John McCourt becomes first foreign rector of an Italian university

McCourt makes history as first non-Italian rector.

Irish academic John McCourt will begin his six-year term as the rector of the University of Macerata on 1 November, becoming the first non-Italian rector of an Italian university.

Dublin-born McCourt will become the university’s rector, or “Magnifico Rettore”, on Tuesday however due to the public holiday for All Saints’ Day the commencement ceremony will take place on Wednesday.

A professor of English literature and noted expert on Irish literature, McCourt is long associated with the north Italian city of Trieste and is a well-known figure within Italy’s Irish community.

He is the author of numerous books on James Joyce and is president of the International James Joyce Foundation.

The University of Macerata, the world’s ninth oldest university, was founded in 1290 and is located in Italy’s cental Marche region. With a student population of more than 10,000, the university focusses on the humanities and the social sciences.

Michael Murphy, president of the European University Alliance, congratulated McCourt on breaking another “glass ceiling” in Italy, saying: “Universities are transnational institutions that must attract the best global leadership talent to succeed and this is an important sign that Macerata is moving in the right direction”.

McCourt intends to strengthen the university’s focus on the humanities, which continue to play a vital role, in his view, in informing and enriching the work of the sciences, and in shaping how to deal with contemporary challenges, such as climate change and the digital transformation.