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Italy

Higher Education


Italy has the two oldest universities in Europe. The School of Medicine in Salerno was founded in the ninth century, and the University of Bologna was founded in the eleventh century. A number of other universities were founded by the end of the sixteenth century. The University of Padua and the University of Modena were founded in 1200. The universities of Rome, Perugia, Pisa, Florence, Naples, and Siena were founded in 1300. The universities of Turin, Parma and Catania were founded in 1400, and Messina was founded in 1500.

Article 33 of the Italian constitution allows public and private entities to establish institutions of higher education: universities, academies, and non-university higher education, such as art institutes. Other higher education institutions include the Higher Institutes of Physical Education, higher institutions with special statutes (Oriental Institute of Naples, the Higher Naval Institute of Naples, the College of Education of Pisa), schools of postgraduate and specialist studies, and other university level institutions. These institutions function fairly autonomously and are overseen by the Ministry for University of Scientific and Technological Research, which ensures some uniformity of curricula, standards, and examinations.

In 2000, university education was provided by 76 universities: 51 national universities, three polytechnic institutes, 12 free universities, 5 university institutes, 2 universities for foreign students, and 3 high schools (upper secondary). More than 1.0 million students attend Italian universities that employ more than 65,000 faculty members. Levels of university coursework include first level programs leading to a university diploma (Diploma Universitario), which has been eliminated under current reform law and Special professional Training Schools (Scuole Dirette a Fini Speciali). Second level programs lead to a university degree (Diploma di Laurea). Third level programs lead to a specialization degree (Diploma di Specializzazione) and research doctorate (Dottorato di Ricerca). Admission to third level degrees requires a (Diploma di Laurea).


Students who complete the liceum may go directly to the university. Admission to the university requires candidates to have an upper secondary school certificate (Maturita or Diploma di Istruzione Secundaria Superiore) earned after five years of study. Entrance exams are required for certain university programs and count for 70 percent of the admission, while grades from the Maturita count for 30 percent. Students are given numbers and placed on waiting lists according to their grades. Those with higher marks will be admitted to the university. Some candidates retake exams to achieve the higher marks needed for entering the university. The most crowded university programs are medicine, veterinary school, international studies, and environmental sciences. Other programs are less competitive and do not limit admissions.

Candidates apply directly to the institution they wish to attend. University students may pay registration and other fees. Needy students may apply and qualify for grants and loans; they may also hold part-time jobs. The academic year, which may be divided into semesters, starts in early November and ends in mid-June with final yearly exams in July. University degrees (Diploma di Laurea) can be earned in the following professional fields: science, medicine, engineering, agriculture, economics, political-social law, literature (humanities). For each area of specialty there are compulsory and elective courses.

The average time for completing university course-work is from four to six years. A 1990 reform allows student to earn a university degree in a specialized working field (diploma di specialista) within two to three years of coursework. Higher non-university education is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Public Instruction or Ministry of Education.

In November 1999, regulation 509 established criteria for a new university structure that allows universities to plan courses of study and provide teaching autonomy. In 2000, reforms were underway to integrate the Italian educational system within the structure of the European community. The plan calls for two university cycles of study to allow for student transfers and mobility among universities in Europe. Additional reforms focus on student requirements and credits (Credito Formativo Universitario or CFU) and the three-year Laurea (L) degree and five-year Laurea Specialistica (LS) degree. To enroll in L courses, students must have a Diploma di Istruzione Secundaria Superiore; to enroll in LS courses, students must have a Diploma di Superamento dell'Esame di Stato.

The Ministry of the University and Scientific and Technological Research has reorganized university studies into five main areas: medicine; science and technology; humanities; law, politics, social sciences, and economics; and engineering and architecture. The Diploma di Laurea is designed to prepare students a high level of professional competency in their chosen field. The Laurea Specialistica provides additional advanced understanding and skills in the specialized profession. Written and oral exams are administered before students are allowed to advance within the university.

The university president confers university degrees and diplomas, which also reflect the higher education requirements of the European community. Each diploma reflects the student's course of study and the specific curriculum in the field of professional specialization. Some universities, in conjunction with national, local, public and private entities, may offer one year finishing courses in certain fields of specialization.

Non-university education includes Academies of Fine-Arts (Academia di belle Arti), Higher Institutes for Art Industry (Istituto Superiore per le Industrie Artistiche), National Academy of Dramatic Arts (Academia di Arte Drammatica), National Academy of Dance (Academia di Danza), and Academy of Music (Conservatoria di Musica).

Vocational education and training are also part of non-university education. Initial vocational training is intended to promote employment and to allow individuals to keep abreast of new scientific and technological developments in the labor force. Vocational training is offered to young people who completed compulsory education and wish to earn a vocational certificate. This training is usually provided throughout the year by the following regional authorities: Ente Nazionale Istruzione Professionale (ENAIP); Associazione Cattolica Lavoratori Italiani (ACLI); Centro Nazionale Opere Salesiane (CNOS); Istituto Addestramento Lavoratori-Confederazione Italiana Sindacati Lavoratori (IAL-CISL); and Ente Nazionale Formazione Addestramento Professionale dell'Unione Italiana Lavoratori (ENFAP-UIL).

Initial vocational training covers agriculture, industry, crafts, and services and includes courses leading to a first certificate; integration courses for completing secondary education; post-certificate courses for those requiring specialized certificates; courses and post-certification activities; and level two courses for additional certificates of specialization. During vocational education, students are often required to train in the workplace.

Some individuals between the ages of 15 and 25 have apprenticeships (Apprendistati). Apprenticeships are based on a contract in which employers teach the student apprentice the necessary technical expertise to become a skilled worker. Apprentices receive financial compensation as they take theoretical courses and apply this knowledge in the workplace. At the end of the apprenticeship contract, these working students must pass a qualification exam in the particular apprenticeship field. There are approximately 605,000 young people involved in apprenticeship contracts; 53 percent are in the crafts sector. Approximately 80 percent of these apprenticeship enterprises are in Northern Italy.

Employment training contracts (Contratti di Formazione-Lavoro) are covered by a 1983 law which provides for private and public companies and their consortia to take on a certain number of individuals between the ages of 15 and 30 for a period of 2 years. Enterprises must submit specific training plans and make a commitment to train and teach these individuals and assist them in transition to the world of work. The Italian government offers financial incentives to the companies that participate in this program.


Additional topics

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceItaly - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education