There are 89 public universities in Italy and they currently educate around 32,000 international students. There are also around 77 private universities although 11 of these operate solely online. Italy is also home to the world’s oldest university, Universita di Bologna, founded in 1088.

Italian universities have been at the forefront of initiatives to increase mobility and access to higher education across Europe.

Master’s degrees at most universities are referred to as either “Laurea specialistica” or “Laurea magistrale”. A Laurea specialistica is a one-year programme in a particular field such as engineering or education that does not lead on to further study at PhD level and would perhaps more helpfully be described as a postgraduate certificate or diploma. A Laurea magistrale (LM or LMu) is equivalent to an MSc and is the usual stepping stone to study at an even higher level although is also a research qualification in its own right.

A PhD is known as a “Dottorato di Ricierca”. It is quite common for Italians to refer to anyone with a Bachelor’s degree as “Dottore” or “Dottoressa”. This does not necessarily mean that someone has studied to such an advanced level.

There are two main types of Italian higher education institution at postgraduate level: universities and AFAM institutions that specialise in teaching arts, music and design.

Within the category of universities it is possible to find public universities, private universities (often far older and bigger than elsewhere in Europe), technical universities (Politecnici – not to be confused with former British institutions with a similar name) and universities specifically for foreigners (Universita per Stranieri)

Accreditation and Recognition

The content of Master’s degree 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.

In the Italian system "Politecnici" (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.

Universities in Italy