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Luiss Guido Carli

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Luiss Open: What is the link between nationalism and countries' preservation policies?

An interview of Professor Mark Thatcher on policy in France and Italy


How much important is university research to encourage the internationalization of a university?

Today, research is fundamental for universities' international reputation. The key issue is whether people are producing interesting work. Having staff who publish is essential, but it goes beyond just publishing to include whether their work is noticed, whether they go to conferences, where they present their work and whether they are cited. Citations are one indicator of how important work is, as you can see whether or not research is being used internationally.

Are people reading it in other countries? Equally, citations indicate whether researchers are engaging in debates so that other scholars are taking notice and engaging with that research. Research is also bring important for students, because they want to know that their professors are publishing interesting work and they want to read what their professors have written. In universities, when teachers are giving advice about where to do a Masters or a PhD, they will want to send good students to universities which have a good research record.

This applies when they want to send them to individual professors, because they have read their work. So, what really matters for universities is whether people are producing work that is read, work that’s interesting, work that affects academic debates, work that students have read and think: I’m fascinated by this, this person has said something important and I’d like to go and study with them in person. So, interesting research that is read and has an international impact is absolutely fundamental to universities’ international reputation and international development.

What are the reasons that led you to a comparative analysis of the behavior of France and Italy in the care and conservation of cultural heritage?

There’s a lot of debate in political science about different kinds of States and usually both France and Italy are seen as states in which the public sector is very present, but usually they contrasted. Often, France is seen as what is called a strong state: very centralized, with a long tradition, very stable institutions, whereas the Italian state is seen as much more fragmental, as well as being more recent and seen to have many problems in terms of its public administration. So, I thought it would be interesting to compare them. In addition, there is the fact that in cultural heritage they are quite close, as quite lot of artists and architects have worked in both countries; there have been many interchanges between them. And finally, it seems to me the state in Italy has been seen as less strong than France, but Italy was creating protection before France.

In fact, when you look at it, in France, the development of cultural heritage protection went hand-in-hand with the development of the birth of the modern state. So, in France, you get legislation and policies to protect heritage that developed after the revolution of 1789, and every time you get a change of regime, you get new policies, sometimes immediately. Very strange in some ways, immediately you get a revolution when the first things that the government thinks about is cultural heritage. But in Italy, as we know, unification came much later. What was interesting for me was the puzzle that Italy created legislation before France and the legislation was more extensive than France. So this is surprising if you think about the general views about two countries, if you think about their history, if you think about their administrations.

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