The education system of Italy is historical. There are many Italian universities founded before the 1500s. Significantly, Italy is the home of the oldest university globally, the University of Bologna, founded in 1088.

From the past, the Italian higher education system has retained its reputation with its quality in Europe. Isn’t that fascinating? Suppose you’re hoping to come here to study. In that case, we can assure you that the decision you are about to make will be the best in your pursuit of academic excellence and a blissful career as a whole. Right here in this article, you will learn all you need to know about Italian education.

The higher educational system in Italy is divided into three major categories, each with its features, purpose, and aim. These includes:

  • University education (Divided into public/state or private)
  • The Higher Education For Fine Arts, Music, Dance sector (AFAM – Alta formazione artistica e musicale)
  • Higher Technical Institutes (ITS – Istituti Tecnici Superiori)

Despite the fact that Italian education has a long-standing history, It’s pretty similar in structure to what we have in other European countries. Italian education was reformed into what we have today through the Bologna process at the end of the 1990s.

Italian Education Credits System

The credits system in Italian education is unique, but it was done that way to facilitate the mobility of both national and international students. Here, CFU (credits) is a unit of measurement used to calculate the amount of coursework that a student needs to graduate. This measurement is based on tuition and hours of study. And they are awarded to a student when they pass an exam or an assessment. One credit unit is equivalent to 25 hours of work, and there are 60 credits in an academic year.


Italian universities offer a diverse range of fields as well as excellent theoretical and academically-oriented degree programs. Polytechnic universities, for example, are specialized in specific subject areas. There are three significant higher education degrees in Italian education. These degrees are:

  • Undergraduate Degree (First Cycle): Laurea
  • Graduate Degree(Second Cycle): Laurea Magistrale
  • Postgraduate Degree (Third Cycle-PhD): Dottorato di Ricerca

First-Cycle Degree: Laurea

The Laurea, which is the European university system’s counterpart of a Bachelor of Science, is an undergraduate degree earned after completing a three-year program of study.

Undergraduate education in Italy requires a secondary school diploma, which indicates successful graduation from a high school. Suppose students have a high school diploma or similar internationally recognized certification. In that case, they can be accepted to the first cycle degree. However, every program has its admission requirements. The admission can depend on a motivational interview or an entrance exam such as IMAT, which is the entrance exam of the medical schools in Italy.

After completing, students are expected to have gained a sound knowledge of scientific principles and methods and professional knowledge enough to propel them to the second cycle degree. Before graduation, students must fill 180 credit units over 3 years.

Second-Cycle Degree: Laurea Magistrale

The Laurea Magistrale, which is the European university system’s counterpart of a Bachelor of Science, is a graduate(master) degree earned after completing a two-year program of study. This degree primarily aims to fuse the knowledge from the undergraduate degree with the professional demands in the real world. Before a student can be offered admission, they must have an undergraduate degree qualification. And to obtain the qualifications of this course that lasts for 2 years, 120 credit units must be accumulated. 

After graduation from a graduate program, students have a chance to get a postgraduate degree.

There is also a special degree program in specific fields called Lauree Magistrali a Ciclo Unico. These programs can be five or six-year, and the areas are usually:

  • Medicine
  • Veterinary Medicine
  • Pharmacy
  • Architecture
  • Law

Third-Cycle Degree :Dottorato di Ricerca

The Ph.D. is the last level of university study and requires students to pass a comprehensive test as well as do original research resulting in a dissertation. This program aims to improve the foundation already laid down in the previous programs to the highest level by providing advanced knowledge and research skills. The Ph.D. degree is earned after three years of study and research under supervision.

The Higher Education For Artistic Education(AFAM)

Institutes for artistic education provide a diverse variety of art courses, including music, dance, theater, visual arts, and design. The followings are the divisions of the AFAM institutions:

  • Academies of Fine Arts 
  • Higher Schools of Design (ISIA)
  • State Music Conservatories
  • Higher Institutes for Musical Studies
  • National Dance Academy
  • National Academy of Drama

The education system in AFAM institutions is also coordinated in 3 major degree cycles. These cycles are:

  • First Academic Cycle(Diploma accademico di primo livello)
  • 180 ECTS required to graduate.
  • 3 years of duration.
  • Second Academic Cycle(Diploma accademico di secondo livello)
  • 120 ECTS needed to graduate.
  • 2 years of duration.
  • Third Academic Cycle(Diploma accademico di formazione alla ricerca)
  • 3 years of duration.

Higher Technical Institutes (ITS – Istituti Tecnici Superiori)

Higher Technical Institutes offers practice-oriented primarily programs. Besides providing theoretical background, it also shows the real-world applications and requirements in professional life. Most of the course consists of internship and experimental sessions. Institutes require compulsory internships from students at least %30 of the workload. The purpose is to create a connection between students and companies in order to improve students’ skills in the field. Additionally, at least half of the courses are given by lecturers working in related firms. The duration of the course is 2 or 3 years.