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
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
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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