24 Nov 2010

The new reform of the University system is a death sentence for the education system.

I’m sad for my country

I blog about my homeland. Usually about its beauty, its culture. Today, I’m going to make an exception. I am going to write about politics.

Today, the reform of the university system proposed by the present government and its minister, Mariastella Gelmini, was presented to the Senate and the senators are voting in favour or against it (here is a summary of the changes – in Italian).

Over the last few months, the entire education system has been protesting against this horrific law. Over the last couple of days most universities, including the University of Pisa, have been occupied by the students, who are protesting against the new reform. The Vice-Chancellor and the Chairmen of all the Faculties gave their full support to the protest.

I think that when something like this happens, a Minister should ask what she got wrong.

I’ll tell you what she got wrong: she is killing an entire generation of “precari” (contracted researchers) like myself, and the system as a whole, which will not be able to sustain itself with the few resources left.

I have a PhD, I’ve had several post-doc scholarships, I have published two books and several articles. I have taught over 30 courses.  And yet, I have no secure job, because Universities are not hiring enough people (the state imposes that only 20% of the positions left open by people retiring be filled), and when they are (the first two openings in over 10 years in my field in Pisa were last month), well… that’s another story.

You do your best, and patiently wait for the next opening. You teach, your study, you write. And then a minister who is totally subject to the ministry of the treasury (in violation of all ethical and constitutional rules) decides that researchers need to disappear. No more researchers in Italy. You will be hired as a resercher for max 6 years, then you either become an associate professor or you go home.

So what about our generation?  Most of us have already been a contracted researcher for years. Are you asking us to apply for yet another temporary position so that in 6 years you can send us home, when we are over 40 years old? Universities survive only thanks to our hard, underpaid work. A full course is often paid less than 1000 euros (not per month… in total…). There are 20,000 contracted researchers in Italy, who have been keeping the show going. I understand there might not be a career for us all. But this new law ensures that MOST of us will be fired.

Besides, how can a system who cannot afford to hire researchers afford to hire associate professors? Failure is essentially inevitable for most of those who will have the 6 year position because only a fraction of them will get tenure.

I am very sad. Very sad. Not because I fear for my job… technically, I don’t have one. And I am smart, full of energy and resources. I have many interests. I will do something else if not this.

I am very sad for my country. A country that judges it acceptable to kill the University system, to cut funds to schools, to kill a generation of intelligent, hard working people hiding behind the story of fighting the “baroni”, powerful professors who decide who gets a job and who doesn’t.

I am very sad for my country. A country that accepts that politicians insult each other, that the prime minister just does whatever he wants and that people dismiss the horrific attitude with a smile.

I am very sad for a country that has everything required to be one of the best places to live in and instead it’s only good for holiday makers and rich expats.

I am sad for my country because it’s killing the hopes and future of its younger citizens and numbs the older generations.

Don’t you see what is going on?  Italy was the country of the Medici, of Michelangelo, Leonardo, Dante Alighieri. Now we just fetch and carry.

Shame on us.


  1. Christine Sharp

    My heart bleeds for you Gloria.
    The same kind of things are happening all over, with the arts & culture & education all suffering.
    The goverment in England is to make tuition fees up to £9,000 a year per student, There are protests going on in London & elsewere presently.
    Also they are to reform the education system ,to include non trained people from the private sector to so called improve education ,in the classics.
    I think the Barmy Army are in town, & all we can do is to keep protesting, & hope some kind of compromise can be achieved.Good luck xxx

  2. Hi Gloria, your blog is so true, and something I hear regularly from University friends-professors, researchers,students-here in Padova.
    On another note or two, I have a blog italexpat.wordpress.com I will be happy to add you to my blogroll. Also, our new Website VeniceInfoSite is offering free classifieds for our launch period which may interest you.

  3. Thank you Gloria, this is a precious article. I think it’s important to talk about problems too, we cannot pretend everything is perfect when it’s not.

    I am so sad about Education in Italy and like you, I am not afraid for a personal reason because people like us can always find another way. The sad part is that someone chose to destroy instead of doing something to improve our quality of life.

    You found the right words. Thank you again. I will share it!


  4. Gloria, I wish I could tell you how I feel about this. But I don’t even have the words right now. I am so sorry. It’s just horrible. It makes my stomach hurt and my eyes burn.

    I have so many friends and acquaintances here — with higher education and without — that have completely and totally lost hope of obtaining contracted work for anything more than a few months at a time in just about any genre. Regardless how good they are, how hard they work- there are simply no perspectives. Even fetching and carrying are becoming the work of only a couple of months. They can always find another warm body in a few months- one that requires no benefits, no social security, no anything.

    Here in the “rich north”.

    Italy is becoming a country of temporary workers.

    I am so sorry. We have so much to be grateful for and thankful for. It’s such a wonderful, special country in so many ways. But I worry for its future.

  5. Oh Gloria, this news makes me so incredibly sad.

    It is obvious that those making the decisions are not very educated. How can they not realize that educations is the most important resource a country can support? Instead it is the first thing they cut.

    Thank you for writing this blog post to bring to light what is happening in Italy. I hope the protests continue and those in charge realize that this decision is wrong.

  6. Thank you all! I really appreciate your interest, your spreading the word, your comments. It’s indeed a sad time in the history of our country.

    The University system does need a reform, but it’s certainly not this one.
    The vote has been postponed to Nov. 30th, the protests continue. Let’s hope they can overcome their pride and revoke the proposal.

  7. Thank you Gloria for explaining to us non-Italians what is really happening. Italian politics can be confusing for us at the best of times.

    I found your post incredibly moving. It is indeed a sad time for this wonderful and amazing country. Let’s just hope that the proposal does not go through.

  8. Thank you Sheila, I’ve left a long reply. I truly appreciate everybody’s support. I hope it’s clear I’m not an extremist. I know some changes are needed and I hope a reform will happen. I just think we need more respect from our government. And I wish they would understand that the protest is not just for the students: our students are defending us. Which is the most precious of all rewards.

  9. bill

    sorry to read about your angoscia…its not easy planning a career and then being unable to fulfil your dreams and live up to your full potential. at the same time, this serves as a good example of how societies who depend on government for everything diminish the individual. when you depend on the government, you quash initiative. you drive talented, driven individuals to other places, where the marketplace sets the agenda, not the government. in italy, i’m afraid its not PDL or PD or whichever party you choose–its the quasi socialist nature of the government itself. the bigger the government, the smaller the individual. you deserve a system which appreciates your talents. buona fortuna.

  10. Thank you Bill. Actually I don’t agree that the bigger the government the smaller the individual. The state should warrant your freedom. I’m in humanities. there is no market for humanities. I am all for a social state, much more social than this. this happens because the “public thing” is not a “public thing” anymore but a job. If the government did what it is supposed to do, that is the public interest, these things wouldn’t happen. I think the government should be a guarantee against this kind of injustice which in the private sector are just the normal every day life. Unfortunately, this is not the case anymore, ant that is all wrong. The government is made by men (right and left) who treat the state as a private business instead of a share endeavor. That’s where the wrong lies.

    The reform was passed in one of the Camere, so it will probably become a law of the State.

  11. Gloria, I just now read this and understand your sadness. I knew that changes were being made and that there were many protests but didn’t quite understand what it was about. You helped me understand. Your comment that your country becoming a place for holiday makers and rich ex-pats was so poignant that it brought tears.

  12. Nona Mills

    Thank you all! I really appreciate your interest, your spreading the word, your comments. It’s indeed a sad time in the history of our country. The University system does need a reform, but it’s certainly not this one. The vote has been postponed to Nov. 30th, the protests continue. Let’s hope they can overcome their pride and revoke the proposal.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Gloria CasinadiRosa, Gloria CasinadiRosa, italytutto, Bradley Watkin, Francesca and others. Francesca said: RT @italytutto: RT @casinadirosa: I’m sad for my country. Very sad. http://bit.ly/gcBi2s > It is indeed tragic […]

  2. […] over to my friend’s blog At Home in Tuscany. Gloria is a lecturer at Pisa University and in this incredibly powerful and moving post entitled ‘I’m sad for my country’ she explains what the reforms really mean and […]

  3. […] I’m sad for my country […]

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