Informations and abstract
Keywords: Higher Education; Modernization Reforms; Efficiency and Equity; Contractual Policy; Smart Differentiation.
The Italian higher education (HE) system has been characterized by the consistent failure of reforms aimed at modernizing it. The myth of formal homogeneity among HE institutions prevented any non-ideological discussion on how to differentiate tertiary education so as to increase its performance in both efficiency and equity. Instead of guaranteeing an overall high quality of teaching and research, the various reforms led to a «creeping» differentiation that resulted in a high level of fragmentation of the system, rather than producing a systemic improvement. Two main reasons have made an institutionalized differentiation of the HE system especially difficult in Italy. The first one has to do with the deep territorial divide that affects all socio-economic and institutional aspects of the country: any differentiation among Italian universities based on non-contextualized indicators of performance would be immediately perceived as a politically sensitive issue. The second reason has to do with the low technical capacity of Italian governments - which is a prerequisite for steering Italian universities toward the kind of internal differentiation that I suggest in this article. What may, then, be an appropriate solution? Sticking to the traditional taboo and closing our eyes to the fact that differentiation takes place anyway, in uncontrolled and disorderly ways? Or looking for a «smart differentiation», one that can make the HE system more efficient without impairing social and territorial cohesion? The article briefly outlines the second option by elaborating on a few concrete proposals.