The path towards a modern University

Cross-posted on svoltastudenti.it

“Life is like a play: it’s not the length, but the excellence of the acting that matters.” — Seneca

Studying at University is maybe the first real opportunity we have, in our lives, to get the ability of performing concrete actions of some relevance for other people. Despite the thorough knowledge I got in the subjects related to my Engineering field, I think being a students’ representative has been the one experience that has had the biggest impact on my life in the last two years.

I’ve had the opportunity, at Politecnico di Milano, to meet a large number of students not only from different parts of Italy, but even from a lot of different countries around the globe.

In all these occasions I have been able to broaden my horizons on several topics, spanning from everyday life to cultural differences and now that this experience is approaching it’s end, I think it is time to share the values and ideas that guided me and my fellows throughout it.

1. Freedom overcoming Restrictions

Although it may seem quite obvious and generally acceptable, in many situations we have been in the position of seriously put this idea behind others. Frequently, in fact, defining bounds makes life a lot easier by simplifying things and making them apparently more clear. Still, however, sooner or later you found yourself stuck in an intricate system of rules which, not only are hard to understand, but they also, instead of helping people, lock them up imposing non-sense limitations.

2. Sharing ahead of Hiding

Many times we have come up with ideas we thought would be very useful to other students, sometimes they were pretty simple to realize while sometimes they were not. Sharing is essential to make ideas alive, as poses them more rapidly in front of the possible limitations while it is crucial to find new peers which would join your forces and invest their time and effort in the challenge of realizing them. A shared ideas doesn’t have an owner, it just has a group of stakeholders, are benefiting from it. On the contrary, hiding an idea (or, equally, reclaiming its’ ownership) makes it die: it costs much more effort to be realized and creates hostility between people. Furthermore usually private ideas are incomplete and some cases they will just remain in a drawer until even you forget about them.

3. Diversity instead of uniformity

In almost five years at the University, I have met a lot of people. Probably I got to know more people during this time than in my earlier years of life and this gave me the possibility to learn and improve myself a lot. I must say, indeed, that the ones more relevant for me were the most different and unpredictable. Dealing on a daily basis with people from a different country, a different city and, more in general, a different culture, dramatically broadens your view of the world and opens your mind to new experiences. It gives you a more realistic perspective, and, in addition, developing ideas in heterogeneous teams accelerates and enhances the investigations of problems that have to be taken into accounts in order to achieve its’ realization.

4. Quality over Quantity

Politecnico di Milano is one of the biggest Universities both in Europe and in Italy. It sees, every year more than 40 thousands students and the exponential growth of latest years is posing new challenges. As numbers become this big, quantitative approaches naturally get established, in order to deal with the objective of guiding the biggest possible numbers of students to their final objective (i.e. becoming the next engineers, designers and architects).
Still, as the time goes by, a more important challenge is rising. We believe that to achieve the true goal of Politecnico, which is, in a way, to outstand as a top ranked university, a paradigm shift has to come: it is time for really supporting students’ growth by nurturing their own interests and personalizing their education, in order to bring passion and innovation in new unique ways.

5. Inclusion defeating Exclusion

This topic is becoming quite crucial these days in Europe. Italian universities, in the past, have never really experienced the need of communicating in different languages. Of course academic development has always been international and always will be. But the idea of teaching, studying and discussing on a not-your-own language was not even a realistic thing 20 years ago. Therefore, even though the exams and classes are successfully available in English, still many problem on daily communication exist between community of students of different cultures and languages. We believe that both students and the institutions should challenge themselves, in order to really making all the different groups actively participating in the development of the academic society and values.

6. Particularity against Generality

Globalization has brought to us a world in which different cultures from many countries have contributed in defining new common models of some aspects of the society. In this context, Italian universities are slowly reframing their guidelines by heavily complying to international standards. In addition to that, too strict attention to rankings and statistical methods sometimes fosters a view where the students are not considered as individuals but rather become numbers. We believe that now both the context and the resources are favorable enough to reconsider this idea and invest in helping the students find their unique way to the world, by encouraging them in deepening their knowledge in the topics they care most .

7. Simplicity opposing Complexity

As professionals dealing with the laws of mathematics and physics, we are really prone to formalize and regulate all the possible cases that can show up in the administration of a system. This in many cases has lead to exceeding 
bureaucracy in most of the processes regarding our university, resulting in overwhelming amounts of guidelines which are impossible to be known when they are needed. Furthermore, since most of them come from times where technology was not as powerful as it is now, it is really the case to take a step back and rethink all the processes, cutting out all the redundant regulations and reinvent them by exploiting the power that computers have brought to us.

If you also have the same values as we have, please, contact us! We are constantly looking for new people to join our team, willing to take an open and modern point of view in our university! Feel free to share your ideas in the comments section below.

And of course, if you liked this article, recommend it and follow Svoltastudenti for more articles on our ideas about shaping the future university.