Family fiefdoms blamed for tainting Italian universities
According to a recent piece in the Independent, nepotism is a major problem in Italian higher education:
The decline of Italy’s universities, none of which currently appear in the world’s top 200, is a constant source of lament among the country’s chattering classes. But the reason for this sorry state is laid bare by new research that shows the extent of nepotism in higher education. The grip of family fiefdoms is being blamed for a nationwide brain drain.
The investigative magazine L’Espresso and the newspaper La Repubblica have revealed the astonishing degree to which lecturing jobs are kept in the family in Italy’s sclerotic higher education system. In Rome’s La Sapienza University, for example, a third of the teaching staff have close family members as fellow lecturers. Overall, the country’s higher institutions are 10 times more likely than other places of work to employ two or more members of the same family.
Whilst there are undoubtedly examples of family members working in the same institution in the UK, it is rarely suggested that appointments are based on anything other than merit. Once you have one in three academics working with family members though it is difficult to imagine normal business operating.
Ben Wildavsky follows up this theme in the Chronicle and there are a number of interesting comments in response to his take on this issue.