Franco Pavoncello (President - JCU John Cabot University in Rome)

Alla John Cabot University, dove l’Italia incontra gli Usa

Apr 12, 2013 7108 ITA ENG

John Cabot University is a “piece of America” in Italy. Its campus has a distinctive American air about it, despite its location in the most characteristic neighborhood in Rome, Trastevere. On our journey to examine relations between Italy and the USA, we are pleased to meet the President of this important American institution, Professor Franco Pavoncello. He is the first Italian without dual citizenship to be elected President of an American university. We thank him for his time.

Franco – John Cabot University is one of the two historical American colleges in Italy. It is based in Rome, in a beautiful building in Trastevere…

In 1976, JCU received the authorization to work as an American College. In December 2011, the Italian Ministry of Education confirmed that our diplomas are recognized as valid for admission to the “laurea magistrale” (equivalent to a Master’s degree) in Italian universities, as well as for participation in public competitive exams. We are members of AAICU, the Association of American International College & Universities, which is responsible for the education of around 100.000 students each year. We are accredited with the Middle States Association, one of six regional institutions in the US in charge of policy for the granting of diplomas valid for the American educational system. Many of our alumni have continued their studies (going on to Graduate Studies) pursuing Master’s degrees and Ph.Ds. in some of the most prestigious universities in the USA.

We have a campus in Via della Lungara and another one along Lungotevere, and we have acquired a beautiful residence that can house 240 students – also here in Trastevere going up towards the Gianicolo.

Many of our students do work placements in companies whilst studying with us and are very appreciated. Our students come from over 130 countries in the world, and we have American students from all over the US. We have around 600 degree seeking students and around the same amount of visiting students, who only stay with us for a semester (only 10% of them stay for the whole year). We are aiming to grow to around 1.400 students.

Which courses does JCU offer?

We offer 13 degree courses. The main ones are International Business, Business Administration and Communication. We also offer degrees in Art History, which is extremely interesting, and English Literature, with a very important center for creative writing in English. Another very prestigious department is Marketing: we have launched a Leadership and Entrepreneurship Institute that we strongly support to train students in entrepreneurship.

Do you offer scholarships?

Yes, we have different solutions. Italian students who have obtained 100/100 in their Diploma di Maturità do their first year with us free of charge, and if they keep up high grades they are entitled to reductions between 80 and 50% in the following years. 8% of our budget goes into scholarships. Also, it is our policy to have at least one student per year entirely funded by John Cabot. We offer the student assistance with the visa application, as well as their studies, textbooks, accommodation and board.

Italy is the non-Anglophone country that attracts the greatest numbers of American students, with around 35.000 each year. What do you think is the secret of this success?

Our country’s historical and cultural heritage is undoubtedly enormous and this continues to hold an enormous appeal for American citizens: the possibility of studying and living for some time in cities such as Rome and Florence plays a fundamental role. Italy also offers a great wealth of educational content: as well as two American Universities with their own campuses, there are 150 programs ran by other American Universities that send their students to Italy every year. Another factor is the great ability us Italians have to welcome foreigners and make them feel at home. In this Rome is like a magnet: whoever spends a bit of time here ends up carrying a piece of it in their hearts forever.

In terms of education and training, what can Italy learn from the US and vice-versa?

The American University system is one of the great elements of success of the US: their concept of the University following the liberal arts philosophy is gradually affirming itself also in Italy.

In terms of the other way round, the attention Italy pays to primary and secondary education is very important: younger children in Italy have more in-depth knowledge than children in the US. And perhaps, the analytical capacity of Italian students coming out of our country’s best high schools is slightly better than that of their American peers.

Here at JCU, we have tested the winning model of the student educated in Italy up to secondary level, and then going into a higher education institution that follows the American model.

One of the important elements of difference with some Italian Universities is our academic structure and timeframe: finishing in 3 years instead of 5/6 gives young people a dynamic approach to the opportunities they will come across, the chances that life gives young people. John Cabot has a good staff to student ratio and we manage to keep up the rhythm that allows us to complete degrees in three canonical years. This way we avoid the typically Italian phenomenon of brains being parked at the university.

Another fundamental element of the success of the American system is the high fees: commitment is proportional to the sum disbursed to obtain a degree, and as the latter is certainly not low, the former is also high. This forms capable professionals who used to working hard to earn their success. In the Italian system, the low fees for all – which nonetheless generate hidden costs in terms of taxation spread out to the entire population – do nothing to push students to work hard: some certainly do, but the system itself does very little to encourage them and spark a bit of healthy competition.

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