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New education minister in Italy brings promises of continuity

The collapse of Silvio Berlusconi’s government earlier this month was bound to bring, amongst other things, changes at the helm of educational policy within the country – hopefully for the better. Francesco Profumo has just been entrusted with the portfolio for Education, Universities and Research, in the technocrat government of the new Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti. A former adviser of ex-Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini, professor Profumo was acting at the time of appointment to this ministerial post as President of the National Research Council in Italy (CNR) and as Rector of the Polytechnic of Torino. An engineer by training, Mr Profumo has an impressive international profile. He was a visiting professor at prestigious universities in the United States, Japan, Czech Republic and Argentina, and has received a number of national and international prizes in his field. He is also praised within his country for having built partnerships with important representatives of the business community.

Taking up this post in very critical times for Italy, Mr Profumo clearly has a difficult task ahead. It seems highly unlikely that the budget for education will increase in the near future, and keeping it at current levels may prove challenging enough. There is, however, hope for continuity, as far as the priorities for higher education are concerned. Minister Profumo already announced during his first meeting with the Italian student unions his intention to finalise the comprehensive and fairly controversial higher education reform started by his predecessor (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, January 2011), despite financial limitations. Hopefully, more news will soon be available on the detailed priorities of the new minister.

Italian Government