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Masters Study in Italy - A Guide for 2018

Studying a Masters in Italy is an experience that will stay with you for the rest of your education and career. You'll have the opportunity to attend historic universities, benefit from cutting edge modern research and, of course, enjoy the chance to explore one of the most beautiful parts of Europe during your degree.

This page covers everything you'll need to know about postgraduate study in Italy, with information on Italian universities, courses and fees as well as advice on applications, visas and student funding.

On this page

Postgraduate opportunities in Italy – what’s on offer for 2018?

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: the oldest university in the Western world is the University of Bologna.

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.

Here are some reasons why you should consider a Masters in Italy:

  • Affordable tuition fees – Public universities in Italy take great pride in their efforts to make tuition fees affordable, both for domestic and international students.
  • Heritage – 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.
  • Research opportunities – As a key member of the European academic community, the Italian university system has excellent links with other institutions across the continent (and beyond).
  • Location – Italy’s position as a gastronomic, cultural and sartorial centre is no secret, and it’s a great place to expand your horizons as an international student.

Masters Study in Italy - Key Details
Universities 96
Oldest University University of Bologna (1088)
International Students 90,419
Course Length 2 years
Typical Fees (Domestic / EU) €1,467 (average)
Academic Year September to July

What's it like to study abroad in Italy?

Want to know more about life for international students in Italy? Our detailed guide covers everything from accommodation and living costs to culture and entertainment.

Italian universities

Italy introduced the three-cycle structure found throughout European higher education in 1999. 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.

There are several different kinds of higher education institutions in Italy where you can do a Masters degree. It’s also worth bearing in mind that other ‘non-university’ institutions also offer postgraduate study in Italy (for example, design and art schools).

  • State universities – Most universities in Italy are research-focussed public universities. There are 67 of these, 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.
  • Private universities (with state recognition) – There are 29 private universities in Italy. If you opt for a private university, make sure it is accredited by the Italian Ministry of Education. State-recognised private universities offer the same standard of education and their qualifications carry the same weight 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 tend to be higher – see the tuition fee information below.
  • Universities for foreigners (Università per Stranieri) – 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).
  • Higher schools (Scuole Superiori) – These institutions have a unique legal status which allows them to specialise solely in postgraduate university studies.
  • Technical universities (Politecnici) – Technical universities are very similar to state universities but they focus exclusively in two fields: Engineering and Architecture.
  • Online/distance universities – These universities deliver state-accredited courses by e-learning.

Italian university rankings

Italy’s status as a major European higher education hub is reflected by its performance in the three main ranking systems, with a clutch of institutions among the top 300 in the world.

View a more detailed guide to Italian postgraduate rankings.


Top 5 Italian Universities in 2018
University THE 2018 QS 2018 ARWU 2017
Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna Pisa =155 =192 -
Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa 184 =192 -
University of Bologna 201-250 =188 201-300
Vita-Salute San Raffaele University 201-250 - 401-500
University of Trento 251-300 441-450 -
Information in this table is based on the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings and Academic Ranking of World Universities. Visit their websites for more information.

How do rankings work for Masters study?

International rankings use all sorts of metrics to assess universities and they aren't all equally relevant to postgraduate study. That's why we've put together a guide to university rankings for Masters students.

Italian university cities

Italian university cities Italy has a great deal to choose from when it comes to picking a location to study in. Whether you’re looking for a historic university town like Padua, a modern metropolis like Milan or the ancient landmarks of Rome, you’ll find yourself spoilt for choice.

Course types

The Italian higher education system benefits from very strong engagement with European institutions and partners, 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.

An 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 represents 30 ECTS by itself). 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 could be based on theory, a placement or a research project.

Academic calendar

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.

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Masters fees and funding

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.

Public university tuition fees (tasse) for domestic and EU students average at €1,467 per year. You might have to pay an application fee of around €30, depending on the institution.

Private universities will be much more expensive than the state-funded universities and may charge fees of at least €12,000 per year. You may also have to pay an application fee of around €100, and if you are taking the national entrance examination, there will be an additional fee.

Scholarships and financial support

Generous support is provided to both international and Italian students, in the form of scholarships, student loans, housing assistance, university restaurant meal tickets and fee waivers. Financial assistance is means-tested and you will have to provide bank statements or tax returns to demonstrate your financial needs.

Applying for a Masters in Italy

Within the Bologna three-cycle framework, a bachelor (or an international equivalent) is required to undertake a Masters degree.

You may also have to sit an entrance exam to gain admission into university in Italy. If you are applying for Masters degrees in the area of economics, management, finance and business studies, for example, you are likely to be asked for a GMAT or GRE.

If you want to do a Masters in Italian, you will have to demonstrate a good command of the language and universities will probably ask for an Italian proficiency certificate.

Application procedure

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:

  • All transcripts and diplomas (and translations, if applicable).
  • A full CV.
  • Two to three references.
  • A personal statement covering your attributes, why you are the best candidate for the programme and what your career aspirations are.
  • A health insurance certificate, if you are from outside the EU.

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’re from outside the EU, you will need to submit a pre-enrolment application for your degree programme at the nearest Italian embassy or consulate.

Masters student visas in Italy

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 get 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 the visa application.

Student visas carry an administrative fee of €50. You will need:

  • Visa application form
  • Recent passport-style photo
  • Passport or travel document valid for at least three months after the visa expiry date
  • An admission letter from your university in Italy
  • Proof of financial support for the duration of your studies amounting to €448.07 per month
  • Health insurance certificate
  • Proof of your accommodation in Italy

If you are in receipt of a bursary, scholarship or grant from any organisation, you’ll need to supply proof of this award.

Once in Italy, holders of study visas must register with the local authorities (at a police station or town hall) within eight days of arrival to obtain a permit of stay for study purposes (permesso di soggiorno). You’ll need to submit a complicated application form at your local post office and pay a fee of €30, along with:

  • A copy of your admission letter
  • A copy of your student visa
  • Proof of your financial means – there may be a small fee to photocopy and certify this document at the post office
  • An Italian stamp worth €16 (marca da bollo)
  • A receipt of payment for the Electronic Permit of Stay, which costs €70.46

Next steps

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.

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).

Masters degrees are considered an asset by many employers, as is international experience (and language skills) – not just in Italy but also the world over.

Search for a Masters in Italy

Ready to start looking for your ideal study abroad opportunity? Browse and compare Masters degrees in Italy on FindAMasters.com

Last updated - 07/02/2018

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