The brain drain is defined as the situation in which many educated or professional people leave a particular place or profession and move to another one that gives them better pay or living conditions. Nevertheless, it is not simple to explain this phenomenon that is continuously affecting every country in the world. This indicator outlines what is happening in Italy, which is experiencing a situation where the flow of talent seems inexorably fixed in one direction: out of the country. Other countries in Europe, as well as the developing world, also suffer from the same problem, but Italy is the only Western European country where the number of intellectuals leaving the country so grossly outweighs those coming in. The fact that a wealthy, developed nation with such a rich cultural history is being slowly leeched of its talent is a highly troubling development.
Italy has known the phenomenon since the sixties and at that time, Germany and Switzerland were the most popular destinations for students. Southern students moved to the north in order to find better job perspectives, but now, because of the economic crisis, with more than one out of two citizens not having a job, people look further.
Where do students go? The top locations are the United Kingdom, Germany, followed by Luxemburg, the United States and China. The truth of the matter is that the system that has failed its own people also fails to attract new talent to its shores. High levels of corruption, low spending on academic research and a convoluted and frustrating bureaucratic system mean that foreign brains end up looking elsewhere. The historical universities, such as Bologna, one of the best in the country, founded in 1088, which makes it the oldest continuously operating university of the world, are not able to contrast the exodus. According to OECD/OCSE data, less than 3% of foreign students come to study in Italy and in the scientific field, the numbers are even lower. Some years ago, in 2007, the government decided to start offering university courses in English but is it has not changed much until now. Other countries have actualized a policy of keeping the best students whilst our country is behind, it needs to make itself attractive to outsiders (and this applies all over the spectrum, not just in academic fields) before it can start creating a future for itself. Whether it will be able to do so, however, is another question. It is often said that Italy is a doldrums country and just recently, the government has pointed out how education could be a tool to eradicate problems and form people to have a positive impact on the economy. But doubts come in mind when you get that what the Education Ministry wants to increase are music, art and physical education lessons. This country has a priceless culture and in such an economic stagnation, Italian education system is often accused of being too theoretical and not providing students with the right skills and abilities to enter their future lives. In going abroad, students see a way of escaping from a fixed system that is without flexibility and meritocracy. A country without meritocracy will never grow as much as it could potentially.