Stefania Giannini

Stefania Giannini is an Italian politician and linguist, and the current Assistant Director-General for Education of UNESCO.

Stefania Giannini is an Italian politician and linguist. She is the Assistant Director-General for Education since May 2018, providing strategic vision and leadership for UNESCO’s Education Sector in coordinating and monitoring the implementation of the Education 2030 Agenda, encapsulated in Sustainable Development Goal 4.

Stefania has coordinated a number of relevant international projects in the field of higher education and research, contributing to the improvement of university cooperation between Europe and several other countries, from the United States to countries in Asia as well as the Middle East and North Africa region. 

With an academic background in the Humanities (PhD in Linguistics), Ms Giannini became Professor of Linguistics in 1992 and served as Rector of the University for Foreigners of Perugia (2004 – 2012), being one of the first female Rectors and the youngest at that time in Italy.

Stefania has been a member of the Selection Committee of the Erasmus Mundus programme in Brussels (2005 – 2009), the person responsible for international relations in the Committee of The Conference of Italian University Rectors (2006 – 2010), and a member of the National Commission for the Promotion of Italian Culture Abroad at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2006 – 2011).
In her role as Senator of the Republic of Italy (2013 – 2018) and Minister of Education, Universities and Research (2014 – 2016), Stefania developed and implemented a structural reform of the Italian education system, centred on social inclusion and targeting cultural awareness.

During the Italian Presidency, Stefania also chaired the Education and Competitiveness Council of the European Union to promote the importance of creativity, cultural heritage and innovation as tools for dialogue between diverse populations, with a view to preventing radicalization and extremism.
In addition to her current position as UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Education, Stefania is the Advisor to the European Commissioner for Research and Innovation as well as a member of the Atlantis Group of the Varkey Foundation and of RISE (Research, Innovation and Science Policy Experts).


Stefania Giannini, born in Lucca, Italy, embarked on a distinguished career as an academic, politician, and advocate for education. She began her professional journey in 1991 when she became a professor at the University for Foreigners in Perugia. Over the years, she held various chairs in prestigious disciplines such as Phonetics and Phonology, Sociolinguistics, and Glottology and Linguistics until 2013. In recognition of her contributions to international cooperation programs, she received an honorary degree from the College Reges-Rede Gonzaga De Ensino Superior in Brazil in 2008.

In 2013, Giannini entered the political arena as a candidate in Tuscany with Mario Monti's party, Scelta civica, and was elected as a senator in February of that year. She later assumed the role of secretary and coordinator of the party, further solidifying her presence in the political landscape. Her dedication to public service led to her appointment as the Minister of Education, Universities, and Research in Italy on February 21, 2014, under Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's government. During her tenure, Giannini implemented a comprehensive reform of the Italian education system, focusing on promoting social inclusion and cultural awareness.

Giannini's influence extended beyond national boundaries. As Italy assumed the presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2014, she chaired the Education and Competitiveness Council of the European Union. Her commitment to education and research also led her to serve as an adviser to the European Commissioner for Research and Innovation, Carlos Moedas, starting from 2017. In recognition of her expertise and dedication, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay appointed Giannini as one of the four new members of the organization's senior management team in 2018.

Since her appointment, Giannini has been serving as the Assistant Director-General for Education at UNESCO, making her the highest-ranking United Nations official in the field of education. In this capacity, she has been instrumental in advancing global education initiatives and advocating for the importance of education in sustainable development. Giannini's expertise and contributions extend beyond her role at UNESCO, as she serves as a member of the Advisory Board for the Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM) and as a member of the Board of Directors for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).


Stefania has devoted her career to promoting education as a fundamental human right, through the importance of language, lifelong learning, culture, freedom of expression and identity, in an effort to ensure more inclusive and equal societies.

Stefania Giannini envisions a world where education is a transformative force, empowering individuals, communities, and societies to reach their full potential. Her vision is centered on the belief that education is a fundamental human right and a key driver of sustainable development. She strives for inclusive and equitable education systems that leave no one behind, regardless of their background, gender, or socioeconomic status.

Giannini's vision encompasses a holistic approach to education that goes beyond imparting knowledge and skills. She envisions education as a catalyst for social and cultural transformation, fostering understanding, tolerance, and respect among diverse populations. She advocates for education systems that nurture critical thinking, creativity, and innovation, preparing learners to thrive in the rapidly evolving global landscape. With a strong commitment to international cooperation and collaboration, Giannini seeks to build partnerships and mobilize resources to ensure access to quality education for all, paving the way for a more just, prosperous, and inclusive world.

Recognition and Awards
Stefania Giannini has achieved significant milestones throughout her career, making notable contributions in the fields of education, politics, and international cooperation. In 2008, she was honored with an honorary degree by the College Reges-Rede Gonzaga De Ensino Superior in Brazil, recognizing her exceptional efforts in the development of international cooperation programs. Additionally, she received the America Award from the Italy-United States of America Foundation in 2015, further highlighting her accomplishments and recognition on an international level. During her tenure as a Senator of the Republic of Italy from 2013 to 2018 and as the Minister of Education, Universities, and Research from 2014 to 2016, Giannini spearheaded a comprehensive structural reform of the Italian education system. Her reform efforts were focused on promoting social inclusion and cultural awareness, ensuring that education would serve as a catalyst for positive change in society. In her role as Minister, she played a key role in shaping policies and initiatives that aimed to create more equitable and inclusive education opportunities for all. Giannini's accomplishments extend beyond the national sphere. She has actively contributed in an advisory capacity to the European Commissioner for Research and Innovation, demonstrating her commitment to fostering collaboration and progress at the European level. With an academic background in the Humanities, she served as the Rector of the University for Foreigners of Perugia from 2004 to 2012, establishing herself as one of the first and youngest women to hold such a prestigious position in Italy. In recognition of her achievements and dedication, Giannini was awarded the America Award by the Italy-USA Foundation in 2015, further acknowledging her contributions to the fields of education and international cooperation. Her accomplishments reflect her commitment to advancing education, promoting social inclusion, and fostering international collaboration for the betterment of societies and individuals.

Stefania Giannini
Politician, Minister of Education, linguist, Professor, Rector
Known for
Education of UNESCO (Assistant Director-General), Minister of Education, Universities, and Research (Italy, 2014)
Honorary degree (College Reges-Rede Gonzaga De Ensino Superior, Brazil, 2008), America Award (Italy-USA Foundation, 2015)
PhD (Linguistics), University of Pavia, University of Pisa

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