Higher Education in Italy

Bologna Process

Higher Education in Italy is mainly provided by a large network of 67 state-run universities, 18 private universities and 11 online universities under the supervision of Italian Ministry of Education. Italian universities are among the oldest institutions in the world.

Universities in Italy fit the framework of the Bologna Process (1999 ff.): a series of ministerial agreements between European countries designed to ensure comparability in the standards and quality of higher education qualifications. Through the Bologna Accords, the process has created the European Higher Education Area, which currently has 47 participating countries and 49 signatories.


Like many other European countries, Italy has a European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS), which facilitates the students’ mobility. Credits are units that are used to measure the total amount of coursework required from a student, in terms of hours of study and tuition. One credit corresponds to 25 hours of work. An academic year requires a total of 60 credits, which are ratified by passing examinations or through other forms of assessment established by each university. Credits do not measure the quality of study, which is expressed by an evaluation in thirtieths.

The 3+2 System

Through the Bologna Accords Italy has adopted the “3+2 system”, which gives the opportunity to earn a first level degree after three years and a second level degree after two additional years. They roughly correspond to a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree respectively. The third level of higher education is a postgraduate programme called Dottorato di ricerca, which corresponds to a PhD. Other types of programmes offered by the Italian higher education system are described in detail in the page “Degrees”.