01 - Italy - Historical overview

Non-university tertiary education

Academies of Fine Arts, the National Academy of Drama, Higher institutes for Artistic Industries (ISIA), Conservatoires, the National Dance Academy and officially recognised music institutes are part of the Afam (Alta formazione artistica e musicale) system, in accordance with section 33 of the Constitution which foresees high cultural level institutions and their right to autonomous regulations. The Academy was instituted in Italy in the Renaissance, when free meetings of humanists and artists started consolidating in Naples, Florence, Rome and Milan. Unlike literary and scientific institutions, the Academies of Fine Arts have mainly an artistic identity. The oldest one was the Academy of art and drawing instituted in Florence in 1563; it started the gradual emancipation of artists from the medieval corporations, usually called "Compagnie di San Luca". Academies mainly or even exclusively dedicated to music developed (also in Italy, the institutions mainly with didactical aims were called Conservatorio) together with literary, scientific and artistic institutions. With the passing of time, some of these drama schools within the music education institutes detached themselves and set up the National Academy of Drama and the National Dance Academy in Rome.

Also the relatively recently instituted Higher institutes for Artistic Industries (ISIA) have been actually activated through four experimental institutes in Faenza, Florence, Rome and Urbino, mainly oriented to vocational training and qualification for project designers destined to goods and services companies.

Also the Conservatoires, among institutions with mainly didactical aims, have ancient roots. At the very beginning, they were funded in the 17th century in Naples, as charity institutes, to help orphans chose job; however, the first state Conservatoire was set up in Paris in 1784; it stimulated the institution of the Conservatoires of Milan, Florence, Rome and Naples. With the passing of time, the local authorities have also fostered the constitution of officially recognised music institutes which have similar curricula and issue academic qualifications with a similar legal value.

These institutions, beyond their historical role in the national and international artistic survey, carry out many artistic activities at the local level, with a strong educational impact on the cultural and social structure in our country.

Recently, a reform phase of the Italian art and music institutions has been started up through a law of 1999. These institutions are part of a unique system, inspired to mutual guiding principles and criteria, and aimed at the "exploitation of cultural and technical specificities of the Higher level arts and music education and of the institutions of this sector, as well as at the definition of quality standards recognised at international level". They are "…the main centres for high level education, specialisation and research in the art and music sectors" which "carry out correlated production activities", of the same quality of the university system.

Their dignity has been subsequently strengthened through the equalisation of their academic qualifications obtained in the art and music Italian system to the university laurea, this equalisation is valid for public competition purposes as well as for acknowledgment of credits (6.11.) spendable in the two ( AFAM and university) systems under the MIUR guidance and coordination. These institutions are now granted statutory, regulations and financial autonomy and can release the new academic qualifications

University tertiary education

As regards higher education in universities, the origins of some of the most ancient Italian universities goes back to the days of the communes, when various categories of citizens organised themselves into corporations or 'universitates', on the basis of their economic or professional activity: the first universities arose, in fact, as corporations of scholars, 'universitates doctorum', and this is how the University of Bologna started, for example. Other universities were founded by popes or emperors in the various cities.

The universities, even when they arose spontaneously as free institutions, progressively fell under the control of the State and almost all eventually became state institutions, as it happened with the Casati Law of 1859.

The nationalisation of Universities established by the Casati Law was substantially in force until the Gentile reform (1923) which, being conceived in order to reform the whole school system, involved also the University. The laws of 1923 gave to Universities a certain autonomy concerning administrative management, teaching and research and gave them the juridical personality. The Gentile Reform recognised a scientific character to university studies and regulated them; nevertheless, the reform maintained university autonomy and the students' liberty of study. With the reform it has also been instituted the qualifying State exam for practicing a profession, due to the fact that lauree were considered only academic qualifications.

During the last fifteen years, relevant changes have been carried out as far as the distribution of responsibilities in the university management is concerned:
the creation, in 1989, of the Ministry of the University and Scientific and Technological Research (MURST), through its separation from the Ministry of Public Education, provided for the unification of the co-ordination functions of the sectors of the university education and scientific research. The reform law aimed at assigning the responsibility for university policy to the Ministry and for the choices management to universities and research institutes. It aimed also to implement university autonomy. At the end of this process the Ministry of University has been reunified into one only Ministry of education, university and research (Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca, MIUR);
Progressive and wide transfer of responsibilities from the central government to the single universities. The overall autonomy of universities is therefore increasing: in particular, statutory and regulation autonomy, financial and teaching autonomy, autonomy concerning the recruitment of university teaching staff;
Transfer of wide regulative powers from the Parliament to the Ministry through deregulation measures, delegation of responsibilities, functions decentralisation and administrative simplification;
Creation, or reform, of the representative bodies of the components of the academic community and of the advisory bodies of the Ministry on the university subject.


National Committee for the Evaluation of the University System
Conference of the Rectors of Italian Universities (CRUI)
National Council of University Students (CNSU)
National Universtiy Council (CUN)
Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR)
Ministry of University and Research
Ministry of Public Education (MPI)

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Date: 2009
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