Studying a Masters in Italy, is an experience that will stay with you for the rest of your education and career. It’s not just the living experience, beautiful food, great fashion, historic buildings and good weather, that students benefit from. Anyone can experience these by going on holiday to Italy (and you should when you have a break during your studies!). The high-quality education is what attracts international students to study in Italy, in addition to an affordable tuition fee regime.
What's more, a Masters degree in Italy means studying in one of the most prestigious traditions of higher education in the world. Universities in Italy have existed for centuries and, in fact, the oldest university in the Western world is the University of Bologna which was founded in 1088. It's this venerable institution that has given its name to the 'Bologna Process - a means through which higher education systems across Europe have come together to develop a common framework for university education. In this way, Italy embodies some of the proudest traditions in European higher education and the driving force behind modern developments in the quality and value of European university degrees.
Being perfectly vetted to the European higher education system, Italy introduced the three-cycle structure in 1999: first cycle (“Laurea”: three years), second cycle (“Laurea specialistica” or “Laurea magistrale”: two years) and the third cycle as Research Doctorate (“Dottorato di Ricierca”). This system, called “the Bologna process”, aims to create a common higher education area in Europe allowing for an easier credit transfer (called ECTS) and qualification recognition framework within Europe and beyond.
University-sector institutions where you can do a Masters degree in Italy belong to different categories. Please note that other “non-university” institutions also offer postgraduate study (for example, design or art schools/colleges).
Most universities in Italy are public universities, all undertaking research activity, which informs undergraduate and Masters curricula. There are around 90 universities, ranging from very large institutions hosting around 100,000 students to much smaller specialist institutions of a few thousand students. Public universities are all autonomous and decide their own priorities and administration.
There are a few private universities in Italy. If you decide to choose a private university, make sure it is recognised by the Italian Ministry of Education. State-recognised private universities offer the same standard of education and their qualifications carry the same recognition as those from the public universities. The main difference is in the way these institutions are funded and as a consequence, the tuition fees they charge (which tend to be higher – see the Tuition fee section below).
These universities are oriented towards study by foreign students of Italian Language and Culture. There are two of these universities (the oldest in Perugia, founded in 1921, and the other in Siena). Their other responsibility is to administer the two Italian language tests (CILT and CELI).
These institutions have a unique legal status which allows them to specialise solely in postgraduate university studies.
Technical universities are very similar to State universities but they focus exclusively in two fields: Engineering and Architecture.
Called “telematic”, these universities deliver state-accredited courses by e-learning.
The Italian higher education system benefits from very strong engagement with European institutions and partners in the rest of Europe which means that Italian universities have numerous exchange and double degree agreements with other universities in Europe. A Masters from Italy can open the door to other high-quality European institutions.
Italian Masters takes two years and is awarded after obtaining 120 ECTS, made up of ECTS for core courses, electives, seminars and the dissertation which alone represents 30 ECTS. Masters degrees are split into four semesters with a summer holiday between year one and year two.
The majority of your Masters will be based on lectures, tutorial, group work and coursework (if you are in the sciences or engineering, then it is likely you will have practical sessions too). The aim is to give enhanced knowledge of your subject as well as technical, interpersonal, and research skills.
Semester four will be dedicated to your dissertation which can be theory-based, through a placement or by doing a research project at your university or elsewhere.
The academic year in Italy starts from the end of September or beginning of October until July. Generally, a semester system is followed by universities; semester one starts in September/October and ends in January/February. The second semester starts in February and ends in July.
Teaching in Italy is normally carried out in Italian (there are Italian language courses for international students). Some programmes are delivered in English and it is often possible for international students to use English or other languages for their thesis by prior arrangement.
Italian Universities offering courses taught in English:
|University of Bologna||University of Florence||University of Genoa|
|Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi - Milan||University of Venice "Ca' Foscari"||University of Napes "Federico II"|
|University of Rome "La Sapienza"||LUISS Guido Carli - Rome||University of Palermo|
|University of Pavia||Polytechnic of Turin||University of Milan|
|University of Verona||University of Salento|
Within the Bologna three-cycle framework, a bachelor (or an international equivalent) is required to undertake a Masters degree.
Note: The Italian Master's Degree should not be confused with Italian "Masters" (Magistrale specialistica) that are one-year specialist courses which offer a more practical education, notably in professional areas such as law, engineering, education or architecture) but do not give access to further levels of studies (they can be considered similar to Postgraduate diplomas).
You may also have to sit a competitive or entrance exam to gain admission into university in Italy. Candidates are ranked on the basis of their exam performance. If you are applying for an international program (the Italian equivalent to being delivered in English) or an Erasmus Mundus joint-Masters programme, there may be no entrance examination. If you are applying for Masters degrees in the area of economics, management, finance, business studies, you are likely to be asked for a GMAT or GRE, notably if the program you are applying to is in English.
More often than not, if you want to do a Masters in Italy (unless the program is in English of course), you will have to demonstrate a good command of Italian (not the least if you have to sit the entrance examination which is in Italian). Universities will ask for an Italian proficiency certificate.
It is advisable to start your search for a Masters programme in Italy at least 12 months before your proposed start date. The documentation required generally includes:
Evidence of previous qualifications (diplomas and transcripts) will need to be submitted with an Italian translation, although some universities accept documents in English and French. Additionally, you may have to submit these documents after converting the marks or grades obtained in your home country in accordance with the grading system that is followed in Italy. NARIC can help with degree and grade equivalences.
If you are applying for a Masters program delivered in Italian at a public university (and therefore required to sit the national entrance examination), you will have to go through a number of administrative steps which may look something like this:
If you are from the European Union, then you can stay in Italy without any restrictions and without the need to get a student visa. You will, however, need to hold a valid identity card or passport and to register your residency with your local police station or town hall once you have an address in Italy.
If you are from outside the EU, you will need to apply for a student visa. This can be done at an Italian embassy or consulate in your home country. Considering the length of time needed to obtain your visa (a minimum of three months), you are advised to apply as soon as you have received and accepted your offer of admission which is required for your visa application. Below is the procedure for a Student Visa (extracted from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website).
Student visas are free of charge, although renewals (if needed), cost €60 ($75). You will need:
If you are in receipt of a bursary, scholarship or grant from any organisation, the procedure is a little different (you must select the correct Study Visa option) and you will need:
What you get is not just an Italian visa but a Schengen visa which allows holders to move freely (i.e. without having to apply for another visa) within the Schengen area. Note that the UK and Ireland are NOT members of the Schengen agreement.
A student visa (as long as it is over one year in duration) allows family members to apply for a visa (each will have to apply for a family visa from the home country). The procedure is simpler but there is a €60 ($75)fee.
Once in Italy, holders of study visas (and family members, if applicable) MUST register with the local authorities (at a police station or town hall) to obtain a residence permit (Permesso di soggiorno).
Many of the universities and other higher education institutions in Italy establish their own fee structure and fee levels vary from university to university. However, there is a legal minimum fee for enrolment and maximum level for student contributions to costs and services, which cannot exceed 20% of state funding.
Tuition fees (tasse) are around €2,000-3,000 per year ($2,522-3,782). International programmes can carry higher fees around €5,000 ($6,304) per year. Private universities will be much more expensive than the government-funded universities (and may charge fees of around €12,000 / $15,130) per year).
You may also have to pay an application fee and if you are taking the national entrance examination, there will be an additional fee (around €50-100 / $63-126).
Your university may have what is called a “Diritto Allo Studio Universitario” or, students’ office, which manages all student academic services as well as extracurricular activities, sports, transport, and other matters. Note that there will be a fee to have access to sports or other facilities.
Student assistance in terms of scholarships, student loans, housing assistance, university restaurant meal tickets, and fee waivers are provided to both international and Italian students. Financial assistance is means-tested and you will have to provide bank statements (your own and/or your parents’/spouse’s) or tax returns to demonstrate your financial needs.
Loans are available for students, although various rules and conditions apply and financial assistance is granted subject to an evaluation by the credit institution. Remember it is a loan so you’ll have to pay it back. Each banking institution will have different terms and conditions so be sure you have read all the small print. The following banks provide student loans (this list in non-exhaustive):
Our own postgraduate funding website provides a comprehensive database of small grants and bursaries available to support postgraduate study around the world, including travel bursaries, living cost support, fee waivers and exchange programmes. Click here to start searching for funding to study a Masters in Italy, or elsewhere.
Employability has always been high on the Italian Government’s agenda and higher education institutions are expected to prepare their graduates for the job market. Universities in Italy generally have good relationships with employers, especially as placements are almost always a requirement of Masters study.
Italy is also home to world renowned arts institutions, multi-nationals and well-known research institutes and companies (notably in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry). Unemployment rates in Italy have risen considerably over the last two years (a combined result of the economic downturn and the relatively changing nature of the Government). You’ll find therefore that there may be competition for jobs.
Masters degrees are, however, considered as an asset by many employers as is international experience (and language skills) and not just in Italy but also the world over.