All Universities Are Equal, But Some Universities Are More Equal Than Others

Italian university degree risks to lose its legal validity, according to Matteo Salvini’s proposal.

Once again, Italy’s Interior minister Matteo Salvini never misses a chance to weigh in on issues that should not concern his office. This time was the university system’s. During a meeting at the Northern League Political Training School, he said: “We have to reform schools and universities: the abolition of the legal validity of degrees is a topic that must be addressed. Because I have the impression – he continued – that in the last decades both school and university have been considered electoral and union tanks, simple suppliers of paper documents”.

The party of discrimination

This point had already been raised by the Northern League, when the party was still strongly firm on the supposed differences between a laborious North and the slackers from the South. In this respect however, universities as well suffer from an existent economic gap between the two sides of the country. In the last few years, with Salvini turning on the party leader, the word “Northern” disappeared form the name of this political faction, and in so becoming popular throughout Italy. Suddenly, decades of insults against southerners seem to get swept under the rug in the name of a new common enemy: immigrants.

Other assessment parameters

However, old habits die hard. Salvini’s speech about universities subtly reveals the legacy of his party’s discriminatory background. Indeed, the proposal to abolish the legal validity of the university degree goes hand in hand with the belief that not all the Italian universities are on the same level. Accordingly, it wouldn’t be right to equalize the degrees, especially when recent graduates take part to open competitions. The prestige of a university would be measured using other efficiency indicators, creating thus a sort of competition to achieve excellence.

The shortcomings in this proposal

Basically, this measure would strongly penalize universities which receive less funds, as these would not be able to keep up in terms of efficiency, students services and adequate facilities. As a consequence, tuition fees would become unsustainable for students, who would be forced to compensate for the lack of public funds. In this ruthless race to excellence, two categories of universities would be substantially penalized, i.e. the smallest ones and, lo and behold, those in Southern Italy which historically have to deal with fewer funds. If these two parameters coexist, it is a death sentence.

Not the right way

Let’s be honest: as in any country in the world, not all the universities are equal. In fact, to paraphrase George Orwell’s Animal Farm, some of them are more equal than others. From a student’s point of view, this reality could be felt as a great injustice, as there is no effective difference between a degree with honors obtained with hard work and another one got with the least amount of effort. However, this kind of measure is likely to highlight even more the disparities instead of smoothing them out, denying citizens the chance to access to the same level of education without being forced to travel miles and miles. Nonetheless, everyone knows, it is easier to destroy than to create.