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Starting from the analysis of a certain number of traits specific to the Italian situation regarding the politics of excellence in higher education and the elements that influence it, the article aims to propose a number of items for a reflection of more general interest: on one hand, a reflection on “excellence for everyone,” advocated notably by the NEHE; and on the other hand and in a broader sense, a reflection on the conception of higher education itself and on the role of the University in today’s difficult world. I do this by referring also to the legacy of ideas and institutions that history transmits us – first, to the Humboldtian conception, at once myth and inspirational force – a legacy that ought to be examined clearly, without idealization nor a priori disapproval, in a constructive vision.
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