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Italy’s new government features new leadership in education & research

The President of the Italian Republic, Georgio Mattarella, appointed former Head of the European Investment Bank Mario Draghi as Prime Minister of Italy on the 13 February 2021.  Draghi will lead a technocratic administration with broad national support in the Italian parliament from across the political spectrum.  The new Prime Minister has named two full senior cabinet members in the fields of research and education. 

The new Minister for Research & Universities, Maria Cristina Messa, holds a doctorate in medicine and surgery.  She was the first woman to serve as Rector of the University of Milan-Bicocca, and the fourth woman to hold the post of Rector in Italy. Earlier in her career she worked in several management roles for research institutions.  Messa has significant experience of working on the European level serving as a delegate of the 2020 Horizon program.  From 2011 to 2015 she was Vice President of the National Research Council (CNR), the largest public research facility in Italy. Messa is was appointed to serve independent of any political party and is viewed by the Italian press as a capable steward in this mandate, who is keen on keeping warm relations with European institutions. 

Italy’s newly appointed Minister for Public Education, Patrizio Bianchi, is an applied economist.  He served as the Rector of the University of Ferrara from 2004-2010. He holds a UNESCO Chair in Education, Growth and Equality, a position in which he serves as an expert higher education consultant for the UN. After leaving his position as Rector, he was appointed independent of any political party in Italy, but there is a political angle to his appointment as he was invited by the previous Minister of Education, Lucia Azzolina, to lead the coordination of Italy’s national ministerial task force charged with managing the re-opening of schools during the global COVID-19 crisis.  Bianchi’s plans were submitted to the government in the spring of 2020 and were not acted on for many months. His appointment now signals that the new government is eager to follow his road map for the re-opening of the education sector in Italy.   

Further analysis of Prime Minister Draghi’s new government can be found here.