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Survey lauds Covid-19 adaptability of universities

Italian institutions were able to move classes and research online within a week post-lockdown

The majority of Italian universities were able to move classes online within one week following lockdown, according to a survey led by the Centro Studi Investimenti Sociali (CENSIS), a prestigious institute for socio-economic research, based in Rome.

The remaining universities required two weeks to adapt to social distancing measures introduced in March to combat the spread of coronavirus in Italy. This is according to CENSIS’s 20th annual report, which includes rankings of Italian universities.

The report is based on data from 2019, which was augmented by a survey on responses to the coronavirus pandemic, conducted in May among 72 rectors, of which 61 responded.

“More than two-thirds, 42, said they managed to arrange online courses within a week, with the rest requiring two weeks, said Luigi Bellesi, the author of the CENSIS report. 

The Italian ‘arte di arrangiarsi’, or the art of ‘making do’, may have played a role, since rectors unanimously said the emergency funding made available by the government was inadequate.

More funding is needed to support students whose families saw their income badly hit by the lockdown, Bellesi told Research Professional News. This will most likely affect the students who are just entering university, and could be compounded by an expected drop of student numbers from abroad.

Students and their families are the main beneficiary of the CENSIS ranking, which compares public universities in groupings based on their size, and private ones in a separate ranking. “We aim to evaluate the quality of teaching based on objective parameters, such as the number of students who keep a regular pace and graduate in time,” Bellesi said.

The idea behind the ranking is to help students consider how to combine a regular three-year degree close to home with a master’s degree—two more years—in whichever location the specific interests and needs of each student are best satisfied.

The rankings, which are available online, do not however attempt to evaluate the quality of science or parameters such as a university’s reputation. According to Bellesi, this is due to a lack of financial resources at CENSIS.

Maurizio Oliviero, the rector of the Università di Perugia, which ranked first among the big institutions, expressed satisfaction with the results.

“The health emergency was the occasion for a deep transformation that aimed to bring merit, competencies and wellbeing at the centre of our strategic decisions,” he told Research Professional News.