Italian university switches to English for success
MILAN (Reuters) - Italians do it better. At least that's what the T-shirts say. The problem is in what language?
Politecnico di Milano, one of Italy's leading universities, thinks it should be English.
The 149-year-old university, located in Italy's business capital Milan, is set to become the first Italian place of higher learning to teach all its graduate courses in English when it kicks off its academic year in 2014.
The aim is to kit out its students with the right stuff to gain access to the global jobs market. It's also meant to attract top-class international students at a time when competition among universities worldwide is hotting up.
"We need to prepare all our graduates for a professional world that demands a rigorous international outlook," Politecnico rector Giovanni Azzone told Reuters.
The university - one of the world's top 50 engineering schools according to QS World University rankings - will offer all its Master of Science and PhD courses in English and will invest 3.2 million euros to attract international faculty.
Azzone said that in today's modern world it's crucial young people know how to work with different cultures.
"Our graduates very often have to work on projects with scholars from China, India and many other countries," he said. "Getting them used to an inter-cultural environment prepares them better for the world of work."
With Italy's job market shrinking in a cold economic climate and emerging markets adding more jobs by the day, Italian universities are adapting to the new reality.
Increasing the number of courses taught in English and internationalizing higher education to make it more competitive is a key part of Education Minister Francesco Profumo's policy as the government looks for ways to stimulate growth.
Italy's most prestigious business school, Bocconi, was the first to offer undergraduate classes in English back in 2001. Today it teaches about 50 percent of its graduate courses in English. And the number is set to grow.
"The lingua franca for business is English and you need to know it. Our students are very active on international markets and demand an international environment," Dean of International Affairs at Bocconi University Fulvio Ortu said.
Politecnico di Milano teaches science, engineering and design and counts among its alumnae Nobel prize winner Giulio Natta, who discovered polypropylene, and top international architect Renzo Piano.
Globalization is increasing the demand for skilled workers around the world, especially in science, while in Italy even small and medium-sized companies are now looking to international markets.
"Overseas job offers for our graduates rose 42 percent in 2011 and I don't see the trend falling off," Azzone said.
(Reporting By Stephen Jewkes, editing by Paul Casciato)
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