Dr Simona Milio of LSE Enterprise’s Social and Cohesion Policy unit presented the findings of a study on Brain Drain, Brain Circulation and Brain Exchange to Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti in Rome on 16 April.
Dr Milio says ‘The biggest problem for Italy is not simply the negative balance between incoming and outgoing talent, but also the high qualifications of emigrants compared to immigrants. The report proposes that the government consider concrete proposals for both the circulation of talent and to attract highly skilled people.
‘Presenting in front of the Prime Minister and seeing his interest in this topic has made me realise that although people think that in Italy nothing will ever change…..that is not true. There is a governing class interested in how to better the country.’
The fourteen recommendations are addressed at the government and universities. They include the necessity of new incentives for attracting human capital; investment in research equal to that of other economic powers; the circulation of researchers through the rejuvenation of the professorial class; adoption of models to encourage study and specialisation abroad and students’ subsequent return; ad hoc salary increases for deserving young professors; creation of public-private partnerships; increased independence for young researchers; reduced job insecurity through a properly defined tenure track; simplifying procedures for entry visas to foreign researchers and talent; increasing competitiveness by using English as the teaching language for postgraduate programmes and innovative measures such as “Master and back” or “Double appointment”.
These recommendations draw on four main policies already adopted in other countries: return, recruitment, resourcing and retention. A key objective is to strengthen Italy’s connection to the wider world through investment in national diversity, perhaps beginning with more gender and background diversity in boards of directors.
The study noted that the future labour market will be characterised by professionalism and medium-to-high qualifications. Universities will need to adopt a foreign policy and a geopolitical strategy in order to connect with this market. Italy currently hosts only 8,000 BRIC students (compared to 46,000 in Britain) and has comparatively few foreign professors.
The report's findings and recommendations have been welcomed and are already the object of attention from the government. It plans to set up a task force that can develop a road map to implement the necessary steps for improving overall brain circulation and exchange.
The research study team was led by Simona Milio and included Riccardo Lattanzi, Francesca Casadio, Nicola Crosta, Mario Raviglione, Paolo Ricci and Fabio Scano. The conference was part of the worldwide initiative ‘Italian Leaders Abroad’, held by the Aspen Institute.