Unical. A special character
What makes our University special is the ensemble of individuals and things which creates a great, historical, strategic and cultural project.
This feature does not go unnoticed when visiting the Arcavacata Campus, especially if we consider the history of Southern Italy and Calabria, which on few other occasions have achieved similar outstanding and meaningful results.
In fact, despite what unfortunately occurred in several instances in Southern Italy, there was not a hurried and confused concept behind this project. Since its conception, our University has literally had a soul and a conscience which today feature its personality and, thus, its special character.
This unique character of the Arcavacata Campus is derived exactly from the fact that it is one of the few initiatives – not only in the university field – that has followed a precise route based on a strategic vision of social, economic and technological development. It was an ambitious vision bound to make the difference.
The project of our University was conceived in the sixties, in a period of great changes for our country; the fruitful economic, political and cultural debate inevitably affected universities and their roles and functions in that particular historical moment.
Such a debate was even more significant from the perspective of Calabria, a region striving for its own growth and development.
It was inevitable to wonder what kind of university was necessary for Calabria and what characteristics this new “creature” had to feature, since it was vested with wider and more challenging responsibilities than those traditionally assigned to a university: first to stimulate and then to join in with the dynamic and sustainable positioning of our region within the national economic and social context.
It was a cultural demand requiring an unequivocal response to start a new era of civil engagement and revival, pivoted on an institution strategically placed at the core of the needs and perspectives of the region.
Such a response was adequate and in line with the “profile” that new universities were required to adopt at an international level. The profile of our University was built around the concept of the Campus and was, and still is, conceived as a large laboratory of ideas and inspirations that have left their mark, thereby moulding the University’s special character.
With the University of Calabria, the cultural contributions and innovations that had been experimented for some time both in Europe and in the USA, were imported to our country and transferred to the national university system.
The first and largest campus in Italy soon became a melting pot of international and national brains who still constitute the University’s distinctive mark.
The debate on the new concept of University that was being started was heated, yet of high level and great significance, and involved prominent political leaders and intellectuals such as Tristano Codignola, Luigi Firpo and Umberto Caldora, as well as several other representatives of the lay-socialist culture who had played a key role in the country’s modernisation process during the sixties.
The issue under discussion was how the University could be conceived using different criteria to those used in the past.
The infant University of Calabria started off on the right foot, also thanks to the extraordinary enthusiasm and powerful contribution of its founder and first Rector, Beniamino Andreatta. In fact, the University of Calabria pioneered a new, somehow revolutionary, organisational approach consisting in the creation of Departments. Such an organisational layout was completely different from the model upon which the academic scientific activity had been based up to that moment.
Thus, our University started a real academic, as well as cultural and organisational reform that would leave a mark in its experimental and innovation-oriented character.
Parallel to this innovation, another important project was also in the pipeline: a University that would play a key role in development and relation-making processes. This led to the decision of creating a residential university, a Campus – another peculiarity of our institution – in order to facilitate integration and cultural exchange. A “physical container” was, therefore, necessary to implement this cultural and strategic project. Such an objective was then achieved through an international competition for the project of the University of Calabria, which is still unique in Italy.
In fact, our University is the only one, at a national level, built as a Campus: it is a development outside the city boundaries, with very large spaces stretching over 200 hectares of land, and with buildings developed on a total covered area of 400 thousand square meters.
The excellence of the project and of its special character is also supported by the numbers: about 34 thousand students, 900 teachers, 760 technical and administrative staff; 6 Faculties, 25 Departments and over 80 study courses (comprising Master’s courses and single-cycle, specialist degree courses); 13 Interdepartmental Centres; 3 Excellence Centres, 2 Postgraduate Schools (in Clinical Pathology and Secondary Education), a School of Advanced Studies in Public Administration; 170 classrooms with a total capacity of 14,273 seats; the largest library facility in the south of Italy (approximately 400 thousand volumes, 900 seats and 300 computer access points); 3 common service centres; a Botanic Garden; a Museum of Palaeontology; a Language Service Centre; a total accommodation capacity of 3,000 beds; refectories with 1,200 seats (3,500 daily meals, over 1 million meals every year); 5,000 car parking spaces; public transport for over 28 thousand students a day; advanced sports facilities for any type of sport activity, also at a professional level.
Furthermore, the Campus is provided with a Health Care Centre with a first-aid post, a bank branch, a Post Office, two theatres (with two hundred and seven hundred seats, respectively); two cinemas, with 250 seating capacity each; two outdoor theatres; and a day nursery (one of the few of this kind in Italy) for over 50 three-month to six-year-old children.
The University has also promoted more than 220 bilateral agreements with European universities participating in the LLP - Lifelong Learning Programme (former Socrates and Leonardo programmes), for study and research activities (with approximately 320 outbound students and over 110 inbound students every year), and with consortia established with other Italian and foreign universities with a view to developing services for students’ placement in European companies or research centres and to organising Doctoral Courses.
These figures place the University of Calabria in a leading position among the largest Italian universities, as for service quality and efficiency standards.
But figures are not the only benchmark to measure the success of our University. In fact, it has gained outstanding positions on a national scale, for having obtained considerable resources to be allocated to teaching and research activities through competitive means, only after having passed rigorous selection testing.
It is here, in this Campus superbly set in a stunning frame of light and colours, where we work and so many people have worked to better themselves and others; it is from here that, over these few decades, we have seen so many students taking off towards brilliant professional and academic careers.
It is here, in this friendly and functional environment, that we see so many youths grow and train every day, willing to work their way up and export the University’s reputation throughout the world.
It is they, our students, who better display the special character of our University. And they are as special as the place where they get their training. They are special because Calabria and our way of living accustom them to be flexible and tolerant, yet wilful and resolute in showing their abilities, thereby contributing to break some well-known, and generally unfounded, stereotypes.
They are just as special as the experience made up of social and interdisciplinary aspects as well as cultural exchange that only a great Campus can offer.
In these pages, the main features, as well as the teaching and organisational assets, making this Campus a unicum in Italy, will be briefly presented.