Italian students protest budget cuts
Thousands of students took to the streets of Italian cities today to protest a reform of the university system and budget cuts decided by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government.
There were more than 100 marches by students including in Milan, Rome, Florence, Palermo and L'Aquila, a historic city that was heavily damaged by an earthquake last year that killed more than 300 people.
Students are outraged over cuts of around nine billion euros (12 billion dollars) and 130,000 jobs in the education system that the Italian government has engaged to carry out by 2013.
The reform will merge several smaller higher education establishments, bring external managers into university boards and reduce the mandate for deans. Critics say it is aimed simply at cutting costs.
Students in Rome marched from La Sapienza university into central Rome, with one banner reading: "What is Our Future In the Middle of All These Ruins?"
Protesters occupied a dean's office at the university in Palermo in Sicily and daubed graffiti on banks and shops during a march in Milan.
Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini said the protesters were "those who want to keep the status quo, those who are against any type of change."
"We need to aim for a quality education system, better linked to the employment market and more international," she added.