Discuss as:

Italian university to switch to English-only classes

One of Italy’s leading universities will switch to teaching in the English language, saying the institution was left with “no other choice” in order to compete worldwide.

Politecnico di Milano announced it will offer most of its degree courses only in English as of 2014, the BBC reported. The decision has sparked protest among some professors, with one likening the move to a "dictatorship," according to the University World News.

Politecnico di Milano, known for its architecture, engineering and science programs, has about 36,000 students.


"Universities are in a more competitive world, if you want to stay with the other global universities -- you have no other choice," the BBC quoted the university's rector, Giovanni Azzone, as saying. "We strongly believe our classes should be international classes -- and the only way to have international classes is to use the English language."

Nic Mitchell, a public relations consultant focused on higher education, told the BBC that more than 4,500 university courses are being taught in English in continental Europe.

At least 285 professors signed a petition this week protesting the Politecnico di Milano decision, arguing the imposition of English as unconstitutional.

“The point is that English is being imposed on students as a kind of linguistic dictatorship ... and what we might call ‘low-definition’ English (the English of conferences and so on) is also being confused with the ‘high-definition’ language of teaching," Politecnico Professor Emilio Matricciani said, according to the University World News.

He added: "Speaking Italian to our countrymen is like watching a movie in color, high definition, very clear pictures. On the contrary, speaking English to them, even with our best effort, is, on the average, like watching a movie in black and white, with very poor definition, with blurred pictures."

Word spread fast on social network sites, with people commenting in English and in Italian.

“Beginning of the end for Italian. The Politecnico di Milano will teach only in English. Non scholae sed vitae discimus,” Dan McDougall posted on his Twitter account.

Alex Morrison wrote: “Politecnico di Milano to teach all classes in English - what a great place to study - sign me up for a PhD now!”

More content from msnbc.com and NBC News:

Follow US News on msnbc.com on Twitter and Facebook