What to Know Before You Study in Italy

Universities not only have a long history in Italy — the country may have had one of the first! The University of Bologna was founded in 1088 and says it was probably the first university in the western world. Italy’s education system is tried and true, and students who study abroad in Italy have many choices for higher education.

If you decide to apply to an Italian university, make sure to get certified translations of your personal documents.

Classes and Exams in Italy

Italy has about 90 universities, including 60 that are state institutions. Universities have two semesters. The first begins in September or October and ends in January or February. The second lasts from February through July. Each semester is about 20 weeks, and includes 14 weeks of teaching and six weeks of exams.

If you study abroad in Italy, you can expect large lectures and a lot of time dedicated to studying alone.

Exams are mostly oral. They are offered on different dates, and students can choose when they would like to complete them. Students can also repeat the exam if they are not pleased with their grades!

Grades and Tuition at Universities in Italy

When you study abroad in Italy, you will find a grading scale that is quite different from the one used in the US. Grades are given on a scale of 0 to 30, with an 18 as a passing mark. Results of all the exams are used to calculate an overall grade on a scale of 0 to 110.

The final grade also includes the results of a presentation of a project or dissertation. Students must earn at least a 66 to pass.

Tuition in Italy averages between US $1,200 and $1,500 per year depending on the university and field of study. Private universities are more expensive. Unlike American universities, however, lodging typically isn’t provided by Italian institutions and universities in the country offer few extracurricular activities.

Degrees in Italy

Italian universities encompass five subject areas that include all options of study:

  • Health (including fields such as medicine, nursing, therapy and dentistry)
  • Humanities (such as arts, history, language and culture)
  • Sciences (such as agriculture, math and physics)
  • Social Studies (such as business, communication, law and economics)
  • Technology (such as design, engineering and urban planning)

Earning a bachelor’s degree in arts or sciences requires at least three or four years of study and at least six years in some fields. However, it’s not uncommon for some students to study for seven or eight years. Students must complete a minimum number of courses, but can create their own plan for university approval.

A specialization degree is for university graduates or people with equal qualifications. Students spend two years learning skills for a specific degree. The final exam includes the discussion of a written thesis.

A postgraduate doctorate is a one or two-year program with research and a final dissertation.
Students can also enroll in short degree courses and study in a specialized field for two to three years.

If Italian universities don’t offer enough options, the country also has what it calls the “non-university sector.” This includes schools and academies of higher education in subjects such as art, design, dance, drama and music.

If you want to study abroad in Italy, don’t be fooled by the country’s laid-back lifestyle and mid-day breaks. You can expect to work hard and play hard. The country takes higher education very seriously!