Juris Doctor, University Sassari, 1955. Juris Doctor (honorary), University Toronto.
He is a cousin of communist leader Enrico Berlinguer, who died in 1984. He obtained a law degree from the University of Sassari in 1955. Berlinguer served as mayor of Sennori.
He was the president of the University of Siena until April 1993 when he was appointed to the Ciampi Cabinet as Minister of Universities, Science and Technology. He was one of the three ex-communists in the cabinet. Then he served as the Minister of Education between 1996 and 2000 in the cabinets led first by Romano Prodi and then by Massimo D'Alema.
He was also acting Minister of Universities, Science and Technology from 1996 to October 1998. He was succeeded by Oreste Zecchino as minister. In addition, he served in both the Chamber of Deputies and the Italian Senate.
He is a member of the Democratic Party. He was elected as a member of the European Parliament in 2009, sitting as part of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats. In the parliament he served as first vice-chair of the committee on legal affairs and as a member of the committee on culture and education beginning in 2009.
Married Marcella Baitone. 2 children.