STUDENTS ACROSS ITALY have occupied buildings all around the country – including two of the its most iconic tourist attractions – in protest at proposed government cutbacks to university fundings.
Thousands of third-level students occupied the Colosseum in Rome and the Leaning Tower of Pisa to demonstrate against the proposals, which the government says are intended to prompt greater efficiency but which students believe will hamper the quality of teaching.
Italian press reports that 2,000 students marched in Pisa, forming a human chain around its renowned Leaning Tower to stop tourists from entering, while another smaller group climbed inside the attraction.
In Rome, meanwhile, students hung banners reading ‘No profits from our future’ from the walls of the Colosseum, while Milanese students were involved in brief conflicts with police as they tried to occupy the city’s metro system.
Other students demonstrated at the parliament buildings, igniting smoke flares and waving banners.
Yesterday’s protests marked the second successive day of demonstrations, rejecting the government’s plan to rationalise the teaching of individual areas of study in order to eliminate duplicity between the country’s higher education institutes.
The move is among the more high-profile austerity measures being proposed by Silvio Berlusconi’s troubled government, but would see thousands of educators laid off with individual regional universities being forced to specialise in certain academic disciplines.
Students say the expected savings of €1.35bn will, however, mark a bitter blow to a third level system they already perceive as weak.
As the protests were ongoing, Berlusconi’s government lost a parliamentary vote on an amendment to the reform proposals, with infighting among his Forza Italia coalition seeing some fringe members defect to opposition benches.
Berlusconi now faces a significant task to save his government before a confidence vote in his leadership is scheduled for December 14.