8.3.1 Institutional overview
Historically, Fine Arts Academies and Academies of Music in Italy have been considered school institutions, and as such placed under the supervision of the Ministry of Education (MPI). In the 1990s, responsibility for the non-university sector of higher arts and cultural education was shared between MPI (institutions for fine and applied arts, dance, drama and music) and the Ministry of Heritage and Cultural Activities / MiBAC (institutions and programmes in heritage conservation and restoration, see chapter 8.3.4). During that decade, Academies and Conservatoires lobbied intensively to be granted university status for two main reasons: a) equivalent institutions in other EU member states already enjoyed university status, which meant that foreign professionals in the artistic sector were formally recognised with higher qualifications than Italian ones, despite having attained the same degree of higher education; b) over time, universities had become "competitors" to Academies and Conservatoires, having established their own courses in the arts and music (e.g. DAMS – Arts, Music and Performing Arts Disciplines).
The long-awaited reform of higher education in the artistic sector (drama, dance and music) finally started to take place in 1999, when the then Ministry for University and Scientific-Technological Research (MURST) issued Law 508/99. In 2001, MPI and MURST were merged into the new Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR), which is currently the main government body responsible for arts and cultural education and training through its DG for Higher Arts, Music and Dance Education (AFAM – Alta Formazione Artistica Musicale e Coreutica; for a list and description of AFAM institutions, see chapter 8.3.4). A further step in the reform of higher arts education was taken recently, in December 2012, when AFAM courses were finally awarded university status (Financial Stability Law 2012).
Since 2003, the DG for Higher Arts, Music and Dance Education has been promoting on a yearly basis the National Award for the Arts, whose aim is to enhance the national arts system by giving visibility to the work of AFAM institutions' students. The award, which is organised in several sections ranging from visual and digital arts to performing arts and design, is generally addressed to AFAM students, but may be opened in some sections to students from prestigious public and private institutions at a national and international level. In 2007, the AFAM DG also launched "Hi-Art", a post-diploma vocational guidance portal (http://www.hi-art.it).
Another government body with responsibilities in the arts and cultural education arena is MiBAC, not only, as mentioned above, through its central institutes for heritage conservation and restoration, but also through its Centre for Museum and Heritage Education Services, which is under the responsibility of the recently created DG for the Valorisation of Cultural Heritage since 2009. According to the Heritage and Landscape Codex (see chapter 5.3.3), the role of the Centre is to promote wider accessibility of the Italian heritage for a range of different audiences (most notably schools), as well as to act as a coordination centre for the education services of national museums throughout the country. Since its creation in 1998, the Centre for Museum and Heritage Education Services has been promoting pilot projects, training courses for museum staff and teachers / educators, exhibitions, seminars, publications, and has launched an online journal called S'ed (http://www.sed.beniculturali.it/opencms/export/Sed/index.html), which is also a quality trademark for the education activity of Italian state museums.