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Study In Italy: A Guide For International Students

Europe’s favorite (and only!) boot-shaped nation, Italy is a country of diverse beauty, culture, and history. From the Alps in the North to coastal beaches in the South and everything in between, choosing to study abroad in Italy will give you access to an incredible array of cultural, historic, and tourist heritage. Education in Italy is highly esteemed with a wide range of excellent academic institutions spread across the country where international students are warmly welcomed. Italy has played an important role in academia, fostering the reform of European higher education through the Bologna Process. Students pursuing an education in Italy will gain valuable knowledge in the classroom, and important cultural competency in one of Europe’s youngest republics.

Regions play a major role in Italy’s dynamism. The North, Center and Southern parts of the country are further divided into 20 smaller regions. Italian history significantly inspires contemporary Italian culture, as before Italy became a nation state in 1861 the peninsula was grouped into diverse kingdoms including the Papal States (later to become modern day Vatican City). Given the complexity of its regional history, Italian culture is highly diversified, and the different regions all have distinct academic and popular traditions, linguistic dialects and world-famous delectable cuisines.

All this regional diversity combines to make studying abroad in Italy an experience of a lifetime. No matter the city or town you choose to study in, in one fell swoop you’ll experience incredible food, vibrant culture, countless opportunities to immerse yourself in Italian arts, and the famous Mediterranean lifestyle. From the ancient history of Rome to the winding waterways of Venice, the idyllic beaches of Bari and the iconic fashions coming out of Milan and Florence, there is no shortage of Italian destinations that will give you the real Italian study abroad experience. There are innumerable benefits to studying abroad, and by participating in Italy’s 932 year old academic tradition as an international student, you’ll be taking advantage of them all! Use this guide to find out everything you need to know about Italy as a study abroad destination. From the specifics of the education system, the type of student visa you’ll need to acquire, the Italian language and more, read on and get ready to start living in il bel paese!


The Education System in Italy

Italian universities are among the oldest universities in the world. Unlike in North America or Northern Europe where discussion-based teaching is highly emphasized, the structure of the higher education system in Italy is more formal, and most teaching in Italy takes place in large lecture halls. Students are also expected to complete a considerable amount of self-study hours outside the classroom in order to prepare for examinations.

Higher education examinations are held after the teaching period and are mainly oral exams, meaning you’ll be tested through a one-on-one conversation with your professor. Furthermore, examinations take place over a significantly longer period of 4 to 6 weeks, and students can choose when to schedule their exams within the period. Each examination is offered on several dates, and students can choose when to take their exams. Students are also entitled to turn down a mark and re-take the examination if they are not satisfied with their initial result, which is graded on a 30-point scale. The academic year is made up of two semesters. The first semester starts in September/October and ends in January/February. The second semester starts in February and ends in July. The actual start and finish dates of semesters, degree programs and examination periods in Italy vary in every university, but each academic semester lasts for roughly 20 weeks, made up of a 14-week teaching period and a 6-week examination period.

Degree and Institution Types

Based on the Bologna Process, the education system in Italy was reformed in 1999 to create a cohesive system of education throughout Europe. Since then, Italy has implemented a 3-cycle system consisting of the following:

  • First Cycle: Bachelor’s degrees (3 years) and single-cycle degrees
  • Second Cycle: Master’s degrees (2 years) and 1st level vocational masters
  • Third Cycle: Doctorate (5-6 years) specialization school and 2nd Level vocational masters.

In terms of types of institutions, there are two broad institutional categories that make up the higher education sector in Italy: the university institutions and non-university institutions which include Higher Education in the Arts and Music (Alta formazioneArtistica e Musicale or AFAM).


The university sector is made up of 89 university institutions (as well as polytechnic institutions) classified within the following categories:

  • 58 state universities – public entities endowed with scientific, teaching, managerial, financial and book-keeping autonomy
  • 17 non-state universities – legally recognized by the state
  • 2 universities for foreigners – specialized in teaching/ research for development of Italian language, literature, culture
  • 6 higher education schools – specialized in postgraduate university studies
  • 6 distance-learning universities
  • 4 polytechnical schools (Politecnico)

  • AFAM institutions, including State Academies of Fine Arts, Legally recognised Academies of Fine Arts, Higher Schools of Design, State Music Conservatories, Higher Institutes for Musical Studies, National Dance Academy, National Academy of Drama.
  • Higher integrated education (FIS): programs of higher technical education & training (IFTS)
  • Higher education in language mediation: education institutions for language mediators
  • Specific fields (e.g. archiving, military studies, restoration)

Popular Countries

There are some popular countries to study abroad that most of the people select. Such popular countries are

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