Is There a European Approach of Service-Learning in Higher Education?
Higher Education Framework in Italy
The Italian government is related to higher education. The Ministry annually allocates annually ordinary funding to state universities and legally recognized non-state universities. Resources are attributed based on different parameters: one is the number of students (the university calculate a standard cost per student); other important parameters are the results of teaching and research (and in the near future of third mission activities); resources are also attributed if there is the need to safeguard particularly critical situations. Students pay tuition fees in public and private universities (in the latter fees are usually higher), but students can be offered scholarships that cover totally or partially the costs of university fees, based both on merit, or on income. Regional governments can offer additional resources to support students.
The Italian government does not influence the curriculum. Law n. 240/2010 has introduced the Higher Education Quality Assurance system (AVA) to adhere to Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG). ANVUR (Italian National Agency for the Evaluation of Universities and Research Institutes) besides checking the quality of the Service offered by the Italian University and the use of public resources, is in charge of accreditation of new Universities and programs Periodic accreditation of Universities and their programs.
There is not much difference between public and private universities. Like in many other countries, universities are submitted to the same higher education law concerning funding, recruitment accreditation procedures. There are small variations concerning salaries and fees.
Italian educational tradition concerns the selection of students that depends on Faculties/ Departments that may establish specific entrance and establish a maximum number of students per year also to facilitate access to the job market in accordance with specific stakeholders. There are many differences, also based on profession/disciplines. Number of students per year is fixed at the national level for medical doctors, while for other professions each university decide on its own, how and how many students to admit (baseline, however, is having obtained a high school degree, so-called diploma, that has the same legal value irrespectively of the specific educational track. Also, students in vocational tracks can get a diploma that grants access to the university). Italian educational tradition has internships as “always” mandatory in Medicine, Psychology, and Education.
Many courses introduced Laboratories to offer more “practical” or group-based learning”. However, it would be difficult to say that in the Italian University there is a tradition of problem-based learning. And the Italian university still faces the challenge of improving the quality and relevance of skills acquired in tertiary education.
Italian education is rooted in civil society in some way. During the accreditation process, and when proposing new degrees (both at the Master and Bachelor level), University must consult relevant stakeholders to make sure that the professional profile that they are preparing fits the labour market or community needs. Recently with the emphasis on the third mission, many universities are trying to establish/reinforce their relationships with civil society. Moreover, in principle, the University is open and inclusive. Support is offered to students with special needs, and there is an effort to offer equal opportunities to any students (i.e., transgender students who have not gone through surgery can ask the University to recognize their “alias” identity which is valid within the University and in all procedures concerning the student). But for students from a very disadvantaged background, including those with a migrant background, attending university is still a challenge.
Cinzia Albanesi (Associate professor, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Alma Mater Studiorum, University of Bologna)