A fifth of Italian graduates at risk due to the demographic crisis

A fifth of Italian graduates at risk due to the demographic crisis


MILAN – Not “endowed” with public funds, not very hospitable, with elderly or temporary teachers and the abandonment of students in the South. These are the problems of the Italian university as always, which promptly emerged in a study of Mediobanca dedicated to the sector. But the research office of the Milanese institute, among the most renowned in Italy, also points the finger at the effects of the demographic crisis, which by 2041 could cause 415 thousand graduates “disappear”. from a country that dramatically needs it, being among the last in Europe for the number of tertiary qualifications. Over 21% of the 1.95 million members registered today in Italy. The study analyzes the 2022 data of 92 universities (61 state, 31 private), and records a decrease in enrollments in public (82.2% of the total, from 91.8% in 2012), the consolidation of universities traditional private individuals (from 5.7% to 6.3% of total members) and the take-off of telematic universitiesnow attended by 11.5% of freshmen (2.5% in 2012).

The effects of the demographic hole on future degrees

The crisis of the cots, we read in it “The Italian university system between demographic threat, technological challenge and territorial competition”, is rapidly spreading to school desks: and over the next 27 years it will produce – assuming a constant rate of passage from high schools to universities – “an evident impoverishment of the university population”, especially in the southern regions, where an average decline in the 27.6% of members. In fees paid alone, a shortfall estimated at at least half a billion euros, which will contribute to the financial imbalance of higher education in the country. Italy, in fact, invests only 1% of GDP for university education, compared to the average 1.3% in the EU and the average 1.5% in OECD countries. A (public) expense that only covers 61% of the costs of higher education among Italians (in Europe the average is 76%), while the rest falls almost exclusively to families (33% of total spending, more than double the 14% European average). A scenario that worries, and should worry public and government administrators more, as the employment advantages are increasingly evident as the qualification increases, in a world of production and work pervaded by technologies in every area. Italy, among other things, is already the penultimate country in Europe for its graduate population, with 20% of people aged between 25 and 64 compared to a continental average of 33.3%. Mediobanca estimates that additional spending of 5.3 billion euros would be needed to reach the EU average, and 8.8 billion to reach the OECD.

Northern Italy is eating up the South

The trend towards depopulation risks exacerbating what is an endemic aspect of higher education: the migrations of students towards the North. Observing attendance over the last decade, we note how northern universities compensate for the demographic crisis with international attractiveness, which is very limited in the case of southern universities, where only 2.5 students out of 100 come from abroad. A fraction of the average 3.6% of foreign university students who study in Italy, which is however less than half of those hosted by the major European countries. Also for this reason in the universities of Southern Italy there was a drop in enrollments of 16.7% between 2012 and 2022, while the North West grew by 17%, the North East by 13%. Also a logistical fact, given that the average time to reach the study location in the South is longer 150 minutesalmost double the 88 minutes medium in Italy. But the “escape from the South”, as Mediobanca calls it, is also the result of the modest receptivity of the student residences, capable of offering one bed for every 9 students away from home (with negative peaks of 1:21).

More STEM courses and higher grades, but few teachers and seniors

In the myriad of data, some signs of improvement can be seen. 77% of those enrolled in 2022 were “in progress”, many more than the 66.6% of 10 years earlier: but “the rate of delay or abandonment still appears too high”, we read in the research, which attests to six years after enrollment, 63% of subjects have graduated, with an average age of 24.4 years for three-year courses and 27 years for master’s courses. The average exit grade is also improving: it was two years ago 104/110compared to 102.7/110 in 2012. The courses dedicated to scientific disciplines (acronym Stem), which concern 35% of 5,180 teachings total, ahead of the 25.6% of the healthcare and agro-veterinary sectors, the 23.9% of the economic-legal courses and the remaining 15.5% of the artistic-literary ones. Lights and shadows in the teaching staff: tenured figures increased by 6.6% over the decade, but lThe average age is still 50 years old (full professors are 58.2 years old) and only 41.3% are women (among rectors we are at 12%, however almost double the 7.5% in 2012). Above all, Italy continues to have a ratio between students and tenured teachers 14.3% higher than the EU average (and 19% above the OECD reference). There is one professor for every 28.5 students in Italian universities, and this rises to one in 385 in online universities. Which, however, are overflowing with subscribers – and profits – thanks to the remote model, which is rapidly growing also because it is replicable.


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