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EDUCATION

This 70-year-old Italian holds the world record for number of uni degrees

Boffins eat your hearts out: the world record holder for the number of university degrees is a cheery but truculent 70-year old Italian.

This 70-year-old Italian holds the world record for number of uni degrees
Baietti surrounded by just a few of his degrees. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Luciano Baietti lives in the town of Velletri in the Alban Hills near Rome and spends his days pottering around his small house and garden.

But at every morning at 3am he pulls out his textbooks and starts studying.

He now holds 15 bachelors or masters degrees from universities across Italy, and is already embarking on his 16th.

“Thanks to books, I feel free, dammit,” he tells AFP. “After all, the words share the same root,” he says, referring to the Italian words libro (book) and libero (free).

The certificates proving his prowess hang on the walls of his study, framing a portrait of the 19th century French essayist, Louis- Francois Bertin, whom he cites as an influence.

Passion for a challenge

“He was a man of culture and knowledge,” said Baietti, a former headmaster of a secondary school, who made it into the Guinness Book of Records in 2002 with his eighth degree, that time in motor skills.

At that point he already had degrees in sociology, literature, law, political science and philosophy, most from Rome's prestigious La Sapienza University, one of the oldest in the world.


Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Since then he's added seven others to his list, including one in criminology, a distance-learning one in military strategies from Turin, and the latest in tourism from an online university in Naples, which he was awarded at the start of this month.

“Each time I set myself a new challenge, to see how far my body and my brain can go,” says Baietti, who started life as a sports teacher.

His long-suffering wife, some 30 years his junior, describes Baietti
affectionately as “a real character” who is known throughout their town.

He got most of the qualifications under his belt while also doing his day job and volunteering with Italy's Red Cross.

This ageing eternal student's first degree was in physical education in 1972 – and he fell instantly in love with the academic world.

“As well as the sporting events, there were modules in theory which I liked, and which gave me a taste for studying,” he says.

'I surprised myself'

The most challenging and unusual degree so far has been the military strategies one: “It was co-organized by the defence ministry and Turin University and dealt with sensitive subjects related to national security”.

“We had to attend the exams in uniform,” he recalls, showing off  the regimental garb hanging in his wardrobe.


Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

His masters in criminology, which saw him interview prisoners, also had a lasting impact.

“Listening to them, I sometimes surprised myself; I'd be convinced by their arguments, and would wonder about what was right or wrong – before realizing that I had gone off course.”

Baietti is back on course, and already preparing to start the next  degree, this time in food science.

Once again, he'll be poring over his books by the light of his desk  lamp as outside the world sleeps on.

“At that time the brain is more open to assimilating knowledge, and it also allows me to keep a normal family life,” he says with a grin.

By Franck Iovene

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BREXIT

‘It’s their loss’: Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

The UK is missing out by barring highly skilled Italian graduates from accessing a new work visa, Italy's universities minister said on Wednesday.

'It's their loss': Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

Universities and Research Minister Cristina Messa said she was disappointed by the UK’s decision not to allow any graduates of Italian universities access to its ‘High Potential Individual’ work permit.

“They’re losing a big slice of good graduates, who would provide as many high skills…it’s their loss,” Messa said in an interview with news agency Ansa, adding that Italy would petition the UK government to alter its list to include Italian institutions.

Ranked: Italy’s best universities and how they compare worldwide

“It’s a system that Britain obviously as a sovereign state can choose to implement, but we as a government can ask (them) to revise the university rankings,” she said.

The High Potential Individual visa, which launches on May 30th, is designed to bring highly skilled workers from the world’s top universities to the UK in order to compensate for its Brexit-induced labour shortage.

Successful applicants do not require a job offer to be allowed into the country but can apply for one after arriving, meaning potential employers won’t have to pay sponsorship fees.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome. Photo by TIZIANA FABI / AFP.

The visa is valid for two years for those with bachelor’s and master’s degrees and three years for PhD holders, with the possibility of moving into “other long-term employment routes” that will allow the individual to remain in the country long-term.

READ ALSO: Eight things you should know if you’re planning to study in Italy

Italy isn’t the only European country to have been snubbed by the list, which features a total of 37 global universities for the 2021 graduation year (the scheme is open to students who have graduated in the past five years, with a different list for each graduation year since 2016).

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, EPFL Switzerland, Paris Sciences et Lettres, the University of Munich, and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute are the sole European inclusions in the document, which mainly privileges US universities.

Produced by the UK’s Education Ministry, the list is reportedly based on three global rankings: Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings, and The Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Messa said she will request that the UK consider using ‘more up-to-date indicators’, without specifying which alternative system she had in mind.

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