Stefania Costanza, current Consul General of Italy in Mumbai, has had a varied career both in terms of responsibilities and postings. Having served in the United Nations, and worked in locations like Kabul and Buenos Aires, she understands challenges in developed and under-developed countries. In her role as the Consul General of Italy in Mumbai, she strongly believes that Italy has much to offer to India— both in terms of education and tourism. In a chat with Pankaj Joshi and R N Bhaskar, she explains that Italy is not as insular as it may appear from its non-English linguistic background.
How do you look at the current status of interaction between India and Italy?
We are very optimistic in all respects. If we look at ties between India and Italy, the recent past has seen a lot of acceleration. The visit of the Italian Prime Minister last year has seen both countries experience a new high in our bilateral relations. Around that too, there was a lot of interaction. We had the Deputy Minister for Economic Development visit India in November. We had the Italian Health Minister, Beatrice Lorenzin come over and there was an important MoU put in place.
Prior to that in November 2016, we had our Minister for Agriculture (Maurizio Martina) come over to India. In the same month, we had a roadshow for education in Italy, where eleven universities and polytechnics had participated.
When Italy has an entirely different set of languages, how can Italian universities raise their significance?
Quite a lot. You may be unaware but Italy as a nation is moving beyond its language. We now have 42 courses delivered entirely in English. Today for a student, learning and studying in Italian is no longer obligatory. For a non-English speaking nation we have evolved a lot and this is remarkable. Today I can assure you that students who go to Harvard or Cambridge come to Italy after that. The reason is entirely soft skills, which has been our focus. Soft skill development is gradual – you have to grow into that.
Education is an area where we believe we can offer a lot. Bocconi University in Milan (NAME) is among the top ten universities worldwide when it comes to MBAs courses. We have a Mumbai centre established six years ago and have managed 220 students. Our plan is to make Mumbai the Asian hub.
Another university is Marangoni NAME which is a name to reckon with in high-end fashion design learning. Again we have opened a centre in Mumbai around six months back. This is the first centre in Asia, and the sixth overseas nation. Here we aim to provide the students to have their finishing (course completion). Marangoni NAME ensures that teachers are the same as those which teach in Milan or any other European centre.
One more institute which has an office here is the Institute of European Design, which for a change is publicly funded. This institution offers diplomas based on the necessities directly from Italy (there is no official recognition under any Indian university). All the institutes liaise with the Consulate and we support individual student visa processes and other matters.
In terms of international integration, today in Italy we have English being taught as a second language. We focus on English – for local and overseas students – and recognise that this as the future for us. The University of Rome is planning an entire course curriculum which will be presented in English.
Talking of visas, how do you explain the potential of Italy vis-a-vis employment?
The employment potential of Italian companies is underrated. Even in India, we have 628 companies present, wherein around 200 are in the manufacturing space. You must understand that Italy still is the seventh most industrialised nation and the second largest manufacturing economy, after Germany, in the EU. We can assure students that post-graduation, employers often take up those whom they feel worthwhile and those can work for life in Italian companies. Residency permits are issued on the basis of employment and after ten years, residents can apply for citizenship. If a resident gets married to an Italian citizen and live together for three years, then that person could apply for citizenship. Similarly, a person born or taken as an infant in Italy automatically has the option of Italian citizenship when they turn 18 years of age.
For other areas of collaboration, Italy arranged a large tour operator delegation under the aegis of ENIT, which has showcased Italy’s well-acknowledged tourism potential in a structured fashion. We think there is immense scope in that area as well.