L. Da Re

University of Padua (ITALY)
Over the last few years, the education and training systems in Italian universities have undergone strong changes to adapt to European standards and to improve the educational and training quality by personalization of the courses (Isfol, 2003).
Of essential importance is the role of the tutor, as system mediator, a communication facilitator and moderator of the work group atmosphere. Especially in the academic world, tutors are of increasing importance and Italian universities accompany and support their actions, in favour of the students and in order to prevent and combat the dispersion phenomenon.

These actions are carried out also for disabled students who enrol in university. The number of disabled students registered at Italian universities over the last 20 years has grown: from academic year 2000-2001 to 2007-2008 the number of disabled students increased from 4,813 to 12,403 registered (Miur-Cineca, 2008).

If in the 70’s academic education was a privilege for the lucky few, the social, political and economic evolution of the 80’s produced also a new generation who felt the right and duty to study. Italian law 17 of 1999 (law 17, 28/01/1999) is an important result as it formally allows disabled students the benefit of the special tutorial supports who promote the realization of autonomy and integration strategies.

The term Specialized Tutorial Services includes all activities and services that aim to integrate the disabled student in the university life, and that create the necessary conditions and situations needed to offer disabled students the same study opportunities and treatments. This study services are set up in several Italian universities. The so-called Peer Tutor is a student who is enrolled in the same university course as the disabled students. Peer Tutors offer their time and expertise in exchange for a fee and a formative experience. The contribution we are presenting analyses Peer Tutoring in favour of the registered disabled students at Italian universities, and is part of a two-years research (still in progress) funded by the University of Padua (STPD08HANE_005) in support of student learning difficulties.

The main research goals are: 1) accumulating knowledge and studying of the phenomenon and specified literature analysis, 2) description and mapping of peer tutoring services offered to disabled students registered at the eleven Italian "Mega" universities (Censis, 2011), 3) the comparison of the main activities and duties of the Peer Tutors in the eleven examined universities.

The study has been realized through an analysis and comparison of the data collected through the eleven Italian universities' web sites, and by setting up of comparison grids for the Peer Tutor activities. The Peer Tutor role as disability support will be used to describe the strategies and activities planned and carried out in Italian universities. Also, we will present the significant experiences of peer tutoring support for the disabled at the University of Padua.