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Higher Education

The following information will provide you with a clear overview of the Higher Education System in Italy

The Italian System of Higher Education

Italian higher education has a binary system and consists of two main sectors:

  • the university sector: at present it is made up of 96 university institutions
  • the non-university sector: it includes 4 education typologies with their higher education institutions: higher schools of Arts, higher education in language mediation, higher integrated education (FIS) (e.g. higher technical education, etc.), a specific fields (e.g. diplomatic, archiving, restoration, military studies, etc.)

The University Sector

Universities provide teaching and carry out research activities. According to the principle of autonomy, each university draws up its own statutes and internal regulations which establish the rules for its administration, teaching and research.        
As far as the internal structure is concerned, in the traditional university structure departments organise research in line with the teaching that is carried out and coordinated at a faculty level and they also organise PhD courses and engage in research activity and consultancy outside the university. Departments are administered by department councils and their directors. Specific units have been created to manage questions relating to the management of research and policies connected with patents and intellectual property rights.
According to the Law on Universities approved in December 2010 (L.240/2010) Universities will have a new internal structure and are at present modifying their Statutes and organisation accordingly (for instance, Departments will manage teaching activities, while Liaison structures will be set up in order to ensure a better co-ordination at institutional level).        

At present the academic staff in universities are organised into the following main categories:
a) Ordinary (or Full) professors – first level (professori ordinari)
b) Associate professors – second level (professori associati)
c) Contract professors (professori a contratto)
d) University researchers (ricercatori) who can be given teaching responsibilities
You can consult the attached Table for an overview of career levels in different countries compared to Italy (source: Ministerial Decree 2/05/2011). The table, according to the mentioned Decree, will be subject to monitoring and updating.
Please note that the European Commission recently made available a draft version of “Research profiles descriptors” whose aim is to describe four broad profiles that may apply to all researchers, independently of where they work, in the private or public sector.  
University studies are organised into three cycles
1. bachelor’s degrees (in Italian laurea)   
2. master’s degrees (in Italian laurea magistrale)
3. doctorates (in Italian dottorato di ricerca)
 The second and third cycles also include specific adult education Degrees and Specialisation Degrees.
For detailed information about the organisation of the university studies please visit the relevant webpages of  “Universitaly” and  “Study in Italy
Each degree course is organised on the basis of major disciplinary classifications (known as “Classes” of degrees), pointing out the learning outcomes for the different subject areas

Depending on the study programme, students are awarded credits expressed in CFU (Crediti Formativi Universitari). The credit system is a systematic way of describing an educational programme by attaching credits to its components. The definition of credits in higher education systems may be based on different parameters, such as student workload, learning outcomes and contact hours.
CFU credits are compatible with the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS). The ECTS makes it easier to compare the study programmes of different universities and thus facilitates mobility and academic recognition within the European Higher Education; it is a student-centred system based on the student workload required to achieve the objectives of a programme, objectives preferably specified in terms of learning outcomes and competences to be acquired. Area. For more information, visit the ECTS website.    


Recognition of Diplomas and Qualifications


Tailored information on recognition of Diplomas and Qualification is provided by the National ENIC-NARIC Centre which is represented in Italy by the CIMEA - Centro di Informazione sulla Mobilità e le Equivalenze Accademiche (Information Centre on Academic Mobility and Equivalence). It offers the following services:

- giving information to individuals about opportunities and procedures for the recognition of foreign study qualifications
- providing advice to institutions on the comparability of foreign qualifications for recognition purposes
- promoting the free movement of EU citizens with particular reference to international student mobility
- providing international documentation centre and a few specialised databases.
For further information and contacts, visit CIMEA website.

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Last update : 18 Nov 2014 - 11:02