I want to expose the incredible story of an Italian citizen who cannot graduate due to some occult and horrible bureaucratic problems in the Department where he is studying now. The most incredible part of this “not so fairy tale” is that this man is myself.
by Bruno Martino
April 14, 2013
My name is Bruno Martino and I am finishing a Bachelor of Arts in Modern and Foreign Languages at the Department of Linguistic at University Of Calabria, in Italy. In 2012, when I didn’t still finish all my exams, I contacted many professors and lecturers in the same Department, to require a thesis and in order to complete my graduation. After many months, I wasn’t able to find any spare professor or lecturer to write my thesis. They all manifested against me a negative behaviour. They told me that they were busy, they couldn’t afford new students and so on.
In the late 2012, I finished all my exams and I wasn’t able to find anyone in order to complete my thesis. So I contacted the Dean of Department to expose my very incredible situation. This one told me that I had to prepare a particular request, which should have been approved by The High Council of The Department, to find a professor or a lecturer to complete my thesis. They told me that they would have considered the subjects, where I had the best final marks, and then they would have assigned me a thesis in one of these ones. After many pressures, and contrasts against me created by the Department staff, they assigned me a thesis in a very odd subject, where I had very low final marks. They told me that it was the unique solution, and I was obliged to accept this nonsense decision. Some members of the Administration office manifested an unfair and aggressive behaviour against me. In some occult way, they manipulated my will and I accepted their decision.
In the months later, I tried to write a thesis in this very odd subject, and I discovered as soon as possible that I didn’t have the required skills and knowledge to complete this task. I felt so frustrated and offended, and this professor continued to blame me as an incompetent and unskilled student. So I decided to leave this subject and to swap for another one. Here the surprise arrived very soon: all the professors and lecturers cannot accept new students, they are full, the doors were closed again and again. What is The result of this nonsense and unfair behaviour? I am losing one year at University, and I risk to pay more tuition fees for the lost semesters.
In April 2013 I contacted again some members of the administrative staff in the Department. They continued to mob me, and to use the same idiot excuses. Finally, I was able to see again The Dean Of The Department. I showed him the reality of this sad situation. This man continued to expose his very strange standpoint “you have to change the content of your thesis in this subject” “it is your fault” “there are no other options” “you cannot swap for another subject” and so on. After a very detailed exposition of my argumentations, the Dean told me “you have to contact on yourself all the professors and lecturers in the subjects, where you gained the best final marks, but I cannot guarantee a successful deal between you and them”. He also said “maybe, if you continue to have troubles, we can “help” you in “some ways”. The conclusion of this speech seems to me the ordinary and unfair continuation of all the fraud exposed before. Moreover, according to the Dean, I cannot do a new “particular request” for “those students unable to complete a thesis, because all the Department staff is too busy”.
If there is no solution for my case, I will try to contact a good solicitor to sue the Department, and at least, to have a full refund of the tuition fees for the lost semesters. This problem also damaged my health. In fact, I am suffering for an anxiety problem called “Conversion syndrome”. This one is a serious disease, where physical symptoms and pains are created by a status of anxiety. In order to defeat this problem, I am going to a private Doctor, because the local National Health Service does not cover the treatments for Conversion syndrome. This would cost me around 1000 GBP, and there is a very strict connection between this disease and the stressors and distress created by the unfair behaviour of The Department.
I want to expose my case, because there is no doubt that I am a victim of a serious form of mobbing by The Department of Linguistics at UNICAL. It is an evident emotional abuse, where I was intimidated, discredited, and humiliated by superiors. Even these evident somatic symptoms (headaches and irritable bowel syndrome) are a product of this bullying and ganging up by The Department. The most interesting side is that there are tons of other students in the same situations, who aren’t able to graduate and are desperately looking for a solution. According to my experience, behind this problem, there is a well orchestrate scam. The real reason is that, due to the recent cuts in budget spending in Higher Education, some Italian Universities are playing nasty tricks to recover more money: delaying the graduation of Italian students in many ways in order to raise more bills by the additional tuition fees for lost semesters. It sounds strange, but this is a common situation in some Italian Universities and not so well managed Departments, especially in the South.
According to the OECD statistics, Italian students graduate later than the English ones, not because they are lazy and incompetent, but because there is a confused organization and lack of support, purposely orchestrated in order to create more delays and to earn more money by tuition fees. Moreover in the last years, tuition fees had an incredible increasing of price from a merely 300 GBP per year in the early 90s, to the nowadays 1000 GPB per year. In some State Universities in the North, they can also charge 2000 GPB per year.
According to the OECD statistics, Italy has the 4th most expensive tuition fees in Europe, and one of the worst and underperformed Higher Education Systems. Some nations like Netherlands and England have more expensive tuition fees, but they have one of the best Higher Educational Systems in The World. In the last years despite the increasing of tuition fees, we didn’t have any credible improvement in the quality of Education. In the Early 90s, Italian Higher Education, despite lower tuition fees, offered better results in international rankings and created brilliant students. Today, despite tuition fees over 1000 GPB, it is one of the worst performed and badly managed sectors in the Italian society.
Even some nations like Spain, that have the same spending of GDP in Education (4,3%), have better universities than ours. Other nations that have a not so bigger spending in Education, such as Germany (4,5%), have one of the best universities in the world and no tuition fees. The GDP spending of Italy is lower than the medium range in EU (5,5%), but it is not so low to justify such a so bad level of quality. The most common pattern in Italian Higher Education is “an uniform mediocrity”. There is no Italian Institution in the top 100 best university world rankings. The biggest issue is not to spend more, but to spend better, in order to offer a credible service charged by lower tuition fees.
According to The Economist five Italian universities are in effect bankrupt. The Italian Higher Education is in some ways, the equivalent of the slow, bureaucratic, and poorly managed National Health Service in United Kingdom (one of the most expensive and worst NHS systems in OECD countries). Italian students also have the highest dropout rate (55%) and graduate very late (28 years old). If you come from UK, and you are familiar to some mad GPs and Surgeons in your local hospitals, these horrible images are not so different from what you could find in some Departments in Italy. Another occult aspect of our Educational System is Cronism. In the last 20 years, in Italy we had the biggest increasing of “Mickey Mouse Degrees”, and a proliferation on nonsense courses and Departments. According to The Economist in Italy there are 37 courses with one student, and 327 faculties with less than 15 students.
Another bad aspect of our Higher Education is that is based on the nonsense idea to give a Bachelor Degree to every F grade High School leaver picked on the street. In fact, there is not a credible selection process, and many Italians with serious lack of skills in Literacy and Numeracy (and maybe behavioural problems), can easily access to University. This idea creates a falling quality in education, and a massive creation of unskilled graduates. Most of them cannot write or speak in a correct language, and graduate very late with an Ordinary Degree and very low grades in exams. In few words, Italian Academia is going to be a factory of “enriched chavs”. According to OECD studies, Italian graduate have one of the lowest level of knowledge and skills in EU. Some nations in the PIIGS area perform better such as Ireland, Spain and maybe Portugal and Greece.
The last occult aspect of Italian Higher Education System is that it doesn’t have a concrete contact with job market, it doesn’t teach real skills in work environment, and it works on the bad idea to work as parking “for future unemployed citizens”. Despite many nations in Northern Europe, our universities don’t offer programs of working experiences, apprenticeships, internships and sandwich course where you study and then you have training. It doesn’t teach real skills for example how to start your business, and how to sell you product, or how to invest your savings in the stock market. The most occult side is the idea of “parking for future unemployed citizens”. Because our youth unemployment is one of the highest in EU, making University education easier is a way to attract more schooleavers (very potential unemployed citizens) in the Higher Educational System, in order to reduce the real unemployment rate. Because 70% of our schooleavers easily enrol to University, many of them will figure on the national statistics as people still in education. On the other side the number of young jobless appear much lower (youth unemployment is 34%). If Italian University was more selective like 20 years ago, the real number of young jobless would immediately increase to 70% or maybe 80%.
In order to conclude, my case of academic mobbing and bullying is an evident example of the dysfunctional, unproductive and badly performed Higher Educational System in our Republic. The EU, NATO and OECD think thanks should examine the terrible situation in our country, and make strict pressures to our institutions in order to make changes. If the situation doesn’t change, it will explode the biggest bubble in Italian History: The University Bubble scam. This is not only a problem of staff absence and embarrassing levels of disorganization, there is a serious risk of a total bankruptcy of our entire Educational system. Italy is facing “A Deliberate Dumbing Down of youth”, and a Bachelor Degree is going to be no more than a worthless piece of paper.