National Higher Education System

Italian higher education is structured in a binary system, consisting of two main sectors:

- the university sector [including the classical 'Politecnicos']
- the non-university sector.

At present, the university sector is made up of 89 university institutions which are classified as State universities, 17 non-State universities (legally recognised by the State), 2 universities for international students and 12 various others.

The non-university sector includes higher schools of design, polytechnics for the arts, academies of fine arts, higher institutes for applied arts, music conservatories and recognised music institutes.

A growing range of programmes now select based on an entrance test: IMAT for medicine and SAT or a national discipline-specific test for other subjects.

There is a growing range of undergraduate programmes, taught through English, currently available in Italy, largely in Health Sciences, Business/Economics, Architecture, Engineering and Politics.


Fees are state-supported in Italy and, accordingly, tend to be low for EU students. Fees are usually quoted in ranges [eg €0- €3800], which are dependent on a family's disposable income.

Fees are significantly higher in private institutions.

Grants & Loans

All international students are entitled to the same student assistance services as Italian students, on basis of the same criteria as to financial means and/or merit. This applies to scholarships, student loans, housing assistance, refectory meal tickets and fee waivers. These services are managed by the DSU office (Diritto allo studio universitario). You should contact the office at the university where you plan to study to find out what services are available to you.

Application Process

There is no element of centralisation in the Italian system*: you have to apply directly to the university of your choice, enclosing a dossier of documents, the contents of which varies from university to university.

The admission requirements, processes and deadlines differ between institutions, though in most state-sector institutions, you are required to sit an entrance exam, which takes place in September. Some universities have two rounds of applications, one in Spring and another in July/August.

Note that there can be a long [and sometimes frustrating] paper trail in securing enrolment at Italian institutions, including 'Legalisation' or your qualifications by our authorities and 'Certificates of Equivalence' from the Italian consulate.