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… only slightly better than that of Greece, will reform itself a little bit.

The Italian Parliament on Thursday gave a definitive green light to a government decree designed to promote meritocracy in Italy’s higher education system and overhaul the hiring of university staff.

“Today the university system changes,” Italian Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini said after the Chamber of Deputies okayed the decree with 281 in favor, 196 against and 28 abstentions.

Among measures introduced in the decree, which forms part of a wider program of cost-cutting reforms for the sector yet to be finalized, 7 percent of government funds allocated to universities will be shared out on a performance basis from 2009, rewarding universities which demonstrate excellence in teaching and research.

In a bid to help out people at the start of their careers, 60 percent of funds must be spent on the employment of young researchers.

The decree also increases funding for research studentships by 135 million euros from this year.

The decree has been welcomed by some university bodies including the Conference of Italian University Chancellors and heads of research institutes.

There is a general consensus that the university system, which fails to gain a single entry in the top 100 universities in the world and which Gelmini has said “produces fewer graduates than Chile,” needs to be overhauled.

But critics have downplayed the usefulness of the decree in the light of government spending cuts of an estimated 1.5 billion euros in the sector planned from 2010.

Background here.

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