Hun­dreds of moon­light­ing aca­demics fined in Italy

THE (Times Higher Education) - - CONTENTS - David.matthews@timeshigh­ere­d­u­ca­tion.com

Ital­ian tax in­ves­ti­ga­tors have is­sued fines to more than 400 aca­demics at the start of a huge crack­down on aca­demics who do out­side work, amid fears they are ne­glect­ing their teach­ing.

The move is the lat­est le­gal ac­tion by the au­thor­i­ties to try to fix dys­func­tions in a sys­tem plagued by un­der­fund­ing and the wide­spread em­i­gra­tion of re­searchers.

One hun­dred and sev­enty two pro­fes­sors will have to re­pay

e42 mil­lion (£37.1 mil­lion), the Mi­lanese news­pa­per Cor­riere Della Sera has cal­cu­lated, an av­er­age fine of e250,000 each.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors checked records of work­ing hours to find those aca­demics who failed to de­vote enough time to ac­tiv­i­ties such as teach­ing, re­search and ex­am­i­na­tions as stip­u­lated in their con­tracts, ac­cord­ing to Ital­ian press re­ports.

They ar­gue that full-time con­tracted pro­fes­sors must work ex­clu­sively for the uni­ver­sity, bar­ring ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances, which must be au­tho­rised.

But Fer­ruc­cio Resta, rec­tor of the Polytech­nic Uni­ver­sity of Mi­lan, where some aca­demics have re­port­edly been sanc­tioned, said that the law was “quite clear” that “col­lab­o­ra­tion ac­tiv­i­ties and ex­ter­nal work are per­mit­ted”.

“The in­tent of the law is to en­cour­age the cre­ation of a tighter bond be­tween academia and the eco­nomic sys­tem as a whole,” he said in a state­ment to Times Higher Ed­u­ca­tion.

“It is ob­vi­ous that if pro­fes­sors do not com­ply with their ex­pected teach­ing and re­search obli­ga­tions, they must be sanc­tioned,” he added. “But all th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties are con­stantly mon­i­tored by the uni­ver­sity ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

The clam­p­down fol­lows sev­eral high-pro­file cases where aca­demics have been is­sued eye-wa­ter­ing fines for out­side work. Marco Bal­doni, a den­tist, was last year or­dered to pay back close to e4.5 mil­lion for run­ning a pri­vate prac­tice at the same time as work­ing as a hos­pi­tal den­tist and as a full-time pro­fes­sor of den­tistry at the Uni­ver­sity of Mi­lan- Bic­occa, ac­cord­ing to re­ports.

An ar­chi­tec­ture pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Genoa, Marco Casa­monti, was re­port­edly fined nearly e689,000 last year for be­ing ab­sent from lessons – and get­ting as­sis­tants to stand in for him dur­ing ex­ams.

The tax au­thor­i­ties have tar­geted aca­demics from across the whole of Italy, al­though the heav­i­est hit re­gion is Lom­bardy, where 60 face fines, ac­cord­ing to Cor­riere Della Sera. Aca­demics at sev­eral well­known uni­ver­si­ties have been tar­geted, in­clud­ing the Polytech­nic Uni­ver­sity of Turin, which did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

So far, in­ves­ti­ga­tors have fo­cused on aca­demics in en­gi­neer­ing, ar­chi­tec­ture and chem­istry de­part­ments. Next, they will turn their at­ten­tion to eco­nomics, medicine and law fac­ul­ties, po­ten­tially net­ting schol­ars who work as con­sul­tants to com­pa­nies, ac­cord­ing to the news­pa­per. They ex­pect the to­tal fines is­sued to dou­ble in value.

No more jug­gling in­ves­ti­ga­tors ar­gue that full-time pro­fes­sors must work ex­clu­sively for the uni­ver­sity, bar­ring ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances, which must be au­tho­rised

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