Italy’s scholarship students have been anxiously waiting to learn whether their universities and regions will cover their share of the national funding shortfall, to the tune of €300 million (£264 million).
Italy’s annual budgets typically transfer scholarship costs to the regions and universities, but according to student leaders, the amounts included have increased this year, mainly due to the increase in individual funding without a corresponding increase in university funding.
The country’s National Union of University Students (UDU) has warned that chronic underfunding of higher education institutions, generous grants, high demand and squeezed institutional budgets could cost thousands of students out of university.
Simon Agutoli, Secretary of the Student Union of the University of Pavia, said. Times Higher Education The scholarship shortfall given to the university has increased from 100,000 euros last year to 3 million euros this year. This expansion was partly driven by a roughly 20 per cent increase in the value of individual grants – equivalent to an extra €700 per student per year on average.
Because of the gaps, Italy’s regional governments estimate that 20,000 students will miss out on 15 percent of those eligible for scholarships, said Mr. Agutoli, who is on the UDU executive council. By law, states must chip in at least 40 percent of the national government’s appropriations for scholarships. Politicians in the Pavia Lombardy region chose to invest 75 percent, but that still leaves a gap of nearly 20 million euros between qualified academics and available funds, which must now be filled by institutions.
For students and institutions, rising costs have made the annual scholarship struggle even more bitter. According to Milan University Students’ Union Chairman Niccolò Piras, around 5,000 euros will cover the cost of living for needy students outside the city. “Due to the current economic crisis, we have seen an increase in the number of people applying for scholarships. “Many families have seen their net worth decrease.” Many would have been forcibly evicted if the Lombardy government had not paid more than its legally required share.
According to the local newspaper, the Veneto region has a deficit of 26 million euros Il Gazetino. Elena Donazan, a member of the state’s board of education, told the newspaper that she and her counterparts in other states expect the central government to take action. “We all agreed that there are only two options: either we change the bill or they give us the money,” she said, referring to the law increasing the cost of individual aid.
Funding for scholarships varies by region, but universities’ ability to break even is more mixed. Milan’s Lombardy University makes 35 million euros a year in profits, some of which can be used for needy scholars, while institutions in Italy’s southern regions post annual losses, Mr. Piras said.
Mr. Agutoli said that some students may drop out if they are unable to get a special scholarship. UDU’s regional partners hoped that the national budget could still be improved. Failing that, the money could come from EU funding, said Lisa Sivalucci, the union’s international officer. If not, financially strapped universities will have to cough up. “Everything is possible but we have lost hope. It is technically possible but politically very difficult,” Mr Agutoli said.
Ms Shivalochi said more student protests were planned by universities and the research ministry and hoped UDU could convince pro-MPs to meet. It was decided to continue the campus demonstrations. We will continue to push in our universities to cover scholarships, but we will see,” she said.