Parallel sessions - E.6 Challenges And Weaknesses. Differentiation, Digital Transformation, Professionalism, Autonomy
E.6. Challenges and Weaknesses. Differentiation, Digital Transformation, Professionalism, Autonomy
PAST AND FUTURE OF ITALIAN STATE FUNDING FOR UNIVERSITIES
1Università di Bologna, Italia; 2Università di Pisa, Italia
The 1994 Italian Budget Law, proposed almost thirty years ago by the Government chaired by M. Ciampi, established a new way of funding for state universities, with the aim of developing their autonomy and, in particular, budgetary autonomy. A new balance sheet item was inserted in the annual state budget, named “Fondo di Finanziamento Ordinario” (FFO), i.e. general funding for all institutional activities of state universities. This single item still represents one of the most conspicuous in the whole state budget, because it contains, besides the allocation of money for ordinary functioning of all universities, even that one for salaries of all personnel, differently of almost all other Italian public administrations.
In this paper we firstly want to retrace the long history of FFO, by identifying two main paradigms of interpretation. The former is related to a gradual weakening of the initial setting of very pronounced autonomy of universities, which was even anticipating many other European countries, in favor of an increasing centralism of state in steering the universities’ expenses, then the policies of each institution. Initially, indeed, each university was envisaged to receive by the state a unique functioning budget to be allocated by academic authorities according to the purposes of each institution. The only exceptions were state funding for buildings, big scientific infrastructures, and development programs of university system. Instead, in the following years, FFO was gradually branched out into many entries, each one allocated to different commitments of universities indicated by law or ministry.
The latter paradigm concerns with the increasing lawmakers’ intention of dictating FFO’s allocation criteria which allow to award those universities that achieve the best results in research and, albeit to a lesser degree, in teaching/learning activities on the basis of external and independent assessment. As a matter of fact, the FFO institutive law considered, besides the so called “quota base”, i.e. the part of FFO to be allocated in proportion of earlier funding for each university, the remaining and proportionally increasing part of FFO to be allocated so that possible imbalances in previous allocations could be rebalanced. (Note that, before the introduction of FFO, all salaries and research grants were paid directly by state). However, year after year, the FFO rebalance part gradually became a reward funding, with the paradoxical consequence that in the allocation of public money addressed to ordinary functioning of universities a prize gained by a university corresponds – when the total FFO amount is constant or diminishing – to a penalty for other universities.
Finally, we try to draw some conclusions in order to suggest possible aspects of an overall and consistent reconsideration of the theme of state funding for universities in the frame of a more general reflection about new roles and tasks of universities and higher education institutions in next years.
THE HURD PATH OF ACADEMIC STABILISATION INTO A NEOLIBERAL EUROPEAN ACADEMIC FRAMEWORK
1Università Federico II di Napoli, Italy; 2Sapienza Università di Roma, Italy; 3University of Exeter, United Kingdom
In the past two decades, the early career academics have faced increasingly difficulties to stabilise their position in the European academic systems. Currently we can identify similarities in the academic recruitment as results of neoliberal policies (Deem & Brehony, 2005, Ball 2012; Bozzon et al. 2018) adopted by the European governments that contribute to the academics precarity.
The process of entering and stabilizing the academic career has always been long and complex. Spending reduction policies have also exacerbated the difficulties and competition among aspiring academics. In the Italian case, for example, the abolition of the figure of the permanent researcher and the introduction of the juridical figures of type "A" (fixed-term without tenure) and type "B" (fixed-term but with the possibility of tenure) has further complicated the stabilization process in academic positions. In the other European countries the “new academic regime” (Normand 2016) produces a new stage of academic capitalism. This situation has produced various effects. From the scientific production point of view, the way of publishing has changed, with an emphasis on articles in journals equipped with an impact factor or (in the Italian case) classified as qualitatively superior. The push to "publish or perish'' has strongly raised average productivity, placing aspiring academics under tremendous pressure (Colarusso & Giancola 2020). Furthermore, it is possible to identify several effects at the individual level: the fragmentation of the career path has reflected on life paths, on forced mobility, on parenting choices, on psycho-physical well-being.
Starting from a set of semi-structured interviews carried out in the fields of education sciences, sociology, physics, biology and medicine, this paper shows the effects of the changes listed above, also taking into account the differences between the various research sectors. The interviewees live and work in several European countries and the United Kingdom.
We investigate the figure of “new european researcher” who build is academic and private identity (Djerasimovic & Villani 2019; Colarusso & Giancola 2020) following the ideas of mobility, new mode of knowledge production (Gibbons et al., 1994), performativity, accountability. The early career researcher (ECR) has to face several trials such as: the balance of private and professional life, instability, penury of fundings and jobs vacancy, the managerialization of academic profession (Normand & Villani 2019). In addition ECR needs to combine individual strategies for academic survival in a context that impose the oxymoron of competitive partnership.
In this work we compare the new European young researcher ideal-type (Djerasimovic & Villani 2019) with the researchers enacting in the real contexts. On the one hand, we have the ECR ideal-type represented by the figure of a multi-skilled, flexible and entrepreneurial innovator (Vittorio 2015), who is responsible for the development of their own career, capable of confidently navigating the funding landscape and taking opportunities for professional development and research collaboration. On the other hand, we analyse the path of the real researcher that struggles constantly with all difficulties imposed by the new academic regime.
THE REMOTE LEARNING TRANSITION AT THE UNIVERSITY OF BOLOGNA: STUDENT EXPERIENCES AND EXPECTATIONS FOR A POST-PANDEMIC FUTURE
University of Bologna, Italy
The outbreak of the Covid-19 emergency has deeply affected the university institution, contributing to significantly change the living conditions and experiences of students (Aristovnik et al. 2020). Starting from the first week of March, a few days after the suspension of lectures, the University of Bologna has transferred online - in synchronous mode - most of its teachings, to then pass within two weeks to distance teaching in almost all the courses. This passage, therefore, was not channeled into a path already structured and oriented to online teaching: it was quite a necessity to implement, in an emergency situation, tools and practices for remote teaching, only sometimes accelerating processes in their embryonic phase (Hodges et al. 2020). The paper focuses on students experience of online teaching: this sudden change in the way teaching is organised has given rise to very different reactions and expectations. The different coping methods are analyzed starting from data deriving from the survey "Living and studying at the time of Covid-19", carried out within the Permanent Laboratory on Student Housing in Bologna - HousINgBO, which made it possible to collect over 16,000 questionnaires (equal to about 20% of students enrolled at the University of Bologna). The large area of attraction of the University of Bologna (an extremely attractive university in terms of its educational offer and, at the same time, a strategic center from a geographical point of view) allows to take into consideration many aspects: the goal is to highlight the heterogeneity of the population under investigation, paying particular attention to non-resident students, bearers of peculiar experiences in living the relationship with the city and the university, and for whom the University of Bologna represents a privileged observatory (non-resident students headquarters constitute 57.0% of the over 63,000 students enrolled in courses based in Bologna). Focusing the attention on the experience of online teaching, investigated under different dimensions (frequency, modality, difficulty, satisfaction, orientation towards future online classes), allows to deepen the different orientations shown by students characterized by different status (residents, off-site, commuters) and backgrounds. Some aspects of this new type of teaching, in fact, (such as easier access to lessons, optimization of time, methods of acquiring materials) were particularly appreciated by a specific target of students and to a much lesser extent by others. Investigating these aspects is certainly useful in view of the questions that the post-pandemic future will reserve for the whole field of education and in particular for higher education (Peters et al. 2020): how this experience, once the emergency phase is over, can it be effectively enhanced?
Aristovnik, A., Kerzic, D., Ravselj, D., Tomazevic, N., Umek, L. (2020), Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Life of Higher Education Students: A Global Perspective, Sustainability, 12, DOI: 10.3390/SU12208438.
UNIVERSITY IN THE CAGE OF BUREAUCRACY
1University of Cagliari, Italy; 2University of Cagliari, Italy; 3University of Rome "La Sapienza", Italy
Rationalization of human and economic resources and transparency of administrative processes have been the main objectives of the progressive transformations that italian university has undergone since the “Gelmini Reform” (2009). In this way, we were told, academy had been finally free from the dark age of “medieval” arbitrariness, power struggles among professors’ lobbies, exploited “servants”, waste of public money.
After 10 years, it must be recognized that the recruitment/evaluation procedures have certainly become more transparent. But at what price? Weber already showed how the instrument to move from the "Middle Ages" to "Modernity" is the progressive enlargement of the domain of bureaucracy in its function of classifying and regulating. Something that has also occurred in Italian University: datafication of each part of the system (teaching, research, recruitment, projects), digitization of procedures, development of gold standards, multiplication of rules and guidelines to achieve those standards, creation of new offices in charge of managing the whole process.
The result is that the old "anarchic", horizontal, and arbitrary system -typical of the "medieval" university-, characterized by oligarchic power struggles, has been replaced by a "monarchical"-bureaucratic-vertical system, characterized by the domination of impersonal ministerial agencies and groups of local powers headed by the rector. Both power centers, the rector and the local groups, are legitimized exclusively because they are in charge of issuing rules. It is not a coincidence that the bureaucracy is precisely what is renewed most in the university. As a consequence, the traditional democratic and deliberative spaces such as the Departments are reduced to a mere executive bodies. But how the optimization of a process can be possible if, on the one hand, the university spends - in terms of time and resources - more than it gets as an advantage, and, on the other hand, this top-down bureaucracy blocks the change that quality procedures require instead?
The final effect is not a direct comparison between performance and results (the true goal of any quality assurance policy), but only a representation of those performances and results, quantified in some way. The majority of academic work is now directed exclusively to the production and manipulation of those representations, rather than to its “real” objectives (Fisher 2009). In practice, professors, researchers and entities they belong to (Degree Courses, Departments, Faculties) are obliged by the bureaucracy to do self-management (Van Dijk et al. 2018) and brand curation, not towards their target audience (students or other researchers), but in favor of the upper administration authorities (Didactic Department, Quality Department, Anvur, etc.) which produce gold standards and guidelines. It is a self-referential vicious cycle that disregards the true mission of a public university and from which it is difficult to get out (Graeber 2015).
In the final part of the speech, we will propose some solutions based on the horizontal logic of the network and on an alternative use of digital environments, hopefully no longer hostage to the hierarchical/vertical bureaucracy, but places for sharing and negotiating rules.
UNIVERSITY 2030: THINKING ABOUT A STRUCTURAL CHANGE
Università di Roma La Sapienza, Italy
A structural divergence has opened up between Universities (as other educational and heritage institutions) orientation, forms and cultures and the mature dynamics of the Network Society (Castells 1996 - 2002). In summary: the dominant model of knowledge construction is based on dematerialization and decentralization in millions of networks, producing and reusing billions of “content" every day, mainly concentrated on large global platforms (Van Dijk et al. 2019). We are facing gigantic processes of globalization, virtualization, media convergence, based on connectivity / relationship on the web; consequently substantial breaks in continuity must be previsioned (and governed) also for the traditional twentieth-century forms of education and research institutions. Great changes are under way: towards permeability - opening up to the flows of digital life; towards creativity - the investment necessary to make online subjects active and not passive; and towards the most difficult, the network reorganization, implying a strong change in the structure and mentality (Ragone et al. 2011 - 2020).
On the one hand, the change is driven bottom up by the generational turnover of the actors, as evidenced by empirical research and innovative initiatives undertaken in some Universities; the current paradigm of learning, for example, is no longer the linear one of a knowledge already constructed and to be transmitted, but that of a knowledge to be re-constructed, re-discussed, re-mediated, re-created. On the other hand, there is a tendency to "resist" around traditional anchors (disciplinary research to be formalized and transferred into texts and "lessons", a teacher who "trains" the student, classrooms, schedules, strictly separated and regulated functions and systems, ...).
Can we still discuss an answer to this divergence and suffering in terms of reform? Ruberti (1990) and Berlinguer (1998) overturned the old organizational forms by playing on a European dimension, and putting Italy back in an advanced position in addressing the transition to the knowledge economy. While today the processes are global, all institutional forms are in crisis, confidence in a reform policy is low. In this contribution, taking into account the discussion in recent years on some crucial issues, it is proposed to design a new model, counteracting bureaucratization / corporatization, vertical teaching transmission, uncertainty about missions, excessive isolation and self-referentiality of structures and individuals.
The hypothesis envisages processes of a) polarization (in large universities and aggregations reaching a defined critical mass) between advanced research, teaching and third mission activities aimed at the territory and at external demands, with consequent polarization processes of individuals roles for defined periods; b) specific articulation and differentiation for large, medium and small entities, on vocations and missions (advanced research, service to the territories); c) didactic conversion towards a blended learning based on co-design; d) professional and organizational reconversion towards a model where activities, participation in decisions, forms of governance are based on the team (open, interdisciplinary, international, during defined time periods) and not on the individual role; e) de-bureaucratization and digital infrastructure; f) all supported by a coherent policy of government and regional investment in research and the third mission.