1. Higher education in Italy

1.1 Italian higher education system

The Italian higher education system is divided into the university and non-university sector.

The university sector is made up of 89 university institutions including 58 State universities, 17 non-State universities (legally recognised by the State) and six higher schools specialised in postgraduate university studies.

The non-university sector includes four education typologies with their institutions: higher schools of design (e.g. academies of fine arts and music), higher education in language mediation, higher integrated education (FIS) (programmes of higher technical education and training (IFTS)) and a few specific fields (e.g. archiving, restoration, military studies, etc.) which, along with their respective institutions, fall under the regulation of ministries other than that of Education.

In addition, Italy boasts about 77 private institutions.

The academic year in Italy is made up of two semesters - starting in September/October and ending in July. The actual start and finish dates will differ across the universities, however, each semester lasts around 20 weeks and consists of 14 weeks teaching period and a 6 week exam period.

1.2 Entry requirements for Italian universities

Every institution has its own set of regulations, however the minimum requirements to enter a bachelors programme in Italy six GCE passes of which three must be at A’ level. In addition, some competitive courses might require additional qualifications and private universities such as Universita Bocconi often have their own entrance tests or use the American SATs.

For competitive subjects in Italy, there may be a requirement to sit an entrance exam locally. This may take place only a few weeks before the commencement of the degree so it might be difficult to arrange accommodation in advance. For some bachelors degrees, the entrance exam might be in Italian even if the course itself is entirely in English. It is not unheard of for universities to translate the questions and answers into English during the exam. In this case, the questions will be multiple choice.

For public universities offering medicine, there is a standard entrance exam that can be taken in the UK or in Italy in the English language. University places are awarded entirely on the basis of performance in this exam. Currently, this is the IMAT exam and it takes place every year in September, only a few weeks before the start of the academic year.

1.3 Application process for Italian universities

With the exception of medicine and dentistry at public universities you have to apply individually to the institution of your choice. This can be done mostly online.

Application deadlines at most Italian universities are between May and June. Letter of Acceptation will be sent out around August. This letter will also include the dates if you need to take any exams for additional qualifications.

1.4 Accreditation and Recognition

The content of courses is autonomously determined by universities; however, when establishing a degree course, individual institutions have to adopt educational objectives and learning outcomes that are fixed at national level by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR).

The Italian Qualifications Framework is modelled on the European Higher Education Area qualifications framework and aims to facilitate the comparison between Italian and foreign qualifications. Degrees belonging to the same class, as set out in the Italian Qualifications Framework, have the same legal validity.

The minimum number of credits that institutions, in their teaching regulations, should assign to learning activities and areas of study is established at central level. Universities issue their own regulations that are approved by the Ministry of Education.

Always ensure if you choose a private university that it is recognised by a decree of the Minister of Education. Legal recognition takes place after an evaluation process considering the university’s statutes, its organisation model, budget, etc. The degrees awarded by private universities legally recognised by the State have the same legal value as those of State universities.

Private universities have to comply with the same general principles and criteria as defined by the national university legislation for State institutions. The differences between State and private universities concern funding and governance. Some private institutions, typically design and fashion schools, do not offer accredited Bachelor's degrees and they have their own diplomas instead. This is not always a cause for concern but it is worth being very careful when investigating such options.

In the Italian system "Politecnico" (technical universities) concentrate exclusively in the subject fields of the two Faculties of Engineering and Architecture. These are not equivalent to the former UK polytechnics and are probably closer to Universities/Institutes of Technology found in other countries. They adopt the same institutional model as that of State universities and their qualifications are accredited in exactly the same way.

2. How much does it cost to study in Italy?

2.1 Tuition fees for Italian universities

Public universities are allowed to set their own fees. That’s why annual tuition fee charges can vary between €1000 and €4000.  Fees at Italian universities are means-tested so the amount you pay may be linked to your family’s income.

Tuition fees at public universities consist of two components. A basic fee must be paid by all students at the moment of enrollment. The actual fee payable may rise to a maximum of €3,900 (£2,800) but how much you have to pay will be determined by an assessment of your family's income and assets.

All EU students are entitled to have their financial circumstances taken into consideration if they submit a declaration before the deadline. This declaration is known as the ISEE (Indicator of the economic situation). After assessment students will be told what they actually have to pay. If you do not submit the required documentation you will be charged the maximum amount.

The ISEE is calculated on the basis of family status, earnings, property and expenses and you will need to provide information and documents about your family’s annual income and assets.

You will need a statement of how many family members are living in the same house, each member’s annual income and property ownership (converted in euros). If you live independently from your family (your residency must be separate) and you earn your own income, you should declare an ISEE solely on the basis of your own income and property holdings.

All the documents must be translated into Italian by a recognised translator and legalised by the Italian Embassy or Consulate in the UK. As an alternative, you can have them translated by the UK’s Embassy or Consulate in Italy and legalised by the Italian ‘Prefettura’ ie local government office.

Once you have these documents you can apply for the Codice fiscale (fiscal or tax code) either at the Italian Embassy in the UK or, once you are in Italy, at the Agenzia della Entrate.

When you arrive in Italy you can then arrange an appointment to submit your documents at one of the following places that issue the ISEE certification:

  • any CAF/CAAF (Authorised Fiscal Assistance Centre)
  • the Municipality (Comune) of residence
  • the INPS (Italian welfare Institute)

Tuition fees at private universities can vary dramatically but may be as high as €15,000 per year. These fees are also subject to means-testing and can be reduced according to your financial circumstances.

2.2 Loans and grants

UK students are eligible for the same student finance support as Italian students based on their financial situation but this usually only applies to the means-testing outlined above. There is no readily available student loan that British students could access. If you contact the DSU Office (Diritto allo studio universitario) at your university you might find there are some limited benefits available in the form of housing assistance, refectory meal tickets and fee waivers.

2.3 Costs of living in Italy

Below is a list of possible future monthly expenses you may have if you were to study in a city such as Milan:

(Costs vary depending on the area, the kind of room and any programme benefits you may have access to)
€350 - €650
Food €150 - €200
Study costs €40
Social life €40
Travel costs €20
Mobile phones €20 - €30
Total €1,020 (£880)

Source: Politecnico di Milano

3. Student life in Italy

3.1 How do I get a visa to study in Italy?

As Italy is part of the EU, you do not need a visa, if you have an EU/EEA passport. However, you need to register with the local police station (Questura) to obtain a residence permit (carta di soggiorno). British nationals now need to obtain a student visa.

3.2 Can I work as a student in Italy?

After registering and obtaining your residence permit, you can work in Italy if you have an EU passport. British nationals will be bound by the terms of their visa but it does allowed limited work while studying.

3.3 Student accommodation in Italy

Very few Italian universities own and operate their own halls of residence. You can usually rely on the housing office at the university to identify suitable private options for you.

Private universities are more likely to have accommodation. Universita Bocconi, for example, has six residences in Milan and Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore's Rome campus has accommodation for its medicine students.

3.4 Opening a Bank Account

You will need an Italian tax code (codice fiscale) to open a bank account. You can request one from the Revenues Agency (Agenzia delle Entrate). It is therefore not possible to open an account with an Italian bank before you have completed the other registration formalities at your university.

Universities in Italy

About A Star Future

A Star Future provides information and guidance to British students looking to pursue their undergraduate studies abroad.

Through our presentations in schools and our websites we aim to ensure that British-educated students are well informed about their choices.