KNOWLEDGE TO UNLEASH THE FULL POTENTIAL OF OUR COUNTRY
A day to reaffirm the value of lower and higher education and put them at the top of the political agenda. Such was the core of the "Primavera dell'Università" event, held on March 21 at all Italian universities and organized by the Conference of Italian University Rectors (CRUI).
The University of Sassari held the event at its main Aula Magna – the most significant location of the entire campus – where the teaching and administrative staff, and several students gathered. Students actively participated in the debate opened by Rector Massimo Carpinelli with a minute of silence to honour of victims of the fatal car accident occurred at Freginals, that involved several Erasmus students in Spain. The silence will be repeated tomorrow at noon.
The institutions showed their support to the University: the President of the Regional Council Gianfranco Ganau participated in the event, testifying the Region's commitment to both the right to education (despite the general lack of resources) and the recognition of Sardinia insularity, a condition that requires additional funds to be tackled with by universities. Also present were Senator Silvio Lai (PD), Director-General of the Regional Labour Agency Massimo Temussi, Regional councilors Salvatore Demontis and Roberto Deriu, Alderman of the municipality of Sassari to innovation policy and General Affairs, Amalia Cherchi, Rectors Emeriti Attilio Mastino and Alessandro Maida.
"Today, we want to send a public message regarding the extremely difficult conditions affecting Italian universities at all levels - the Rector said - We want this day to serve as a firm reminder to governmental bodies that, despite having disregarded for too long or having been openly hostile to free inquiry, independent judgment and the support of merit, the latter are still the core values of the University."
Massimo Carpinelli presented a series of clear data leading to one conclusion: "In Italy we do not invest enough in education". Italy has the lowest number of graduates in Europe (and also outside the EU). UK 42%; OECD 33%; UE21 32%; France 32%; G20 28%; Germany 27%; Italy 17%. Italy does not invest in higher education. Consider the annual per capita investment: Singapore 573 , South Korea 628, Japan 331, France 303 and Germany 304. Italy 109. Italy applied austerity to higher education. Public Allocations in 2009: € 7,485 million. In 2016: 6,556 (-9.9%). Public Allocations 2010-2013: France + 3.6% Germany +20%. "Despite the crisis and underfunding, Italy ranks eighth among OECD countries and is before China for absolute quantity and quality values of scientific production. We can keep quality up even with fewer resources".
The victim of this underfunding is undoubtedly the right to education, as stated by Marco Pilo, the students' representative of the Board of Trustees, and Riccardo Zanza, President of the Student Council. In Italy 0%-9% of students benefit from these support instruments. In Germany 10%-30% of students. In France between 40% and 80%. Also in Italy the number of potential beneficiaries exceeds available resources. "Less than 1 student out of 25 benefits from accommodation, only 4 out of 25 receive a scholarship," Antonio Pala (Unione degli universitari di Sassari) recalled.
Vice Rector Luca Deidda and Rector's Delegate for Legal and Regulatory Affairs Monica Cossu spoke on behalf of the teaching staff: the former presented the integrated strategic plan of the University of Sassari, while se latter gave a speech on the RoadMap 2014-2018 on the tenth anniversary of the Messina Declaration on open access to research. Through the Road Map, universities and research institutes confirm their support to the Berlin Declaration and commitment to promote the internationalization of research in order to ensure wide visibility to the Italian scientific production and transfer of knowledge for educational purposes, for the internationalisation of research and transfer of knowledge to the business world and civil society.
Daniele Tedde took the floor on behalf of the administrative staff, also affected by pubic policies: the public employment contracts of administrative staff has not been updated since 2009, the salaries of professors since 2010. Wages and salaries are among the lowest in Europe. "This day of reflection organized by CRUI is just at the right time for a University that is an ancient institution but, at this moment in history, is undergoing a difficult transition and seems to be in danger", said Daniele Tedde.
The debate resulting from the speeches focused on the criteria underlying the National FFO fund for Universities (the standard cost, the research quality evaluation), on so-called “Punti organico” (the maximum number of contracts allowed to public universities to hire staff) and, above all, on the Human Technopole, the research centre that is expected to the founded at the EXPO facilities. The public debate was raised by Senator Elena Cattaneo – fully supported by Rector Massimo Carpinelli on this matter, especially because, unlike public universities, the new research centre is not expected to undergo rigorous and independent selections. "Anyway, evaluation under certain conditions is right – the Rector reiterated, who in the past had already expressed this thought on the matter – A lack of evaluation will move us backards."
The "Spring of the University of Sassari" continued throughout the afternoon with visits to University historical buildings, facilities and libraries, including the library of the Ministry of Cultural activities and Heritage, and Tourism in Piazza Fiume.