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The University of Florence can trace its origins to the Studium, which was established in 1321. In 1472 the Studium was moved to Pisa. In 1859, the University re-emerged as Istituto di Studi Superiori (Institute of Higher Education). In 1923 it was established as a public university (Royal Decree No. 2102/1923) and started its activities as a fully-fledged university.
The University of Florence is one of the largest organisations for research and higher education in Italy, with over 1900 tenured teaching staff and researchers, over 1600 permanent technical/administrative staff and language assistants and over 55 thousand students enrolled.
The University consists of 10 Schools: Agriculture, Architecture, Economics, Education and Humanities, Engineering, Law, Human Health Sciences, Mathematics, Physics and Natural Sciences, Political Science, Psychology.
Scientific research is carried out in the 24 Departments of the University, grouped into 5 major areas: Social Sciences, Humanities, Scientific, Technological and Biomedical areas. A large part of the yearly budget is allocated to scientific research. In the recent past the University of Florence has been ranked top among Italian Universities in the distribution of national research funds
High-level research avails itself of the “centres of excellence”, which attract funding and form synergies with other institutions.
Since 1990, Italian Universities have developed systems of administrative, scientific and didactic autonomy.
This autonomy allows each university to create its own statute and regulations for the organisation of the various activities; autonomy is guaranteed by the fact that the Ministry no longer operates any form of merit check on the statutes and regulations, but only on legitimacy.
The universities are thus in a position to adopt their own procedures and to create a new organisation, as well as to establish systems of self-assessment.
The University of Florence adopted its own Statute in 1995 (Rector’s Decree No. 577/1995), regulations for Didactic Activities in 1995 and regulations for Finance and accounting in 1994; all these were subsequently amended.
According to the Statute, the University operates as an educational institution and awards degrees.
The goals and missions of the University are defined in Article 1 of the Statute of the University of Florence as follows:
The Rector is the legal representative of the University: he has the political management of the University, presides over the Academic Senate and the Board of Administrators and supervises the running of the University.
The Head of Administration is appointed by the Rector, after consultation with the Board of Administrators.
The Head of Administration is responsible for the central technical and administrative management of the University, and uses the central administration offices of the University for the political management of the Academic Bodies.
The central governing bodies of University management are the Academic Senate and the Board of Administrators.
The Academic Senate is the body which programmes and coordinates the research and teaching activities in the University. It approves the teaching regulations.
The Academic Senate is composed of the Rector, who acts as chairman, the Deputy Pro-rector who acts as vice-chairman, the Deans of the twelve Faculties, the Head of Administration, who acts as Secretary, one representative professor from each of the 5 research areas, at least 3 representatives of the students.
The Board of Administrators is the body for the general and financial management of the University. It approves the annual programmes and multi-year budgets and the final balance, the organisational charts for the technical and administrative and managerial staff, and the various regulations.
The Board of Administrators is composed of the Rector, who acts as chairman, the Deputy Pro-rector who acts as vice-chairman, the Head of Aministration, who acts as Secretary, 6 members elected from the faculty body, 2 members from the technical and administrative staff, 3 representatives of the students, and one representative of the Government.
As for outcomes assessment, a 1993 Law introduced the University Assessment Unit, which is an internal body established by the Statute of the University.
The Assessment Unit systematically evaluates the correct management of the public resources, the productivity of research and teaching activities, the quality and quantity of the University services, and the efficiency and transparency of the administrative management. It drafts a periodical report on University activities.
The results of the Assessment Unit’s activities are used to support the governing bodies of the University in defining the objectives, plans, and development programmes of the Institution, as well as the financial and human resources necessary to achieve those objectives. The results of the Assessment Unit’s activities contribute to the drafting of the multi-year plan for the development of the University system.
The teaching and research staff is divided into three levels: full professors, associate professors, and researchers.
Access to these groups is through national scientific competitions based on qualifications and exams for research assistants and associate professors, and based on qualifications alone for full professors.
The technical and administrative staff is organised into different categories, depending on their qualifications and on the kind of competitive entrance examination; their working position is regulated by national collective bargaining agreements.
Italian universities issue the following qualifications, in compliance with Ministerial Decree No. 270 of 22/10/2004:
The University of Florence is one of the largest and most productive public research systems in Italy. This result is related to the number of permanent and temporary researchers working in a wide range of disciplines and scientific fields, and the numerous junior scientists in training. It is also due to intensive participation in research programmes of national and international importance, the significant scientific results achieved, and the flow of funds which support research and knowledge transfer. This combination of factors qualifies the Florentine institution as a modern research university, and accounts for its excellent ranking in national and international classifications.
The researchers from the various departments of the University of Florence have at their disposal several research structures comprising interdepartmental and inter-university centres, as well as some specialised research units and laboratories.
In recent years the University of Florence has increasingly consolidated its activities in the sphere of knowledge transfer: from the filing of patents to the setting-up of joint workshops with firms, through to participation in spin-off companies.
There are approximately three-and-a-half million books and a large number of periodicals available in five libraries covering the main disciplinary areas, with around 60 annexed reading rooms. The university library system also offers online catalogues and many other resources in digital format (journals, articles, books). Students are offered courses for guidance in the use of the library and in bibliographical research, as well as rooms with computer work stations that are also open in the evening.
In collaboration with other universities, important projects are underway which will increase direct access to databases and full-text electronic periodicals from individual work stations.
The digital publishing service provided by Firenze University Press., F.U.P., can be considered a model University publishing house; it cooperates with professors and researchers to promote and increase the value of scientific and didactic production, thus offering electronic and paper publications scientifically guaranteed by the University itself.
The most important natural history museum in Italy belongs to the University of Florence. It is also one of the oldest and most renowned museums at an international level: the Museum of Natural History, founded in 1775 by the Grand Duke Peter Leopold. The Botanical Garden section of the Museum is however even older, dating back to 1545. Consisting of six sections scattered over the old centre of Florence, the Museum houses 8 million exhibits, some of outstanding scientific and naturalistic importance: sixteenth-century herbaria and precious eighteenth-century waxworks, fossil skeletons of elephants and collections of multicoloured butterflies, large tourmaline crystals and Aztec relics, impressive wooden sculptures and the largest inflorescence in the world. A wonderful combination of nature, history, science and art emerges from this context.
The University of Florence manages its resources independently.
The main sources of funding are the following: