Italy is a popular destination for international students, offering quality higher education, highly-ranked universities and more affordable tuition fees than many other Western European countries. For these reasons, many internationals choose to study abroad in Italy.
There are around 32,000 international students in Italy, including independent students and those on exchange programmes. Italy was one of the 4 countries to first implement the Bologna Process, a higher education reform that’s now being implemented throughout Europe. The country has a rich history and tradition of higher education and great intellectuals, which makes Italy a very attractive option for international students.
Some of the first universities in Europe were founded in Italy during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. For example, the University of Bologna, founded in 1088, is recognised as the oldest university in continuous operation. Today, Italy is the home of many prestigious universities and other institutions of higher education. Many of Italy’s universities perform well in the QS World University Rankings, such as the Università di Bologna (194), The Sapienza University of Rome (216), Politecnico di Milano (244), Università di Roma in Rome, Università degli Studi di Milano, Università degli Studi di Padova in Padua, Università degli Studi di Firenze in Florence, and the Università di Pisa in Pisa.
Italy has played an important role in recent reform of higher education known as “Bologna Process”, as one of the four countries that created the European Area of Higher Education, formed by signing the Sorbonne Declaration in 1998, which was to be the first step in the higher education reform. Today the Bologna Process is now being implemented throughout Europe.
Italy has 89 universities, which are divided into several categories:
State universities: These are state funded public universities which comprises of most of the universities in Italy, particularly the larger universities.
Other publicly funded universities: Funded by Province rather than state.
Private universities: Non state funded.
Superior Graduate Schools (Scuola Superiore Universitaria): These are independent institutions that offer advanced training and research courses specialising in postgraduate studies.
There are also certain non-university institutions of higher education, such as higher schools of design, schools of higher education in language meditation and schools of higher integrated education.
Italy has several levels of higher education. Completing undergraduate studies (bachelor’s degree – ‘laurea’) can lead to master’s studies and earning a master’s degree (‘laurea magistrale’). Undergraduate studies typically take 3 years to complete and master’s studies take 1 year. Following the completion of your masters studies you can continue with a PhD which usually lasts 3 academic years.
Most of the courses and programmes offered are taught in the Italian language but the number of English language programmes available is growing. This is particularly true for graduate level courses. Therefore, it may be possible to find courses and programmes taught in English if you wish to study in Italy but your Italian language skills are not good enough.
Italy is a beautiful country located in Southwestern Europe, on the Apennine peninsula. The country comprises of the mainland Italy and the surrounding islands. The country stretches southwards almost to the coasts of North Africa.
Italy is a country full of contrasts: stunning old cities, the Mediterranean and breathtaking natural views, passionate people and simple but delightful food. At the same time, it is among the 8 most industrialised countries in the world, hosting many of the world’s biggest companies and research facilities. Italy has a rich cultural tradition and history as well as many World Heritage Sites that you might wish to visit during your stay, but it is the prestigious universities that make Italy an attractive destination for all international students.
The top tourist attractions in Italy include:
The Colosseum: the largest and most famous amphitheater in the Roman world, built in the first century AD.
Canals of Venice: “The City of Water”, as Venice is called, has over 150 canals. The main tourist attractions are romantic gondolas and Italian architecture along the Grand Canal. If you plan on visiting Venice, don’t forget about St Mark’s Basilica, located on Piazza San Marco.
Pompeii: a town that was covered in ash and soil in 79 AD, when the volcano Vesuvius erupted, preserving the city under ashes.
Leaning Tower of Pisa: its construction started in 1173 and soon after the tower began to sink due to a poorly laid foundation.
Lake Como: the lake is shaped like an inverted ‘Y’ and it’s famous for the attractive villas which have been built here since Roman times.
Santa Maria del Fiore: a famous basilica in Florence; the construction began in 1296 and completed in 1436.
Piazza del Campo: located in the historic center of Siena, Tuscany, this is one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares.
Towers of San Gimignano: 14 medieval stone towers in Tuscany.
Manarola (Cinque Terre): one of the oldest towns in Cinque Terre, the “Five Lands” comprising of five villages noted for their beauty.
Tuition fees at Italian universities vary, but they are generally much lower than in other parts of Western Europe or North America, making Italian universities an enticing proposition for foreign students. Those who wish to study in Italy have a chance to receive a quality higher education at an affordable cost.
The cost of tuition fees depend upon several factors. The most important is whether the university in question is a state or a private institution. State universities have much lower tuition fees. Tuition fees also depend on your country of origin; they are more affordable for EU students, but even non-EU students may find them more affordable than fees in other Western European or North American universities. Also, fees will depend on your chosen programme and level of study. For example, you can expect to pay around £680-£800 per year (€850 – €1,000) for undergraduate tuition fees.
Also bear in mind that state universities in Italy have a means-tested element to their tuition fees. This means the fees are weighted depending on a student’s parental income.
The next thing you need to consider is accommodation. Most Italian universities don’t have halls of residence, however they often provide accommodation services to help students to find appropriate rental apartments or shared rooms in the private rental market. These options usually come at a lower cost if you use the university services to find your accommodation.
There are various types of financial assistance you may be eligible to receive while studying in Italy. There are some scholarships available and international students are eligible to apply for student loans and grants. However, keep in mind that financial assistance is often merit-based or means-tested so it may not be available to all students. Check the websites of your chosen universities to learn about the scholarships and grants that might be available to you.
Another option you may wish to consider to help with your finances is to seek employment whilst you study. EU students can work in Italy without additional permission, while for non-EU students employment rights are regulated through your study visa status. To increase your chances of finding employment you will find it useful to have good Italian language skills.
The entry and visa regulations you need to complete to study in Italy will depend on several factors; first of which is your nationality.
When it comes to your citizenship and visa requirements to study abroad in Italy:
If you are from EU: You don’t need a visa to study in Italy.
If you are from a non-EU country: You will probably need a student visa to study in Italy. For more details, contact the Italian embassy or consulate in your country and your desired university to inform yourself about the details on how to obtain your student visa.
Please note that visa requirements are not the only thing you need to think about. Anyone who wishes to study abroad in Italy, even if they are from the EU, need to have a residence permit. EU students have to apply for a residence permit within 3 months of arrival. For students outside EU, the conditions of your stay will be handled through your student visa.
Some other factors that may come into play are your level of study and the duration of your courses and programme.
All students will need to present details of accommodation, proof of financial stability and a comprehensive health insurance policy. For these reasons, it’s highly advisable to seek accommodation as soon as you’re accepted by an Italian university.
Another thing to keep in mind is your language proficiency. You need a high competency in Italian if your course and programmes are taught and delivered in Italian. You may need to complete a language test or show evidence of language proficiency.
In order to fully appreciate life and study in Italy, you should be able to speak the Italian language. This will help you to get by in day to day situations and may also be important for your studies. Many programmes at Italian universities are taught in English, particularly business related courses, but most of the available courses are taught in Italian.
You may need to pass a proof of language proficiency test before you can start your studies or are able to enrol. If your Italian is not great, there are many language courses offered to international students so you can improve your language skills whilst you study, or before you arrive in Italy.
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