like a competition with questions that would have to be submitted within a specified time limit.

A system that has sparked endless arguments and a shower of appeals to administrative courts. Now after the reform the application for certification and to therefore be able to apply to a university will have no fixed deadlines and will be a “one stop shop ” that’s always open.

How the international competition will work
As explained in a statement by the Education Minister Stefania Giannini the budget law (or Stability Law) provides the funding for 500 “chairs of excellence for Italian and foreign researchers and scholars with high scientific qualifications.”

The competition will be finalized in the coming months. Researchers and scholars will be able to compete for a place as a first level or second level professor in our universities.

Judging will be based on the assessment of qualifications. The task of determining what is meant by “standards of excellence” will be decided by the prime minister’s office, to be issued within 90 days of approval by the Parliament of the Stability Law.

The most important criteria will be the candidate’s scientific publications. Entry salaries will also be set by the prime minister’s office. It is likely that, to enhance the level of achievement, the competition will not accept candidates who are still at an early phase in their careers.