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English, lingua franca at the Milan Polytechnic, from 2014

The rector of the Polytechnic of Milan, Giovanni Azzone, has recently released some shocking news for the Italian higher education scene. Starting from the academic year 2014/15, the entire educational offering at postgraduate level of this higher education establishment will be available, the rector says, exclusively in English. Currently, only a third of these courses are taught in this foreign language. This envisaged change is part, the leadership of the institution explains, of the institution’s internationalisation strategy. Specifically, the move is, on the one hand, meant to help Italian students acquire international skills and competences that are needed on the labour market, while on the other hand it is meant to help attract and retain top talent from abroad in Milan. In 2011, the Italian institution already reported that as many as 17.8% of its students came from abroad, either for degree studies or through students exchanges.

To achieve this goal, the university leadership has planned a total investment of EUR 3.2 million, most of which will be allocated for the attraction of foreign staff. This amount, the university believes, will suffice for recruiting as many as 15 full professors, 30-35 postdocs and 150 visiting professors. The measure will be implemented only from 2014, to give time, amongst other things, to current students to linguistically prepare for the shift.

The measure has sparked mixed reactions in the Italian academia. While some, amongst them the education minister Francesco Profumo, salute the initiative and are hoping that this example will be soon followed by other institutions, others, and especially the linguists, label it as extremely eccentric. The rector explains, however, that the Italian language will not be endangered – it remains the language of instruction for Bachelor level studies.
Universita Politecnico di Milano (in Italian)