The National Council of University Students met again in an extraordinary telematic way to produce the Second Health Emergency Report. This contains critical issues and proposals related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
This Second Health Emergency Report has also been provided to the Ministry of University and Research.
The document is divided into several sections and is reproduced here in full:
Due to the worsening of the health emergency situation has led the government to take emergency measures in recent weeks, contained in the ‘Cura Italia’ decree. The decree touches all areas of public life, outlining the allocation of €25b to support the world of work, businesses, healthcare and the operation of public services. With regard to universities, the decree partially incorporates proposals resulting from discussions between the Ministry and student representatives. It provides for the extension of the last degree session to 15 June 2020 and the consequent extension of all other teaching and administrative deadlines. The final examination may be postponed until 15 June 2020, thus ensuring that undergraduates in the April session can complete their university education, which has been compromised by the current emergency measures.
A notable innovation is the qualifying degree in medicine and surgery, a demand that has been pursued for years by student associations and the CNSU. This is also the result of constant dialogue between student representatives and the Ministry. From now on, obtaining a degree in Medicine and Surgery qualifies you to practise as a medical doctor. This is conditional on the suitability of the practical-assessment traineeship, if carried out during the course of study; those who graduated before the traineeship, will acquire the qualification as soon as they have completed the assessment of the traineeship.
On the sidelines
On the sidelines of the decree, the Ministry sent a letter to the Rectors of Italian universities to extend the third instalment of university fees. Efforts must also be made to extend all deadlines concerning the Right to Education. In particular, the deadline of 10 August for the accumulation of CFUs necessary for the provision of grants and services. The 5,000 specialisation grants are not included in the text. This news had sent thousands of medical students into a tizzy as they awaited this necessary measure.
More specifically, the CNSU intends to pursue, in concert with all the players in the academic community, the direction that emerged from the round table. To go further: here we intend to try to reflect and propose measures, including structural ones, to relaunch and support the Italian university system. This in the conviction that the University’s activities represent a value and a resource in social, economic and cultural terms. The Country System must be committed to preserving it in a primary way, even and especially in emergency situations.
1.1 – Right to University Study requirements and interventions
The prolongation of the health crisis and the measure contained in the “Cura Italia” legislative decree of March 2020; provides for the extension of graduation sessions with all the consequent deadlines to 15 June 2020. This also makes it necessary to revise the parameters set by all the Right to Education agencies in the country. From this point of view; a national regulatory intervention is therefore necessary in order to determine a derogation of the ordinary merit criteria for access to applications for housing; scholarships and catering services. It is proposed to intervene by approving a reduction in these credits of at least 12 CFU; for applications for access to the second year and 18 CFU for applications for access to subsequent years. This intervention is made necessary by the critical issues arising from the emergency, avoiding any delay in the timing of the provision of these services.
The implementation of these measures requires coordination between the Ministry; Andisu and CRUI, particularly in the Lombardy region, where calls for applications are the responsibility of individual universities. To instruct the Entities for the Right to Study to implement a reduction in the threshold of CFUs required; to avoid incurring the revocation of the scholarship for the academic year 2019/2020 (relative to 30 November), consistent with what was previously proposed.
We also consider it necessary that all undergraduate students or those who have graduated in the current session and are entitled to a six-month scholarship expiring in March; who are still in their university residences at this time of emergency, be given the opportunity to continue to stay in these; until the end of the next graduation session. It is without being asked to pay rent for their rooms, given that the new ministerial directives prohibit them from returning to their residences.
Given the impossibility
Given the impossibility of foreseeing the continuation of this emergency situation and the provisions of the government; it is requested that a coordination between the Ministry, Andisu and CRUI do their utmost to ensure that the disbursement of funds allocated; and assigned according to the ranking list, to the beneficiaries of scholarships allocated for the Academic Year 2019-2020 is brought forward. Furthermore, it is requested that extraordinary funding be made available to support all eligible students who are not beneficiaries of the aforementioned lists. We ask for an increase in the number of ad hoc scholarships for students with a disability rating of at least 66% and for special attention; to be paid to pregnant students, a protection to be extended not only for the current emergency period.
Measures to safeguard their university careers, such as the possibility of suspending or extending any scholarships awarded previously or during the maternity period; are thought to be necessary.
We would also like to highlight the problem of students who have completed 150 hours of collaborations and have not been paid due to the suspension of activities; and of those students who, having completed only part of their hours, see their activities interrupted. In the first case, students must be paid what they are owed; in the second case, we suggest that students be given the possibility of choosing whether to interrupt their course; have their hours paid or to resume their activity at the end of the emergency suspension.
1.2 – Right to Education Services
It is necessary to underline that in many regions scholarships are provided in the form of direct services. In these cases, the suspension of these services naturally causes an indirect economic loss in terms of benefits to the beneficiary student.
Compensatory measures should therefore be envisaged; including the monetisation of the catering and housing services that cannot be used, to prevent an “indirect” cut in grants. It is important to ensure that catering services continue to be guaranteed throughout the country; in compliance with national health regulations but with strong incentives for alternative forms of use such as take-away or home delivery. It is also important to ensure that regional DSU bodies do not take oppressive measures against student workers; guaranteeing the right to travel to work, in line with national legislation, without risk of withdrawal of the benefits awarded.
As far as infrastructure is concerned
As far as infrastructure is concerned, we consider it a priority to finance special measures to upgrade the Internet connection in university residences. It is therefore clear that the national health emergency we are facing will have significant economic repercussions on students’ families, so we believe that the state should increase the FIS, the state supplementary fund, to deal with all the problems listed above and, above all, to increase the number of scholarships throughout the country in order to provide concrete help in this time of great emergency. It should be borne in mind that the emergency will lead to an increase in the number of students eligible for scholarships in the years to come.
In the face of the long-term economic difficulties that will be generated by the current crisis, increasing the accessibility of education and higher education presents itself as a key expansionary manoeuvre to prevent a drop in enrolment and graduates, which would have a detrimental social, cultural and economic effect in the long term.
2. Education – Second Health Emergency Report
2.1 – Lessons and curricular placements
The suspension of teaching generates, especially for out-of-town students, an obvious postponement of university courses. As a result, individual academic careers are delayed, there is a lack of certainty in taking examinations and there is uncertainty about the necessary journeys. In this sense, in the universities of the most affected areas and already affected by the suspension, forms of distance teaching have been experimented with relative success. It should be noted that the Prime Ministerial Decree of 4 March indicates that this practice should be used where necessary in the rest of the country. It is necessary for the CRUI and the Ministry of Universities and Research to support universities that for economic, organisational or other reasons find it difficult to implement such measures.
We also call for economic support to equip universities with the necessary digital infrastructure where necessary. Our call on individual universities to use platforms that guarantee the protection of students’ personal data. We also call for careful monitoring by universities to safeguard the quality of teaching. In our view, it is incumbent on universities to ensure that distance learning does not fall short of the quality of traditional lectures; cases have already been reported where teaching has been reduced to uploading slides or texts.
We would also like to point out that not everyone has a stable connection to follow the lectures. Therefore, we ask for uniformity on the recording and its usability. This is to avoid penalising students due to infrastructural deficiencies (e.g. online databases of recorded lectures, also in podcast format).
The Decree of 4 March
The Decree of 4 March also calls for the suspension of curricular traineeships, excluding those in the medical area and laboratory activities. These involve an assessment and are compulsory for university career progression. It is therefore necessary to provide for adequate extensions, where the interruption jeopardises the achievement of CFUs for the purposes of the Right to Study or as a requirement of other university announcements (150 hours, Erasmus, bonuses of various kinds, etc.), so as not to compromise the university career, as well as the possibility of carrying them out telematically or subsequently.
With reference to internship activities, both curricular and extracurricular, which take place outside university facilities, we ask that the possibility of continuing the internship through Smart Working be provided for, where possible, so that these hours are recognised as if carried out on the premises. The decree itself lacks clarity with regard to the above-mentioned internship activities, and we therefore believe that clarification is needed from the Ministry.
In this regard we ask, if there is no possibility to recover it within an acceptable time, the total recognition of the internship activity for those who have achieved at least 60% of the total number of hours provided and that the MUR gives the universities the address to develop alternative solutions such as online courses, seminars or similar activities, provided directly by the MUR or by individual universities in place of the internship, in contexts where it is not possible to carry out the same.
We also believe that the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research (MIUR) should interface with all universities in order to allow students with disabilities to effectively attend classes and take their exams, using all available tools, including increased support.
2.2 Profit examinations
We again call on the Minister, in consultation with the Rectors’ Conference, to issue guidelines guaranteeing uniform methods of telematic examinations for all universities (suggesting which software to use, duration of examinations, possibility of written examinations, etc.) and provisions to clarify the conduct of forthcoming degree sessions.
We also ask the MUR to give precise instructions on the conduct of the profit examinations (possible postponement, duration, extraordinary appeals, etc.) and its modalities, requesting on this occasion that the Examination Boards make the appropriate arrangements for the conduct of the examination in oral form if it is not possible to conduct it in written form. In the event that it is not possible to dispense with the written form for the conduct of the profit examinations, the Ministry for Universities and Research is requested to provide specific support in the technological field for the use of technologies that are suitable and respect the regulations in force on privacy.
In any case, we ask the Ministry to make universities aware of the need to organise extraordinary examinations, suitably timetabled and communicated well in advance, so that they are not located in close proximity to each other or to the examinations of the summer session, should it be possible to return to holding examinations in June and July in the traditional classroom mode. Finally, we believe it would be useful for the MUR to instruct universities to abolish, where persistent, the practice of so-called ‘roll-call jumping’ in case of failure.
3. Access to employment – Second Health Emergency Report
3.1 Medical specialisation
In view of the fact that the “Cura Italia” decree makes no reference to any increase in the number of specialisation grants, compared to what was previously stated by the MUR, we feel the need to request the immediate allocation of funds, which is necessary to achieve the complete absorption of graduates in relation to the number of grants.
Due to the current context, in which there is a significant underfunding of public health, which accounts for around €110 billion of public expenditure, while private health accounts for €35 billion of expenditure, which is constantly increasing, we see the need for an overall refinancing of health expenditure and, in particular, of the training sector and the number of specialisation grants available.
In particular, it seems necessary to eliminate the so-called training funnel that, year after year, increases the number of doctors who do not manage to access a specialisation course, leaving 10,000 professionals (a figure that is destined to increase in the coming years) in a limbo of precariousness. At the same time, this results in the failure to introduce into the labour market many potential specialist doctors, who are necessary for the progress of public health and the protection of health in our country.
In this context, we are calling for an increase in training capacity (which is currently at a standstill at 11,000), so that the number of postgraduates to be trained can be increased and so that we can achieve complete absorption of the precarious qualified personnel.
In an emergency context, such as that of the current phase, this need is demonstrated even more strongly: we cannot but look with great concern at the fact that the number of specialisation grants allocated does not even meet a 1:2 ratio between candidates and available places.
So we ask:
- that the number of specialisation grants should meet the actual need for health care in our country, so as to address the shortage of staff in public hospitals and to free thousands of qualified students from precarious employment but excluded from the grants;
- the number of specialisation grants allocated should respect a 1:1 ratio between the number of candidates and the number of places on the reserve list;
- that this allocation be made as a matter of urgency in the present emergency phase, but we hope that it will be the result of a longer-term plan, so that the emergence of a further health emergency does not turn into a crisis and the consequent collapse of the health system itself;
- to include, for the coming years, the competition for GPs within SSM in order to ensure adequate planning and reduce the number of drop-outs from specialisation grants
- to immediately start the accreditation procedures of the specialisation schools, through the National Observatory for Specialist Medical Education, in order to avoid delays in the competition procedures.
In addition, we would like to draw attention to the contractualisation of doctors in specialist training who, pursuant to Decree-Law no. 14 of 9 March 2020, can be hired in order to deal with the COVID-19 emergency. It would be appropriate to envisage subordinate fixed-term employment contracts, even for those who are not included in any ranking list pursuant to paragraph 548 of Article 1 of Law No. 1452018, and not Co.Co.Co. type contracts, in order to guarantee social security, insurance and professional protection to doctors in specialised training who decide to contribute with their professional work to the resolution of the health emergency underway in our country.
It should also be noted that this type of contract does not provide for a fixed hourly commitment but is configured as a self-employment assignment, and therefore does not provide for trainees hired in this form any limit to their working hours, nor does it provide for accessory remuneration for the services provided.
In addition, we feel we should highlight the condition of those enrolled in non-medical health specialisation schools (pharmacy, clinical pathology and clinical biochemistry, microbiology and virology, pharmacology and clinical toxicology, medical genetics, health statistics and biometrics, medical physics, etc.) for which an annual contribution is envisaged through the payment of university fees but not a monthly payment (as per Decree Law of 4 February 2015).
For these, who are involved in resolving the current emergency, we ask that, like doctors in specialist training, they be given the opportunity to enter into fixed-term employment contracts that guarantee the rights due to a worker.
3.2 Provision of PPE to medical students, postgraduates and doctoral students
It is requested that all Prevention and Protection Service Managers of university and hospital facilities where courses for doctors in specialist training are held, specific training courses in general medicine, the activities of trainees in the health professions and doctoral students in the medical area who provide assistance, as well as the activities of the training schools activated at the Ministries of the Interior and Defence, be invited to also provide students, specialist and doctoral students with PPE in accordance with the appropriate prevention measures for the spread of respiratory infections provided by the World Health Organisation (cf. DPCM of 4.3.2020).
It is also requested that the RSPPs (Prevention and Protection Service Managers) of the individual universities and hospitals set up special training courses for students in the medical-health area in question.
3.3 Medical certification
As a result of the current health emergency, in many universities (which also highlights the fact that the organisation of practical traineeships is not homogeneous throughout the country), there is also an interruption in practical traineeships for undergraduates and recent graduates who were not able to carry out their practical assessment traineeships before graduating, and who should therefore carry out these activities in April, May and June, in order to qualify in July. The delays in carrying out these internships compromise, for undergraduates, the achievement of their degree by June/July and, consequently, their participation in the specialisation test, which is usually scheduled for July 2020.
In the light of the ministerial circular of 24 March 2020, which postpones to 22 June the start date of qualifying internships for graduates of the December and March sessions, initially scheduled for 7 April, we can only emphasise how this measure causes not only significant practical and economic inconvenience, but also makes no sense with respect to the need to urgently introduce professionals into the NHS. In particular, we underline that this measure penalises a cohort of graduates, who have no personal responsibility in the need to carry out internships after graduation, except for the lack of rapidity of their universities in adapting to the need to organise practical-assessment internships within the pre-graduate course. Moreover, the circular does not clarify how the internship should be carried out for undergraduate students.
Therefore, for both these cohorts, graduates and undergraduates, it is proposed:
- to ensure that traineeships start as soon as possible;
- allowing, in the event that the competition for specialisation schools is held in July, undergraduates from the summer session to enrol with reserve in the specialisation competition, provided that their degree and qualification are obtained by the time they take up their duties;
- to provide alternative ways of carrying out a portion of the total number of hours of practical assessment training, so as to allow students to complete their qualifying training within the above-mentioned timeframe, even if the difficult situation of the NHS and the consequent difficulty in accepting students and qualifying students into the departments should continue. The use of alternative ways of carrying out the training must be subordinate to a reorganisation of the internships that, where possible, can provide for a recovery in presence when the health emergency is resolved;
- There is also a call for greater flexibility with regard to the number of hours required to qualify for and pass the internship (there is no need for the three parts of the internship to be carried out in succession rather than simultaneously);
- considering also the variation in the normal activities of general practitioners, where telephone contact is preferred over outpatient activities in the presence; considering the need to limit the movement between territories that will probably continue in the coming months; we ask the MUR to enter into a national memorandum of understanding with CRUI and Fnomceo to be extended to individual universities. This would make it possible to do the internship in one’s place of residence or in other territorial services (e.g. emergency medical service). Alternatively, according to the choice of the individual university and adapting to the specific situation, departments in the service area currently excluded from the three areas of TPVES (Clinical, Surgical, Territorial Medicine) can be identified. This gives the possibility to count in the useful hours for the purposes of the qualifying training in general medicine; through the activity of epidemiological data management regarding the Covid-19 situation; already carried out among other things by some students on the national territory in support of the structures of the National Health System;
- for those who are not able to complete the months of practical training before graduation, we ask that it be guaranteed the possibility of being able to validate the hours of practical training carried out in the pre-graduation and to be able to perform the remainder in the post-graduate mode in the following months, so as not to delay the achievement of the title, with the economic inconvenience that would result, nor access to employment and employment in case of success in the SSM competition.
3.4 Healthcare qualification
We call for the possibility of obtaining the qualification solely on the basis of suitability for practical training, excluding the part relating to the written test, to be extended to degree courses relating to the health professions, in view of the high number of practical training hours on these courses, which are even higher than those on the Medicine course. Furthermore, we ask that, since there would no longer be the constraint of the state examination, additional graduation sessions be provided for, especially at this historic time when there is a shortage of all the figures in the world of health. With regard to internships, we ask that a high level of vigilance and individual protection be maintained and, if this is not possible, that these also be suspended, with regulatory provisions to avoid causing unintentional delays in study.
3.5 Notice of extraordinary teaching competition
We ask the Ministry of Universities and Research, given the need for recruitment in the school system, to urge the Ministry of Education to publish the notice of extraordinary competition, valid for teaching in Level I and II secondary schools, and to provide for a date following the 60-day suspension, starting from the entry into force of the Prime Ministerial Decree of 17 March 2020, of the conduct of competition procedures relating to the civil service.
3.6 Apprenticeships and qualifying degrees
Many professions require a certain number of hours of post-graduate training to allow access to the state examination, which is essential for practising the profession. One of them is psychologists: the situation of internships presents many uncertainties. At the moment, most structures have suspended their traineeships, others have announced their closure.
We call for the following steps to be taken for all those who are unable to continue their training:
- for those who have to start the first or second semester of their training, we ask that the hours of absence not be counted;
- students who have to complete their training, we ask for an amnesty to cover the missing hours;
- for those who have completed their training but have not had the opportunity to have their tutors sign the necessary documentation; the possibility of accepting self-certification showing the number of hours completed. Regarding the adoption of Smart Working, already suggested by the Order of Psychologists of Lombardy. The region most affected by this situation, specific solutions must be found for the two scenarios that arise:
- the structure accepts, thus making up for physical attendance. This, however, without being able to play any role that really qualifies the trainee, relegating him to secondary activities;
- the structure does not accept, thus making up for the same start time of the traineeship; 2 trainees who started the first or second semester at the same time will take the State Examination approximately 8 months apart.
Given the health emergency situation, we ask the Ministry of Universities and Research to guarantee the state examination sessions scheduled for June and November 2020. This is by considering, if there is a need due to the Covid-19 health emergency, changes to the competition tests. In addition, we ask that you initiate monitoring to see if there are still anyone with parts of the state exam outstanding from previous sessions.
3.6.2 Education sciences
A special case is that of degree courses in educational sciences, which have to complete 50 to 150 hours of work experience per year in educational establishments in order to qualify for a degree. The closure of schools obviously makes it difficult to carry out this apprenticeship. However, we ask that the Ministry press for everything possible to be done to encourage online teaching, and consequently the rescheduling of internships in telematic mode or with project activities. If this is not possible, it is necessary to provide for the accessibilitỳ ex officio to the degree for all final year undergraduates; who are due to graduate in the 2019/2020 academic year. Identify appropriate forms of making up internships for students in subsequent years and reducing the total number of hours.
3.7 State examinations
Pursuant to D.P.R. 328/2001, the individual universities will hold the first and second sessions of the State examinations for chemists and junior chemists, engineers and junior engineers, architects, planners, landscape architects, conservators and junior architects and junior planners, biologists and junior biologists, geologists and junior geologists, agronomists and foresters, junior agronomists and agricultural biotechnologists, specialist social workers and social workers in June and November 2020.
Candidates who obtain their academic qualifications by 29 May 2020 for the first session and by 29 October 2020 for the second session may attend these sessions.
The postponement of the April degree sessions to 15 June, however, makes it necessary to extend both the deadline for obtaining the degree and the date on which the first session will be held, which would otherwise exclude the cohorts of undergraduates who should have obtained their degrees in April 2020.
3.8 Access to legal practice
The Ministry of Education, Universities and Research (MIUR) must ensure that universities guarantee examination and graduation dates by 09 May in order to allow registration in the Register of Trainee Lawyers in time to take the qualifying examination in December 2021.
To this end, it is also recommended that the Ministry should make representations to the National Council of the Bar and the territorial orders in order to guarantee registration in June, given the exceptional situation. It is also requested that, given the closure of the courts, in order to ensure access to the qualifying examination of the current semester, the requirement of 20 hearings be removed, given the actual impossibility of taking them by students and trainees.
3.9 Difficulties in accessing the world of work
We take into account that the health emergency will result in a significant economic and therefore job loss. What the new graduate students are facing is a condition of forced waiting and inaction. Companies continue to downsize, close down and reduce the number of jobs. We therefore call on the Ministry of Universities and the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies to come up with solutions to protect the employment of recent graduates and future graduates.
4. Student Condition – Second Health Emergency Report
4.1- Financial support measures for students and support for students with particularly vulnerable conditions
In view of the hardship caused to families by the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, funding is requested from the Ordinary Financing Fund to allow a reduction in taxation for the current academic year, to be implemented as a discount to be applied to the last instalment of the 2019/2020 academic year.
Should the emergency situation continue, so as to increase the negative consequences for families, it is requested that consideration be given to extending this reduction to the 2020/2021 academic year as well, by increasing the ordinary funding quotas. In addition, it is requested that the deadline for university instalments be extended to a date no lower than 30 June, while avoiding their accumulation with subsequent deadlines. Action is required to allow an exception to the deadline of 10 August for the achievement of the cfu required to benefit from the “no tax area”, providing a new deadline of 30 September and, or alternatively, lowering the threshold of cfu required to access the exemption band.
It is also necessary
It is also necessary to provide for the possibility, should the deadline for submitting the ISEE certificate at one’s own university fall within the COVID-19 emergency period, to have the amount of tuition fees assessed in relation to the last ISEE submitted, so as not to incur taxation in the maximum band and/or heavy delays due to the late submission of the documentation. Then, once the emergency is over, a tax adjustment should be made.
The problem of all immunocompromised students, those in close contact with immunocompromised third parties, and students abroad whose return is impossible due to the current emergency, in a state of quarantine, also arises, in order to provide protection for the specific needs and problems they may present. To this end, we believe it is appropriate to ask for more timely and precise communication of the measures adopted.
4.2 – Measures for refunding and/or extending tickets
We call for the planning of a reimbursement plan for university students with multi-month and annual season tickets (urban, suburban or extra-urban, of any formula and/or area of interest) for transport services who, in view of the emergency situation, are in fact unable to use the service, or for an extension of the validity of their tickets.
4.3 – Financial support for student tenants
“According to the Eurostudent 2017 survey, the cost of accommodation for students living away from home accounts for 38% of the total expenses incurred during the year, making it one of the main costs borne by students and their families. Given that, at the moment, many families and students continue to bear the cost of renting their accommodation in their home town, even though they do not benefit from it, we believe that immediate economic support measures are needed, such as contributions and/or subsequent tax deductions in the form of tax credits in the 2021 income tax return, in order to lighten the tax burden of those families and student tenants who do not currently live in their university accommodation, obviously taking proportionality into account.
In addition to this measure, there is also a request to exempt students using the “paid accommodation” service provided by the regional right to education bodies from paying rent.
4.4 – Obtaining qualifications and/or training credits
We request the extension of all deadlines for the achievement of qualifications and/or University Educational Credits useful for access to scholarships other than those for the right to study provided by public bodies, for enrolment in second and third cycle university courses and for any other competition or ranking for which the achievement of qualifications or a certain number of CFUs is necessary.
4.5 – Psychological support
The quarantine condition and the concerns due to the ongoing health emergency inevitably lead to the emergence of psychological stress and its pathological consequences. These include anxiety, depression, eating disorders, self-harming behaviour and other psychological or psychiatric conditions. The current situation not only already has major effects on those who usually enjoy balanced mental health; it also exacerbates the malaise of those people living in unhealthy households. This is the case with problematic households or those with a history of physical or mental ill health, or those who are facing bereavement.
In view of this, we ask that free online psychological counselling be set up or guaranteed for the entire national student community. This could be done by telephone or telematically (e.g. Skype, Whatsapp, etc.) and could be carried out individually or in groups. According to the various needs and requests, in line with the prescriptions of the ministerial decrees designed to interfere with the spread of infection.
The aim is to provide relief to people in fragile conditions. Those who are on their own at this time and do not have the possibility to confront themselves with third parties; to provide listening and support to students with difficulties in interpersonal relations; with problems of social integration (e.g. due to disability and/or socio-cultural disadvantage). Those who are experiencing situations of concern (for themselves and for their loved ones); and who need support to manage and modify their lifestyles; intercept requests for psychological help that might remain unexpressed; if necessary, encourage access to appropriate clinical services.
A further objective is to provide a specialist contribution to curb the collective panic that has been created in this period. This with the possible consequent impulsive actions such as compulsive buying, aggression, racism and many others that result from this. In addition, such a measure could indirectly support the health emergency forces that are currently on the front line. Their telephone lines are jammed because of the panic that is affecting and delaying the effectiveness of first aid and assistance. A number of initiatives have already sprung up across the country that can serve as a technical and structural model for intervention aimed at the student population. Many regions have set up counselling services open to anyone with psychological difficulties in this period of emergency.
4.6 – Teaching materials
It is requested that agreements be reached between the Ministry, SIAE and publishing houses to enable students to access book material (including scientific articles, journals, periodicals, etc.) in digital format. This is done through the University library systems for the preparation of profit exams and/or thesis for the final exam. At the same time, we request the allocation of funds for the strengthening of the University library systems and the purchase of ebooks. Such as to ensure a digital lending service and access to the necessary licences for the use of software to carry out curriculum-based laboratory activities. It is requested that the M.U.R. invites the Universities to extend the deadline of loans already made in paper format. So as to allow lending in digital format through the specially prepared software system.
4.7 – Allocation of funds to cover the requests referred to above
It is requested that some of the above-mentioned measures (taxation, reimbursement for travel tickets, university residences on payment, psychological services, teaching materials); be financed by a specific allocation of the Ordinary Financing Fund to be paid to the Universities or by other state funds allocated through the next D.P.C.M.
4.8 – Measures to support the status of PhD students
The suspension of the activities of university departments has led to a halt in the research activities of PhD students. Critical points identified are, respectively: the impossibility of accessing laboratories, the inaccessibility of a considerable amount of bibliographic resources not contained in digital catalogues; the impossibility of carrying out planned research periods at foreign universities and institutions; the difficulty of planning telematic methods for the discussion of the thesis with regard to the XXXII cycle doctoral students who have already deposited their theses and obtained the opinion of the assessors.
For the above reasons, ministerial intervention is appropriate:
- the possibility of access to an extraordinary extension of two months for PhD students of the XXXIII and XXXIV cycles who request it. This will result in an extension of the coverage of the scholarship to be financed through special state funds, so as not to burden university budgets;
- An extension of two months’ salary of the DIS-COLL allowance for PhD students of the XXXII cycle. That they are awaiting discussion due to the failure to set a date or the postponement of the same;
- A rescheduling of the research periods abroad where compulsory;
- a rescheduling of the research periods in the company and abroad for doctoral students receiving PON grants. Specifying the measures anticipated in the circular of office III of the Directorate General for the coordination and exploitation of research and its results of 20/03/2020;
- the provision of tools for remote access to bibliographic resources. And to any database and/or software that is currently only accessible via the university network. This is also possible through the use of agreements between universities or research institutions.
5. Erasmus students – Second Health Emergency Report
The restrictive measures needed to contain the contagions have raised a number of issues. Not least of these are the Erasmus students, both Italians abroad and foreigners in Italy. Those who are currently unable to return to their homes and in situations of widespread uncertainty or lack of protection.
5.1 – Protection for returns and stays
It is essential that the Ministry of Universities and Research makes a commitment to allow Erasmus students to return. This without additional costs, to their domicile or residence, as an exception to the provisions of the Prime Ministerial Decree of 22/03/2020. That it continues to urge the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in consultation with Italian universities and the Erasmus+ National Agency; to maintain constant contact with students abroad should they wish to return.
All this to guarantee immediate and precise answers and appropriate solutions. In terms of assistance for students enrolled in Italian universities who are currently moving abroad. This will guarantee the possibility of returning to Italy by means made available by the Italian State, should it not be possible for them to return in the normal way, and for foreign students currently on mobility in our country.
In particular, it is necessary for the diplomatic and consular network to provide constant support to exchange students abroad. This should be done by offering connections from Italy to the student’s country of residence. Below market cost (to ensure the right of return for all). Secure health connections (offering alternative departure destinations to major outbreaks in the country).
5.2 – Teaching and Erasmus grants
It is necessary to continue to guarantee Italian exchange students who wish to continue their mobility experience the full provision of the grant. This includes the part awarded by MIUR, following the same guidelines of the National Erasmus+ Agency; the provision of online teaching by the host university and the provision of online exams. As established by the European Commission and the National Erasmus+ Agencies; the recognition of ECTS (Italian CFUs) acquired through online teaching due to Covid-19 as ECTS normally acquired.
For internationally mobile students in our country, the Ministry needs to be vigilant. This is with respect to the provision of didactics and general protection situations through embassies. If mobility is interrupted by applying the force majeure clause, it is necessary to ensure that students can resume their studies in the host university without any penalties. It is also necessary to recognise the ECTS completed during the period abroad.
f, on the other hand
If, on the other hand, the studies are terminated at the same time and the student returns home. Students must be guaranteed full coverage of otherwise non-reimbursable extraordinary expenses. Such as, for example, the rent of the room in the host city with a non-terminable contract. This should be up to the initial amount of the Erasmus grant; and provision should be made for facilitated methods of reintegration into the University’s training programme. For students who should have started their mobility now, if the host university has activated online teaching; it is necessary to ensure that students can start their exchange by following the courses they should have followed, encouraging individual universities to activate them.
For cancelled or interrupted mobilities, there must also be the possibility of making up for them. This should be done with clauses giving priority to mobility in the next academic year, through specific agreements between the partner universities. Possibly not counting the months of the interrupted mobility action if these would affect the possibility of making up the mobility action.
These mobilities must be considered “supernumerary”, i.e. they must not reduce the number of places normally allocated to each exchange destination. Students on thesis and work placement exchanges must be able to continue their exchange by teleworking. Or to suspend the exchange and resume it once the emergency is over. This is done with the reimbursement of any non-reimbursable expenses such as non-terminable rental contracts, and keeping the amount of the grant intact. It is also necessary to ensure that the force majeure clause is not applied by universities to the detriment of the student. If universities cause problems for students in the management of Erasmus; if there are no appeal methods available within the university, the National Erasmus+ Agency and student representatives can be contacted; it is also essential to ensure that students are not sent out of the student residence.
5.3 – Foreign traineeships
The MUR must also focus its attention on internships in the diplomatic and consular network resulting from the MAECI-CRUI partnership. In particular, the MUR must ensure that the conditions relating to the scholarship, suspension and postponement of the internship comply. This is true both for the guidelines indicated by the European Commission and the Italian Erasmus+ Agency and for international exchange programmes. In particular, in the possibility of suspending the placement in order to resume it later, and that those who have started. In particular, in the possibility of suspending the traineeship in order to resume it later, and that those who have started, or should have started, the traineeship during the pandemic period, have the possibility of resuming it once the emergency is over, even if in the meantime they have obtained a degree, as an exception to the announcement.
Finally, there is a need for medical and nursing students currently on an exchange that includes a placement. This in health care facilities can decide for themselves whether to suspend the placement and resume it after the end of the pandemic; special emphasis should be placed on ensuring that the placement does not exceed the tasks that the exchange student would normally have to perform. Finally, that the trainee is not exposed to health risks related to Covid-19.