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Students protest reforms in Rome
Wed Dec 22, 2010 3:37PM
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Students hold demonstrations in the Italian capital of Rome ahead of a Senate vote on education reforms planned by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government.

Similar demonstrations are also being planned in other Italian cities including Venice, Modena, Perugia, Reggio Emilia, Grosseto and Barletta.

The university reform -- which would cut the number of courses and faculties, reduce funding for grants and introduce non-academic university deans -- is set to be adopted definitively by the Senate, the upper house of parliament.

Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini says reforms will save billions of euros and will create a more “merit-based' system,” according to the state-funded BBC.

The cuts are part of a wider austerity plan that the government is introducing in order to reduce its public debt.

Italy witnessed violent protests last week after Berlusconi survived a no-confidence vote.

Last week's violence saw cars torched, windows smashed and dozens injured in battles between protestors and police.

Protest leaders have said they are trying to avoid similar violence this week.

Italy is currently spending less than 5 percent of its Gross Domestic Product on education which is much lower than many developed countries.

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