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The Italian University System

Italian university education is now based on three main “cycles” of study: 1st cycle - undergraduate studies, 2nd cycle - graduate studies and 3rd cycle - doctoral studies

Grafico

First Cycle (Primo Ciclo)

  • Bachelor program (Corso di Laurea - three years)

Second Cycle (Secondo Ciclo)

  • Single-cycle Degree (Corso di Laurea Magistrale a Ciclo Unico - five or six years in total)
  • Master program (Corso di Laurea Magistrale - two years)
  • 1st Level specializing master (Master Universitario di Primo Livello)

Third Cycle (Terzo Ciclo)

  • Doctorate (Dottorato di Ricerca)
  • Specialization School (Scuola di Specializzazione)
  • 2nd Level specializing master (Master Universitario di Secondo Livello)

Credits and degrees

Recent university reforms have introduced the European Credit Transfer System
Credits represent the student's total workload (class time, individual study, exam preparation, practical work etc.) and one credit is equivalent to 25 hours. The average full-time workload for one academic year is 60 credits which is equivalent to 1500 hours. Universities may opt for a total workload up to 20% higher or lower than this (1200-1800 hours), but they must justify the difference
The amount of time reserved for individual learning or other individual educational and training activities must not be less than 50%, except in the case of courses involving practical or laboratory work

Credits are earned once the student has passed the assessment for each course or activity
The total or partial recognition of credits obtained by students wishing to continue their studies in a different degree program or at a different institution is at the discretion of the education authority, subject to the criteria and procedures of the university teaching regulations

The teaching regulations of each university can provide for regular reassessment of credit allocation and indicate the minimum number of credits that must be achieved within a set period (in the case of full or part-time studies)

Universities may, subject to the regulations, award credits for professional skills and experience as well as other skills and knowledge acquired in post-secondary level courses set up and taught in collaboration with the university

BACHELOR PROGRAM (LAUREA)

The 1st level degree course gives the student an appropriate command of general scientific methods and principles, even when the program is oriented toward the acquisition of specific professional knowledge, and provides a solid base for those who wish to continue their studies with a 2nd level degree or a 1st level masters
To be admitted to a 1st level degree course, students must have a secondary school diploma or a suitable equivalent foreign qualification
The 1st level degree course lasts three years
To graduate (obtain a 1st level degree) it is necessary to accumulate 180 credits (60 for each year of the course)

SINGLE-CYCLE DEGREE (LAUREA MAGISTRALE A CICLO UNICO)

Single-cycle degree courses do not distinguish between the initial three-year period of study and the subsequent two-year specialization; the entire study cycle is structured over a single period of five or six years, at the end of which a 2nd level degree (laurea magistrale) can be awarded
The single-cycle degree provides the student with advanced education and training for professions in specific fields regulated by European directives that require a high level of qualification (medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, pharmacy and architecture) and for access to the legal professions
To be admitted to a single-cycle degree course you must have a secondary school diploma
To obtain the qualification (single-cycle degree) it is necessary to accumulate 300 credits in the case of five-year courses or 360 credits for a six-year course (60 for each year of the course)

MASTER PROGRAM (LAUREA MAGISTRALE)

The 2nd level degree, also known as a specialized degree, provides the student with advanced education and training for professions in specific fields that require a high level of qualification
To be admitted to a 2nd level degree course, you must have a 1st level degree or a suitable equivalent foreign qualification
The course lasts two years
To obtain the qualification (2nd level degree) it is necessary to accumulate 120 credits (60 for each year of the course)

SPECIALIZING MASTER

The aim of a masters course is to reinforce, broaden and refine graduates’ skills and expertise, using and expanding upon previous training to meet the demands of a professional career. There are both 1st and 2nd level vocational masters courses
To be admitted to a 1st level masters course, which is part of the second cycle of university studies, you must have a 1st level degree
To be admitted to the 2nd level masters course, which is part of the third cycle of university studies, you must have a 2nd level degree
A vocational masters course generally lasts from six months to one year (500 hours’ teaching and experience)
To obtain the qualification (1st or 2nd level masters) it is necessary to accumulate 60 credits
There are a limited number of places available for vocational masters courses. To be admitted you must pass the selection examinations

DOCTORATE (DOTTORATO DI RICERCA)

Provides the expertise necessary for high-level research activities in universities, public institutions and private associations
To be admitted to a doctoral program you must have a 2nd level degree. Candidates must also pass the selection exam, as only a limited number of places are available
A doctoral degree is awarded after a period of study lasting three to four years

SPECIALIZATION SCHOOL (SCUOLA DI SPECIALIZZAZIONE)

Provides the student with knowledge and skills required in specific professional fields. These courses may only be set up under specific laws or EU directives
To be admitted to a specialist course you must have a 2nd level degree
The length of the course and the number of credits required to obtain the specialist qualification are defined by the academic structure of each course

ADVANCED COURSE (CORSO DI PERFEZIONAMENTO)

This is a refresher/permanent training course that enables students to develop their expertise and skills in order to further improve their professional qualities.
To be admitted you must have a 1st or 2nd level degree. The courses vary in length.
They differ from masters courses in that no academic qualification is awarded; students receive a certificate detailing the skills that have been acquired.

Practical information

The academic calendar
The academic year in Italy consists of two semesters: the first starts in September/October and ends in January/February; the second starts in February and ends in July. The actual start and finish dates will vary from institution to institution, but each semester lasts around 20 weeks and consists of a teaching period of around 14 weeks and an exam period of around 6 weeks

Assessment
Exams are held after the teaching period; they are mainly oral, although some courses will have written tests which take place during the semester or before the oral exam. For each exam a number of dates during the exam period will be offered, and students may choose the date on which they wish to take the exam. They are also entitled to decline a mark if they are not satisfied with the result, and take the exam again. There are rules governing how many times a student can take an exam within a given exam period

Grading systems
Exams are graded according to a scale ranging from 0 to 30; the pass mark is 18. A "cum laude" may be added to the highest grade (30; 30 e lode) as a sign of particular distinction. All exam results are used to calculate the overall mark for the degree on a scale of 0 - 110. The final result is based on exam marks plus the presentation of a project or dissertation before a Board of Examiners. The pass mark is 66; students who obtain full marks (110) may also be awarded the distinction "summa cum laude" (110 e lode)