The Italian public administration has a decentralised organisation. Regions and local authorities (metropolitan areas, provinces and municipalities) carry out all administrative tasks with the exception of those expressly assigned to the State. As for education, the State and the Regions share responsibilities except for the sectors of exclusive competence of the State and of the Regions.
The State has exclusive legislative competences on the general organisation of the education system (e.g, general dispositions, minimum standards, school staff, quality assurance, State financial resources). The Ministry of education and merit and the Ministry of university and research perform the functions of the State in their respective fields of competence.
The Regions have exclusive legislative power on the organisation of the regional vocational education and training system (Sistema di istruzione e formazione professionale – IFP). At higher education level, they guarantee the right to study.
Administration and governance at central level
The Ministry of education and merit (Ministero dell’istruzionee del merito- MIM) is responsible for the general administration at national level of school education and of higher technical education.
The Ministry of university and research (Ministero dell’università e della ricerca - MUR) is responsible for the areas of higher education (university, higher education in fine arts, music and dance and other higher institutions) and research.
Both Ministries have several bodies and agencies that operate at national level with representative, consultative, monitoring and evaluative functions (see below for details).
The Ministry of education and merit
The Ministry of education and merit (Ministero dell'istruzione e del merito - MIM) carries out the functions of the State for the education and training system from ECEC to secondary education and for the higher technical sector (law 12/2020). The Minister is in charge of determining the policies in the sectors under his/her responsibilities.
The main functions of the Ministry of education and merit (from now on also 'Ministry' or MIM) are:
- general organisation of school education, of the levels of education and of the school network;
- general objectives of the educational process, definition of learning targets in the different levels and types of education;
- the curricula, the compulsory subjects and the minimum annual instruction times;
- school staff training, qualifications and conditions of work;
- definition of measures to guarantee uniform levels of performances and services in the country;
- general rules and indications for pupils’ assessment;
- safety-related measures in schools and school buildings;
- internationalisation of the education system, recognition of foreign qualifications, implementation of EU policies, Italians schools abroad;
- allocation of financial resources to schools;
- general criteria for the organisation of adult education;
- general direction, planning and assessment in the sector of higher technical education.
The Ministry is organised regionally in decentralised offices named Regional school offices (Uffici Scolastici Regionali – USR). These, in turn, operate at the provincial level through offices called Territorial areas (Ambiti Territoriali). These decentralised offices represent the central administration. The Ministry has not decentralised offices at municipal level.
The Regional school offices and the Territorial areas
The Regional school office (Ufficio Scolastico Regionale, USR) is a branch of the Ministry at regional level. In turn, at local level, it is organised into offices called Territorial areas (Ambiti territoriali), depending on its duties and local requirements.
The Regional school office:
- supervises the compliance with general education standards and essential levels of performance, the implementation of school systems, the levels of effectiveness of training and the compliance with planned standards;
- takes care of the implementation, within the territorial sphere of its competence, of the national policies for students;
- collaborates with the Regions and the local authorities for the vocational education and training offer, for adult education, for the higher technical education and for school-work relationships;
- supervises independent schools, both with and without parity, and foreign schools in Italy;
- allocates funds and human resources to educational institutions;
- verifies the effectiveness of the activities carried out by schools and evaluates on what extent schools have put their three-year educational offer plan (Piano triennale dell’offerta formativa – PTOF) into practice.
In the Regions with special statutes, the regulations on the organisation of Regional school offices differ from the other Regions as the powers of the State authorities in their territories are limited.
The Territorial areasoperate at provincial level. They are an internal sub-division of the Regional school office and have no autonomy.
Territorial areas support and advise schools on administrative and accounting procedures and the planning and innovation of the educational offer. They monitor the implementation of provisions on school buildings and safety and deal with the integration of immigrant and special needs pupils. It promotes student participation in schools and, in collaboration with municipalities, they monitor compliance with compulsory schooling. They also carry out any activities that are delegated to them by the head of the Regional school office.
The Ministry of university and research
The Ministry of university and research carries out the functions of the State for the higher education sector and research sectors (law 12/2020). The Minister is in charge of determining the policies in the sectors under his/her responsibilities.
Some of the main functions of this Ministry are:
- general direction, planning and coordination of national scientific and technological research;
- accreditation and evaluation of courses at university and institution of the Higher education in fine arts, music and dance (Alta formazione artistica, musicale e coreutica - Afam);
- enhancement of merits and of the right to study;
- implementation of EU and international legislation on higher education and research;
- support and enhancement of the freedom of research at universities and at research bodies.
At present, the Ministry is organised into the 'Department for higher education and research'. The heads of the departments are responsible for the results of the implementation of the Minister's stances.
The Ministry of university and research has not decentralised offices at regional or local level.
Other bodies and agencies
The Ministry of education and merit and the Ministry of university and research share guidance and supervisory functions of the following two national institutes:
- The National Institute for the Evaluation of the Education System (Istituto nazionale per la valutazione del sistema di istruzione, INVALSI), together with the Indire (see below) and the Inspectorate of the Ministry of education and merit, makes up the National evaluation system (Sistema nazionale di Valutazione - SNV). Invalsi is in charge of the preparation and administration of the national standardised tests that take place at different grades at all levels of the education system.
- The National Institute of Documentation, Innovation and Educational Research (Istituto Nazionale di Documentazione, Innovazione e Ricerca Educativa - Indire) is one of the three bodies making up the National evaluation system. Indire carries out research and documentation in education and in the use of new technologies for in-service training of school staff. Its specific task within the National evaluation system is to support schools in their improvement and innovation process. Moreover, Indire develops an online learning environment destined to newly recruited teachers with permanent contracts.
The Ministry of university and research has supervisory functions on the National Agency for the evaluation of the university and research system (Agenzia nazionale per la valutazione del sistema universitario e della ricerca – ANVUR). ANVUR is a public body that is in charge of the quality assurance at higher level.
The Higher council for education (Consiglio superiore della Pubblica Istruzione) is an advisory body which assists the Minister of education with the planning and supervision of education policy. It also submits proposals and gives its opinions which can be either mandatory or optional, depending on the suject. It is made up of 36 members, 18 of them elected among teachers, school managers and school administration staff and 18 appointed by the Minister.
At higher education level the National University Council (Consiglio Universitario Nazionale, CUN) operates for universities. The National Council for Higher Education in Art and Music (Consiglio nazionale per l'Alta formazione artistica, musicale e coreutica, CNAM) operates for the Higher education for the fine arts, music and dance (AFAM) systems. Both institutes formulate opinions and proposals on issues of general interest and, in particular, planning, approving university teaching regulations and the appointment of professors and researchers. The National Council of University Students (Consiglio Nazionale degli Studenti Universitari - CNSU) is the student representative body at national level, with a consultation and recommendation role for issues of general interest to the university sector. Finally, the Conference of Rectors of Italian Universities (Conferenza dei Rettori delle Università italiane - CRUI) gives its opinion on the three-year plan drafted by the Ministry on the objectives for the university system and the allocation of financial resources.
The National institute for the analysis of public policies (Istituto nazionale per l'analisi delle politiche pubbliche - Inapp) is the reference body for research and monitoring, policy and guidance for the vocational education and training courses (Istruzione e formazione professionale - IFP), falling under the responsibilities of the Regions. Inapp is a public research institute under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Labour and social policy and works in the field of training, social policy and labour market. It promotes and carries out activities related to research, experimentation, documentation, information, evaluation and technical assistance. It provides technical and scientific support to the Ministry of Labour and to other Ministries, to the Regions and Provinces and to other national and international institutions, as well as for the actions of the European Social Fund programme.
Administration and governance at regional level
Italy is organised into 20 Regions.
The State has exclusive legislative powers on a series of subjects and, on other subjects, the State and the Regions share the responsibilities. In the case of shared responsibilities, the Regions have the legislative power, except for establishing the fundamental principles reserved to the State (art. 117).
As for education:
- the State has exclusive legislative power on the general rules on education and on the basic provisions on civil and social rights to be guaranteed all over the national territory;
- the Regions have exclusive legislative power on the regional vocational education and training system (sistema di istruzione e formazione professionale – IFP);
- the Regions share the legislative power with the State on education, except for the vocational education and training system, which falls exclusively under the Regions’ responsibility, and except for school autonomy.
In particular, the Regions plan the school network, based on provincial plans, establish the school calendar, allocate the funds to non-state schools and are responsible of guaranteeing the right to study at university level.
Through the State/Regions Conference (Conferenza Stato/Regioni), the Regions work closely with the Ministry of Education and merit and the Ministry of Labour that define the minimum national standards for the education system and the vocational education and training system.
The responsibilities of the Regions include interventions aimed at a first placement in the labour market, including higher technical-vocational training, vocational specialisation and re-qualification, in-service training, etc. These interventions relate to all formative activities aimed at obtaining a training certificate, a higher level technical certificate, or credits.
The Regions carry out their functions through specific education offices which name can vary in the different Regions. Usually they are called Assessorati.
The main responsibilities of the Regions concerning education and vocational training can be delegated to provinces and municipalities according to a trend of decentralisation that reserves to the Regions duties of guidance, planning and monitoring and fewer managing duties.