Italy features on many a study abroad wish list and it's not hard to see why with its long-held reputation for educational excellence, prestigious institutions, historical locations and artistic culture
Studying in the country that's shaped like a boot is a smart idea. Not only will you have the opportunity to study at some of the oldest and most respected universities in Europe, you'll also get the chance to explore one of the Mediterranean's crown jewels.
Every year Italy welcomes an increasing number of international students thanks to its top-class teaching, reasonable tuition fees and accessible funding opportunities.
When you think of the country you probably think of coffee, pizza, gondolas and football but that's not all that's on offer. Opportunities to broaden your horizons are endless. You'll be able to take in architectural delights such as the Colosseum in Rome, the Sistine Chapel, the Trevi Fountain and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. You can sample Italy's famous cuisine, go hiking in the Italian Alps, soak up the sun on beautiful beaches or rub shoulders with the fashion pack in metropolitan cities like Milan, home to fashion houses such as Gucci, Prada, Armani and Dolce & Gabbana.
If all that isn't enough, as the majority of courses are taught in Italian you'll also pick up a second language, which is sure to impress on your CV.
Italy's higher education sector consists of two main areas:
There are currently 89 universities, which are divided into the following categories:
- 58 state universities;
- 17 non-state universities;
- two universities for foreigners;
- six universities specialising in postgraduate studies;
- six telematic universities.
In addition, three types of higher education institution exist in the non-university sector. These include:
- higher schools of design;
- schools of higher education in language mediation;
- schools of higher integrated education.
The University of Bologna is not only one of Italy's top rated universities and widely believed to be among the oldest institutions in the world, but is also the namesake of the Bologna Process, which standardises higher education qualifications throughout Europe.
Due to this reform degrees are structured as follows:
- First cycle/Laurea triennale - comparable to a Bachelor/undergraduate degree.
- Second cycle/Laurea magistrale - consisting of two years of study, these are equivalent to Masters degrees.
- Specialist Masters programmes/ Master Universitario di 1° livello (MU1) - usually involve one year of study and provide students with professional knowledge.
- Third cycle/ Dottorato di ricerca - PhD level three-year programmes.
Courses are available in a wide selection of subjects and are usually categorised into five main areas:
- social sciences;
A total of 28 Italian universities currently feature in the QS World University Rankings 2016/17. The top five include:
- Politecnico di Milano;
- University of Bologna;
- Sapienza University of Rome;
- Politecnico di Torino;
- Universitá di Padova.
The academic year in Italy is split into two semesters. The first starts in September/October and finishes in January/February and the second commences in February and ends in July.
For more information, visit Study in Italy.
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Students attending UK universities can take part in the European Union's (EU) education, training and youth support programme Erasmus+. The scheme offers study, training, work experience and voluntary placements to millions of young people, students and adults. Opportunities last from three months to one academic year.
Your university must have a formal agreement with a partner university in Italy. Check that your university is involved in the programme and offers the Erasmus+ scheme in your subject.
Speak to the Erasmus+ coordinator at your university about available opportunities.
Degree courses in Italy
Bachelors degrees, otherwise known in Italy as Laurea triennale, usually take three years to complete when studied full time. A broad range of subjects are available, although the majority of courses are taught in Italian. International students hoping to gain a place on an undergraduate programme will more than likely need to prove their proficiency in the language before being accepted onto a course.
Aside from competence in Italian you will also need a valid school leaving certificate (or equivalent) for admission onto first-cycle programmes.
To search for Bachelors courses see Study in Italy - Degrees.
Italian Masters (Laurea magistrale) take two years to complete and are divided into four semesters. You'll be taught through a series of lectures, tutorials and group work, which will culminate in the submission of a dissertation at the end of semester four.
Second-cycle postgraduate programmes can be studied in a variety of subjects and a number of Italian universities now provide Masters courses taught entirely in English. To find out if your chosen subject is one of them check with your institution's international office before committing to a course.
Specialist one-year Masters are also available. These focus more on practical education and are more common in professional subjects such as law, engineering or education.
To be accepted onto a Masters course you will need to hold a good undergraduate degree; for some programmes this will need to be in a relevant subject.
Find a Masters degree in Italy by visiting Study in Italy - Degrees.
Third-cycle research Doctorate degrees (Dottorato di ricerca), also known as PhDs, can be studied at all Italian universities and typically take three to four years to complete. During this time you will work on an individual research project and produce a thesis based on original research. To achieve a PhD your thesis will need to be of a publishable standard and you'll need to defend it in front of a panel of industry experts.
To be admitted onto a third-cycle programme you'll need a relevant Masters qualification. If your course is taught in Italian you will also need to prove your proficiency in the language.
Fees to study in Italy will differ depending on the university and the course that you choose, so it's important to check with institutions individually to find out about costs.
On average, undergraduate courses at public institutions cost between €850 and €1,000 per year. Fees for programmes at postgraduate level are slightly higher at €1,500 per year. Tuition fees at private universities will be considerably more.
Students from the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA) shouldn't have to pay more for courses than Italian citizens, but for international students (those from outside the EU or EEA) costs may be higher.
Funding to study in Italy
The same rules apply to international students as native Italian students when it comes to scholarships and grants. All students can apply for them, and they are distributed depending on financial situation and academic merit. This applies to scholarships, student loans, housing assistance, meal tickets and fee waivers.
There are different types of funding you can apply for and the international office at your chosen university can help you decide your options.
To find out more about funding in Italy, visit Study in Italy - Scholarships and Financial Aid.
Universities in Italy don't normally have halls of residence but do offer accommodation finding services so check with your individual institution. You'll also need to keep in mind that Italy is one of the more expensive EU countries. Living expenses in the north will be considerably higher than those in the south.
How to apply
University application procedures in the country depend on your level of study and whether you are an EU or non-EU student. Information on application procedures and the necessary documentation can usually be found online through your chosen institution.
Depending on where and what you study you may also need to sit an entrance exam.
In general to apply for courses at undergraduate and postgraduate level you will need to contact your university to check eligibility requirements and submit a pre-application request form to the Italian embassy or consulate in your country, along with the relevant documents, which include:
- a completed application form;
- a completed pre-enrolment form;
- a copy of your school leaving certificate (undergraduate) or a copy of your undergraduate certificate (postgraduate);
- academic transcripts;
- two passport photographs;
- proof of Italian proficiency;
- additional documentation that supports your application.
All documents must be translated into Italian. EU students will then receive a Letter of Academic Eligibility and Suitability (Dichiarazione di Valore in Loco/ DV) from their local Italian embassy, which acknowledges your foreign qualifications prior to applying to universities in Italy. The embassy will then send your documents to your chosen institution, who will then either accept or reject your application.
For non-EU students the embassy will determine whether your application meets the criteria for a visa to study in Italy.
An increasing number of postgraduate courses are being taught in English, although most at undergraduate level are taught in Italian.
For all programmes taught in Italian international students will have to prove their proficiency in the language at the application stage. This usually involves sitting an exam although in some circumstances requirements may be met by submitting documentary evidence of competence in Italian.
Even if your degree is taught in English it is still a good idea to have a basic knowledge of Italian as this can help you to settle into your new surroundings and make friends. You can improve your language skills by undertaking a course in your home country or by contacting your chosen institution's international office to enquire about Italian language courses once you arrive.
EU citizens are permitted to live in any EU country while studying as long as they:
- are studying for more than three months;
- are enrolled at an approved university/ other educational institution;
- have sufficient income (from any source) to live without needing income support;
- have comprehensive health insurance cover.
As such EU students do not need a visa to study in Italy.
International or non-EU students will need to apply for an Italian study visa at their local Italian embassy or consulate. To obtain a visa you may be asked to submit:
- a valid visa application form;
- a valid passport;
- recent passport photographs;
- proof of accommodation in Italy for the duration of your studies;
- evidence of sufficient funds;
- valid health insurance details;
- acceptance letter from an Italian institution.
Non-EU students need to apply for a stay or residence permit within eight days of arrival. This can be done at your local police station. EU nationals who want to study in the country for longer than three months need to apply for residency at their local town hall or police station.
Comparison to UK qualifications
Thanks to the Bologna Process, Italian courses and higher education qualifications are directly comparable to those studied and gained in the UK.
It's always best to check before applying for jobs but degrees gained in Italy should be recognised by UK employers.
Find out more
- Discover what it's like to work in Italy.