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Postgraduate Study in Italy

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Italy is in south central Europe bordering France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia along the Alps to the north. It then protrudes south-eastwards out into the Mediterranean Sea almost to the coast of North Africa as the Italian Peninsula. It is also close to the sovereign city state of Monaco and shares a maritime border with Croatia.

Italian territory also includes various islands such as Sicily and Sardinia which are the two largest islands in the Med and are also have their own universities. The independent states of San Marino and the Vatican City are independent countries within Italy, whilst Campione d'Italia is an Italian exclave in Switzerland.

Italy Rome Vatican

Covering over 300,000 km2 and with a temperate seasonal climate, Italy has a population of approximately 60 million which makes it the fifth most populated country in Europe. The capital city of Italy is Rome which is historically a very important city being the centre of Ancient Rome as well as the Roman Catholic Church.

Italy is a highly-developed country with the 7th-highest worldwide GDP and the 17th-highest Human Development Index. It’s a founding member of the European Union (EU) as well as being a member of the G8, G20 and NATO.

The currency in Italy is the Euro.

Studying in Italy: Italian universities & education

Italy is a a great place for postgraduate study, featuring a well regarded higher education system with 15 of its universities ranked in the 2010 QS World University Rankings. 

Watch our recent Postgrad Insights video on Studying in Italy to get a  greater insight into what it's really like to live and study as a postgraduate student in Italy, featuring special guests Politecnico di Milano.

The Italian higher education system consists of:

State universities or universit' statali

These are concerned with scientific research and higher education. There are 58 of these public bodies and they have complete autonomy and full legal capacity.

Private universities or universit' non statali

These must be accredited after an evaluation process by the Ministry of Education. Due to this accreditation their degrees are as good as those from the state universities. There are 17 private universities in Italy. The two major differences between State and non-State universities are funding and governance.

Technical universities or politecnici

These higher education institutions are only concerned with engineering and architecture.

Universities for foreigners or universit' per stranier

These are state institutions that specialise in teaching and researching for the development of the Italian language, literature and culture. There are two of these.

Higher schools or scuole superiori

These six institutions are regulated by special legislation and specialise in postgraduate studies and scientific research. They also offer research doctorates.

Telematic universities or universit' telematiche

These are non-state universities that specialise in e-learning. These six institutions provide distance-learning programs that are accredited by the State.

Academic year

Academic yearAt Italian universities the academic year comprises two semesters – the first running from September/October to January/February, and the second from February until July. Actual dates will differ from university to university, but in general each semester will lasts around 20 weeks, consisting of a teaching period of around 14 weeks and then exams for around six weeks.

European & international students

There are many European students studying at Italian universities on exchange agreements like the European Community Socrates Erasmus program and all Italian universities will have a European Office dedicated to the management of such programs. Exchange students from outside Europe are often able to attend Italian universities through bilateral agreements between their university and the host institution in Italy – these are generally handled in the same way as the European exchange students.

For overseas students (European and International) wanting to study their master’s degree program at an Italian university there will be a specific department at their chosen university to deal with this, so check their website for further information.

Studying in Italy: university tuition fees & funding

All Italian universities set their own tuition fees but in the case of state university education 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 at state universities in Italy for students tend to range from €150 right up to €4,000 per annum.

Private universities are much more expensive then state-owned institutions with tuition fees sometimes reaching up to €16,000. Admission to “master universitari” and other specialisation courses also have much higher fees.
PhD students who receive a grant from the university will not be expected to pay tuition fees, but non-grant holders are required to pay the tuition fees, which will vary according to the university.

Italian students are entitled to student assistance on basis of financial means and/or merit. This applies to scholarships, student loans, housing, meal tickets and fee waivers. These services are also available to all international students services are managed by the DSU office (Diritto allo studio universitario).

Living as a student in Italy

With its beautiful architecture, unrivalled arts and culture, stunning scenery and warm climate, not to mention the fabulous food, Italy is a wonderful country to live and study in – and the good news is, that although it is renowned for its gastronomical delights, the basic (and always delicious) pizzas and pastas are a very affordable dining out experiences for students!

The stunning countryside features mountains (fantastic for skiing in the winter) and volcanoes, and due to it being a peninsular protruding into the Mediterranean Sea – some amazing beaches and dramatic coastline. Most of the major cities are also found on or near to the coast.

Student accommodation

Most Italian universities don’t have halls of residence, but they will however have a housing office to help students find decent accommodation. This should be your first port of call when looking for a place to live in Italy as the student-specific rental apartments are likely to be considerably cheaper than accommodation on the private market. As is the case with most countries, the location of your university will play a large part in how expensive your accommodation is – accommodation in cities and large towns will be more expensive. So, depending on where you are planning to study you should budget for €500-€ 1,000 a month.

Cost of living

As an international student living and studying in Italy, you should budget for between €1,200 and €1,500 per month depending on where you are living – this should cover your accommodation, bills, travel and social activities.

Public transport vs mopeds

Public transport is a popular option in Italy and the country as a whole is well served by a decent public transport network of buses, trams, trains and even underground networks. The other popular option is buying a moped – and some Italian cities are literally swamped with them! However using this option will involve skill, luck and confidence!

Working in Italy

It is quite common as a student to get a part-time job to help support yourself financially while studying. If you are a citizen of an EU country you are eligible to work in Italy without a work permit. All students from outside the EU will require a work permit and these can be quite difficult to obtain, plus depending on where you are from your visa status may not allow you to work in Italy.

Studying in Italy: student visas & immigration

EU Students

Students coming to study a degree program in Italy that are citizens from the European Union do not need a visa for Italy. As long as they have a valid Identification Card or passport, they can stay as long as they want.

Non-EU students

If you are an international student wanting to study in Italy you must get an Italian student visa before entering the country. It is recommended that you start the visa application process three months before your degree program starts as the visas can take up to 60 days to be issued.

Contact the Italian consulate in your home country for further help and advice, but you are likely to need the following documentation which the Italian institutions that you are planning to study will provide you with:

1.    Letter of Acceptance
2.    Letter of Enrollment
3.    Insurance Letter
4.    Course Schedule

Your student visas will be issued only for the length of time you are enrolled in the program, and to be awarded it you will also need to demonstrate the following:

1.    That you have suitable accommodation in Italy.
2.    Have the financial means to support yourself.
3.    Have medical insurance for healthcare in Italy.
4.    Have the financial means to travel back to your country, or already have a valid return-ticket.

Stay permits for non-EU citizens

Once you have arrived in Italy if you are an international student that holds a study visa you must then apply for a stay permit for study purposes – this must be done within eight days of arrival in Italy. If you leave Italy without a stay permit you will not be allowed to re-enter the county.

Your stay permit will be issued by the local police station (Questura) of your Italian town or city of residence.

In order to apply for a stay permit you will need:

1.    A valid passport with an Italian study visa.
2.    Proof of enough financial means to support yourself.
3.    Healthcare insurance certificate.

Please note that if you need to move to a different city during your stay in Italy you must report your change of address to your new local police station within 15 days of moving.

PLEASE NOTE: As a result of Brexit, from Autumn 2021 postgraduate students from the European Union studying at a UK university will be charged the same tuition fees as international students. Meanwhile, UK students studying their postgraduate course at a European university are also likely to incur higher tuition fees than their EU counterparts. It is advisable to check with the individual universities in the UK and Europe for up-to-date information on tuition fees for all postgraduate programs.


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