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Creating Excellence

    • Meeting in digital format
    • 8 June 2021

          Creating excellence is one of Aspen Institute’s cardinal objectives, and one of the strategic factors in generating the country’s recovery. To this day, Italy remains an advanced European economy despite its relatively low percentage of university graduates. That percentage could be augmented through a different interpretation of education that embraced those hubs of excellence that flourish thanks to their ability to interface with the business world.

          Considerations under way over recent years regarding the tertiary training system have become even more urgent in light of the pandemic experience. Greater attention should be given to post-graduate training, ensuring, for example, adequate access to industrial doctorates.

          In addition to the university, an increasingly important role is being played by corporate academies and professional training centers. With the development of distance learning, the major players of the digital world could also be encouraged to offer their own on-line training platforms. Thus, in light of the plurality of subjects involved in tertiary training, the University must reinvent its role, ceasing to limit itself to mere “sterile” skills with a view to the formation of true professionals capable of engaging in life-long learning. Although universities are often asked to encourage soft skills development, these should emerge with professional growth and experience; therefore, facilitating internships within the university framework could help to bridge the gap between theoretical training and practical knowledge in anticipation of satisfying market demand.

          The experience of the pandemic has highlighted some of the benefits of using digital technologies and suggested elements for revising the University’s role. A balance must be struck between remote digital and in-person learning, and thus the experience of maintaining human contact between  teachers and learners. It is equally important to preserve the distinctive features of tertiary training – among them those of the multidisciplinary STEM sectors – in order for Italy to distinguish itself at international level. On this front, the country’s centers of excellence could benefit considerably from on-line learning by attracting professors and students from the rest of the world. Neither can true excellence be created in the absence of adequate psychological support with the ultimate aim of the student’s complete and well-rounded formation. 

          Nevertheless, without an adequate overhaul of tertiary training, the continual rise lost human capital cannot be arrested – a consequence, not least, of the growing numbers of young people leaving Italy in search of centers of excellence abroad. It is therefore essential that the nation redesign its formative model so as to offer training that is up to international standards.

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