Ferruccio Resta, who leads Milan’s oldest university, speaks with Brunswick about why he wouldn’t be surprised if Netflix or Amazon entered higher education, and what it takes for an institution to compete with the likes of Harvard, Oxford or MIT.
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As a professor of applied mechanics, Ferruccio Resta can explain—and did explain, briefly, in a recent conversation with Brunswick—acceleration in way that invokes equations and the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
As the Rector of the Politecnico di Milano, a technical university renowned in Europe and ranked among the top performers by QS World Ranking by Subject (5th in design; 10th in architecture and 13th in engineering) and as President of the Conference of Rectors of Italian Universities, Resta has a unique view on a different sort of acceleration: the rapid pace of change taking place across higher education today, and how universities can help his country rebuild and recover from the economic fallout of COVID-19 and an ongoing war in Europe.
Italy was among the countries hit earliest by the pandemic—it was mid-March 2020 when footage of Italians singing from their balconies went viral—and also hit hardest: The country’s GDP contracted by 9% in 2020.
Under Resta’s leadership, the Politecnico was one the first universities in the country to move classes online and digitize curricula—no small feat for a large, public university with more than 5,000 employees and just under 50,000 students. It was also the first Italian university to receive funding from the NextGenerationEU stimulus package, a fund that will see the EU invest more than €800 billion ($870 billion) across 27 countries to help them recover from the pandemic.