The Italian university system
Since the Academic Year 2001-2002 the majority of Italian universities have changed their teaching structure on the basis of Ministerial Decree n.509/99.
Afterwards, further changes have been made by the Ministerial Decree n.270/2004.
The reform equals Italian graduates to other European graduates, both for course duration and for the qualifications awarded.
Thanks to the reform, degree courses are shorter (three years) and it is possible to be awarded qualifications enabling the ‘free circulation of professions’ within the European Union.
How do teaching activities change?
All students attending courses which belong to the same class of degree share the same subjects for the first year (for, at least, 60 credits - CFU) before they differentiate their educational pathways.
Each Degree programme provides a curriculum in which the courses are grouped into three categories:
- non-compulsory within a group indicated by the Faculty;
- chosen by the student.
The number of subjects and exams depends upon the number of credits you need: you can reach the 60 credits - CFU per year choosing many low-credit subjects or few high-credit subjects. As a final result, the annual sum of credits - CFU gained must be 60, which means 180 in three years or 300 in five years or 360 in six years.
Among the new methods aimed at a more effective educational activity, there are teachings and subjects that can offer professional skills together with the recognition of professional training and traineeships as part of the educational pathway.
In this system, the student’s constant commitment is given more importance: during assessment of his/her work, this is valued together with the exam, which is no longer the only assessment method.
How does the course finish?
Each University defines a final examination to award the First Degree; the Second Degree is only awarded after the dissertation written by the student under the supervision of an academic member of staff.
The final grade is expressed as a fraction of 110, with the possibility of a "with honours" mention.
What is a degree? a degree class?
Each University chooses its degrees and qualifications and identifies them with a name (e.g. degree in Mechanical Engineering and the relative qualification of mechanical engineer). Degrees are grouped into classes, defined by the Ministry of University and giving legal validity to the qualification.
What does 3+2 mean?
It is the most frequently used expression to describe the structure of University education. It refers in particular to the duration of degree courses.
The system provides two degree levels and knowledge of a further European language excluding Italian is also required.
- First degree: applicants need an Italian upper secondary school leaving qualification diploma. The duration is 3 years, during which students shall collect 180 CFU - ECTS credits.
- Second degree: applicants need a first degree or a three-year university diploma (prior to the reform) or a recognised foreign qualification; the duration is 2 years, during which students shall collect 120 CFU - ECTS credits. By the end of a Second Degree, students will have 300 CFU - ECTS credits: 180 for the First Degree, except in the case of a Second Degree belonging to a different class - e.g. First Degree in Mathematics, Second Degree in Physics - in this case only part of the 180 credits - CFU will be useful for the Second Degree.
Classes: Pharmacy, Dentistry and Orthodontics, Veterinary Medicine, (duration: 5 years for all) and Medicine and Surgery (duration: 6 years).
For these degrees no qualification is awarded after the first three years, but only at the end of the cycle.
Law: (duration: 1+4 years) by the end of the first year, applicants may dedice to either continue the one cycle degree (4 more years) or switch to a First degree (2 more years).
First level master's degree
The entry requirement is a First Degree or a three-year university diploma (before the reform). You may choose a First Level Master immediately after your First Degree or also after several years, in order to let workers keep up-to-date and increase their specific competences by attending it (lifelong learning).
The duration of a First Level Master is 1 year and is worth 60 credits - CFU.
Second level master's degree
The entry requirement is a Second Degree or a degree (prior to the reform): it provides students with a higher level of specialisation and working competence. You may choose a Second Level Master immediately after your Second Degree or also after several years, in order to let workers keep up-to-date and increase their specific competences by attending it (lifelong learning).
The duration of a Second level Masters' Degree is 1 year and is worth 60 credits - CFU.
Neither First or Second level masters' degrees have direct access to PhD.
Specialisation - Postgraduate schools
Specialisation - Postgraduate Schools may only be instituted in application of specific laws or European Union directives.
The minimum entry requirement is a First Degree. Further specific admission requirements and additional university educational credits may be indicated in the teaching regulations of each degree programme.
To achieve the qualification of a Second Level Specialisation Degree, students have to collect 300-360 CFU - ECTS credits, including those earned and recognised in order to enter the course.
Research doctorate - PhD
After the Second Degree, Research Doctorates provide students with training for highly specialised research. The objective of such courses is to form highly specialised researchers who will work in Universities and in private or public research institutions. A Research Doctorate course minimum duration is three years.