Administration and governance at local level
At local level, the provinces and the municipalities have responsibilities in different areas and at different levels of the education system.
The Provinces are assigned the functions limited to the upper secondary education only. Provinces are responsible for the school buildings, the sizing for the school network (establishment, aggregation, merger or suppression of schools), suspension of school activities in serious and urgent cases, establishment, control and supervision, including dissolution, of school governing bodies, and the organisation of services to assure the right to study (e.g. transport to sport centres outside the school, support for the purchase of textbooks, etc.).
Municipalities, often representing small residential communities and restricted areas, are distributed throughout Italy. They carry out their own functions or have responsibilities delegated to them by the provinces and the regions.
Municipalities have specific functions for preprimary, primary and lower secondary education. They are in charge of the ordinary and extraordinary maintenance of school buildings. They supply services such as transports, canteens, vouchers for textbooks and financial grants, etc., according to the general regulations laid down by the State and by the Regions. Finally, municipalities are responsible for the establishment, aggregation, merger or suppression of schools and for the organisation of school networks at the education levels of their competence. Small municipalities often join as consortia or associations of municipalities to improve services.
Provinces and municipalities carry out their specific functions through dedicated educational offices (Assessorati).
Administration and governance at institutional level
Preprimary, primary and secondary education
The autonomy of schools
The ordinary form of organisation of schools from the preprimary up to the lower secondary level of education is the so-called 'comprehensive institute' (istituto comprensivo). The comprehensive institute is an administrative unit that groups one or more preprimary, primary and lower secondary schools. The purpose of comprehensive institutes is to assure didactic continuity within the same cycle of education. A single school manager is responsible for the managing and administration of the whole comprehensive institute. Comprehensive institutes were introduced in 1994 as an alternative organisation of schools in mountain areas. In the subsequent years central policies and regulations boosted this form of organisation, which is at present the only form of organisation of schools up to the lower secondary level (decreto-legge 98/2011). Upper secondary schools are not grouped in comprehensive institutes.
Comprehensive institutes gain autonomy when they have at least 1 000 pupils enrolled, lowered to 500 in schools in rural areas, small islands and areas with linguistic specificity.
Upper secondary schools gain autonomy if the number of students enrolled is likely to remain constant for five years and ranging from 500 to 900 students.
However, central regulations establish that a school with less than 600 pupils (400 if located in rural areas, small islands, and areas with linguistic specificity) cannot have its own school manager. Instead, it has the school manager of another autonomous school that reaches the minimum number of pupils required (law 183/2011).
Each school draws up its own educational plan called ‘Three-year educational offer plan’ (Piano triennale dell'offerta formativa - PTOF), which is the document that sets out the cultural and planning identity of the school and makes explicit its curricular, extracurricular, educational and organisational planning. The PTOF must be consistent with the general and educational objectives set at national level for each type of study path and, at the same time, it must reflect the needs of the local cultural, social and economic environment.
In their PTOF, schools should give priority to:
- strengthening language, artistic, musical, mathematical and scientific, sports and active citizenship competences, as well as to developing digital skills
- boosting traineeship experiences
- tackling early leaving, gender inequalities and discriminations.
Finally, the plan must provide information on training initiatives for students and for the school staff and on organisational aspects, such as, the staffing, infrastructure and equipment needs.
The PTOF is drawn up by the teachers of the school on the basis of the general guidelines set by the school manager and is approved by the School council. The plan has a three-year duration and can be revised annually. The PTOF must be made public by schools and is published on the Portal on school’s data of the Ministry of education and merit. The PTOF is regulated by the DPR 275/1999, as modified bylaw 107/2015.
Teaching and organisation autonomy allows schools to flexibly adapt the curriculum and teaching paths to the specific learning patterns of pupils. For example, schools can flexibly organise the overall timetable and the timetables of individual subjects, adopt a teaching unit different from the hourly unit or they can organise activities for groups of pupils of different classes. Finally, they can widen their educational offer with optional subjects and activities based on the needs of the local cultural, social, and economic context.
Schools may promote networks for educational and research activities, purchase of goods and services, as well as temporary exchange of teachers. In addition, individually or networked, they may enter into agreements with public or private universities, organisations, associations or agencies operating in their area and agreements with voluntary and private social associations.
Autonomous schools have administrative and accounting functions, except for what concerns the school staff, which are the responsibility of the Ministry of education and merit.
The governing bodies of schools
The management and administration of State schools is distributed among several subjects and collegiate bodies that involve also students and students’ families. The description and the functions of the collegiate bodies and the role of students and parents at school are included in the D.Lgs. 297/1994 and in the DPR 275/1999.
The School manager and the Director of general and administrative services
The school manager (Dirigente scolastico – DS) is the head of the school with managerial functions. The school manager is the legal representative of the institution and is responsible for the management of financial and material resources and the quality of the service provided.
While respecting the competences of school collegiate bodies, the manager has autonomous powers of direction, coordination, and enhancement of human resources. The manager’s action aims at organising school activities according to criteria of efficiency and educational effectiveness and to promote actions to ensure the quality of educational processes and the collaboration of cultural, professional, social, and economic resources of the territory. The school manager can delegate specific tasks to teachers.
For further details on school managers' recruitment and professional status, please refer to the section 'Management staff for early childhood and school education'.
The school manager is assisted by the Director of general and administrative services (Direttore dei servizi generali e amministrativi - DSGA), who is the administrative head of the school. The DSGA supervises, with operational autonomy, the administrative and general services of the school, within the framework of the general directives issued by the school manager and the objectives assigned, coordinating the relevant staff.
The DSGA issues certifications that do not involve discretionary evaluations, develops projects and proposals for improving the functionality of the services of competence, carries out the preparatory phase for the conclusion of agreements, contracts, and conventions. He/she is an ex officio member of the executive council and of the school council (see below).
The School council
The School council (Consiglio di istituto) is a representative body in comprehensive institutes, which group one or more preprimary, primary and lower secondary schools, and in secondary schools. In the few primary schools that are not yet part of a comprehensive institute, this representative body is called ‘district council’ (Consiglio di circolo). The members of the School council are elected every three years among the teaching and non-teaching staff, parents and, only in upper secondary schools, students. The composition of the council varies from 14 to 19 members according to the number of students of the school, i.e. less or more than 500 students respectively. The school manager is an ex-officio member. The Chairman is elected by all members from among parents’ representatives.
The council has policy and management functions on general economic and functional aspects of the school. It deliberates on the following matters:
- Budget, the balance and any use of financial resources
- adoption of the internal regulation establishing rules on the use of services such as the library and other cultural, educational and sports facilities
- criteria for planning of extracurricular activities
- adaptation of the school calendar and general criteria for adapting the daily/weekly timetable
- general criteria for the creation of the classes
- approval of the Three-year educational offer plan (Piano triennale dell'offerta formativa - PTOF) of the school.
The Council gives its opinion on the general performance of the school.
The Teachers' council
The Teachers' council (Collegio dei docenti) is made up of the permanent and temporary teachers of the school or comprehensive institute. It is chaired by the school manager.
The Teachers’ council has a decision-making function on a number of matters, including:
- elaboration of the Three-year educational offer plan (PTOF) in compliance with the general guidelines issued by the school manager
- educational functioning of the school
- periodic evaluation of the overall progress of the educational action to verify its effectiveness in line with the planned objectives
- adoption of textbooks and, within the financial limits indicated by the school council, of other teaching materials
- proposal, where necessary, of appropriate measures to improve educational activities.
Finally, it submits proposals to the school manager on the creation of classes, teaching timetable and assignment of teachers to classes.
The class councils
The class council (Consiglio di classe) is a representative body that is made up of teachers, parents and, in some cases, students. It has different names and compositions depending on the school level.
In preprimary schools it is called ‘inter-section council’ because at this level children are organised in groups called 'sections'. In primary schools it is called inter-class council. At these two levels, the members of the councils are the teachers from all classes or sections of the school and one parent elected for each class or section.
At secondary level , all teachers of a class are member of the ‘class council’, together with four parents’ representatives at lower secondary level and two parents and two students’ representatives at upper secondary level. Parents and students’ representatives are elected from among parents and students of the class.
The school manager chairs the councils or delegates this task to one of the teachers.
The main function of these councils is to facilitate the relations among stakeholders in the school community. They also submit proposals on education and teaching activities of the class to the teachers' council. The councils also plan activities and carry out the periodic and final pupil assessments. In this case, students are not allowed to participate at the meetings.
The Committee for the evaluation of teachers
Every school has a ‘Committee for the evaluation of teachers’ (Comitato per la valutazione dei docenti). It gives its opinion in the following situations:
- on the activity carried out by teachers during their induction period
- on requests for reinstatement of teachers who have undergone disciplinary action.
Finally, the Committee evaluates, upon request of individual teachers, their service for a period not longer than the previous three years. The Committee is made up of four teachers and the school head.
Other forms of students’ participation, rights and duties of students
Students of upper secondary schools exercise their right to democratic participation in the school’s activities by holding assemblies at class and school level. These assemblies are an opportunity for students to enhance their cultural and social development. In their meetings, students also elect representatives for the class and school councils. Student representatives in the class council can form a student committee authorised to express opinions and make proposals to the school council.
At provincial level, the Students’ council, made up of two students from each upper secondary school, has the task of ensuring a confrontation between the students of all the schools in the province and of formulating proposals and expressing opinions to educational authorities, local authorities and territorial committees and boards.
Finally, the National Forum of the most representative student associations, based at the Directorate General for students of the Ministry of education and merit, has the task of fostering the dialogue between the Ministry and the student associations; it represents the students’ needs, formulates proposals, and expresses opinions both upon request of the Minister and on its own initiative.
The 'Charter of students' (Statuto delle studentesse e degli studenti, D.P.R. no. 249/1998 as amended by D.P.R. no. 235/2007) establishes the rights and duties of pupils and students in secondary schools.
Students have the right to a qualified cultural and vocational education, to active and responsible participation in school life, to freedom of learning, to transparent and timely assessment, and to respect for cultural and religious life of the community they belong to.
On the other hand, students have a duty of regular attendance, fulfilment of study obligations, proper behaviour towards the school manager, teachers, the entire school staff and their fellow students, observance of the organisational and safety provisions of the school.
As autonomous entities, all schools have regulations establishing which behaviours constitute a disciplinary offence, in compliance with the basic principle that disciplinary measures must have an educational purpose, i.e. must always be temporary and inspired by the principle of repairing the damage. Therefore, the student is offered the opportunity to convert the disciplinary measures into activities in favour of the school community. Temporary expulsion from the school can be ordered by the school board only for serious and repeated disciplinary offences, for periods not exceeding 15 days. For particularly serious offences that violate the dignity or respect of other persons or endanger their lives, the school Council can order the expulsion for periods of more than 15 days. For serious crimes, or recidivism, expulsion may also be ordered up to the end of the school year, leading to the exclusion from final evaluation procedures including the final State exam.
It is possible to appeal against disciplinary measures to the internal guarantee body. This body is governed by the school regulations but at least one student representative in the upper secondary schools and two parent representatives in lower secondary school must be members. It is possible to appeal against the decision adopted by the internal guarantee body by means of a complaint to the head of the Regional School Office, who makes the final decision.
Other forma of parents’ participation
Parents can exercise their right to democratic participation in the school’s activities by holding assemblies at class and school level. Parents’ assemblies may be attended, with the right to speak, by the school manager and the teachers of the class or school.
Parents may, on their own initiative and outside the school, form associations based on educational purposes, ideology or religious beliefs and participate with their own symbols in the elections of representatives in the collegiate bodies of the school.
Finally, the National Forum of the most representative parent associations, based at the Directorate General for Students of the Ministry of education and merit, has tasks similar to those of the Forum of students’ associations. The Forum meets at least three times a year and adopts its own internal regulations.
Universities and institutions of the Higher Education for the fine arts, music and dance (Alta formazione artistica, musicale e coreutica - AFAM) have regulatory and organisational autonomy. On the basis of their autonomy, universities and AFAM institutions issue the didactic regulations of their study courses.
The Rector (Rettore) is the legal representative of the university and has functions of policy, initiative and coordination of scientific and teaching activities. The Rector is responsible for pursuing the goals of the university according to quality criteria and in compliance with the principles of effectiveness, efficiency, transparency and promotion of merit. It proposes the university's three-year planning document, the annual and three-year budget and the final account.
The Academic Senate (Senato accademico) formulates proposals and mandatory opinions on teaching, research and student services. The Senate approves the university regulations and code of ethics and may activate, modify or abolish courses, offices, departments, and structures, as well as propose a motion of no-confidence towards the Rector. The number of members is proportionate to the size of the university, but always less than 35. Its members are the Rector, an elective representative of the students and at least two thirds of tenured professors. The Senate remains in office for a maximum of 4 years and the mandate can be renewed once.
The Board of Directors (Consiglio di amministrazione) oversees the administrative, financial, economic and asset management of the university, as well as the management of technical and administrative staff. It approves the university budget. It consists of a maximum of 11 members, including the Rector and an elected student representative. The other members are appointed in accordance with the procedures set out in the Statute among Italian or foreign personalities with proven expertise in management or with a high level of professional experience. The Council and its members hold office for a maximum of 4 years, except student representatives who hold office for 2 years. The mandate is renewable only once.
The Director General (Direttore generale) is at the head of the administrative system and is responsible for the overall management and organisation of the university's services, instrumental resources and technical-administrative staff. The Director General participates in the Board of Directors without voting rights. She/he is chosen from among highly qualified personalities and of proven experience with managerial functions. The Director has a fixed-term contract, lasting no longer than 4 years and renewable.
The Evaluation Unit (Nucleo di valutazione) is a body made up of highly qualified professional individuals, mainly from outside the university. It assesses the quality and effectiveness of the teaching and activities carried out by the departments.
Each university has its own statute, which provides for other bodies to complement the governing bodies of the university.
The Departments carry out scientific research, teaching and training activities, as well as additional external activities. The Departments promote and co-ordinate research activities while respecting the autonomy of each individual researchers.
In addition, committees made up of students and teaching staff are responsible for assessing the activities of individual Departments.
The main direction and management bodies, autonomously set up by universities are usually the following:
- the Department council made up of teachers, researchers, representatives of non-teaching staff and students and chaired by the Director of the Department
- the Director of the Department who is selected among professors and represents the department, maintains relations with the academic bodies and chairs the Department council instructing its work.
Finally, universities can create liaison structures, for the organisation of the educational offer and student services. These structures, usually named ‘schools’ or ‘faculties’, have their own management structure that includes the Directors of the departments attached to them and representatives of the teaching staff and of students. Faculties can establish teacher-student committees for monitoring the activities.
Higher education in fine arts, music and dance
In the institutes of the Higher education for the fine arts, music and dance (Alta formazione artistica, musicale e coreutica – AFAM), the Director is responsible for the educational, scientific and artistic performance of the institution. The Director has legal representation for the matters within his/her competence, i.e. for collaborations and activities on behalf of third parties concerning teaching, research, testing and production. The Director is elected by the teaching staff of the institute.
The President is the legal representative of the institutions (except for the matters under the responsibilities of the Director). The President is appointed by the Minister among a number of three candidates designated by the Academic council, which is a collegiate body made up of the Director and representatives of students and teachers.
Contents revised: 19 May 2023