Italy

Italy is a European country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Alps and surrounded by several islands. The following types of institution offer higher education in Italy: Universities (polytechnics included), High level Arts and Music Education institutions (Alta formazione artistica e musicale – Afam), Higher schools for language mediators (Scuole superiori per mediatori linguistici – SSML), Higher technical institutes (Its). Universities are autonomous bodies; they adopt their own statutes, establishing their own governing bodies (such as the rector, senate, and board of management) as well as their teaching and research structures.

RegionSouthern Europe
CapitalRoma
LanguageItalian
Population60,317,116
Expenditure on higher education1,3 %
Unemployment9,8 %
EuroUniversities in top 1006
EuroUniversities in top 25019
EuroUniversities in top 50032
EuroUniversities in top 100064
Students1,787,780
Foreigner students6,4 %
Enrollment rate in higher education62 %

Universities issue the following qualifications, corresponding to the Bologna Process structure (cycles):

  • Laurea, corresponding to a CFU);
  • Laurea specialistica/magistrale, corresponding to a second-cycle qualification, issued at the end of a two-year course of study (120 credits – CFU) or to a 5-6-year single course (300-360 credits – CFU);
  • Dottorato di ricerca, corresponding to a third-cycle qualification.

In addition, universities may organise courses leading to the following qualifications:

  • Master universitario di primo livello (first-level University master). Courses are addressed to holders of a laurea and lead to a second-cycle qualification outside the Bachelor and Master structure.
  • Diploma di specializzazione (Specialisation diploma) and Master universitario di secondo livello (Second-level university master). Courses are addressed to holders of a laurea specialistica/magistrale and lead to a third-cycle qualification outside the Bachelor and Master structure.

The Afam institutions are the following: Academies of Fine Arts, the National Academy of Drama, Higher institutes for Artistic Industries (ISIA), Conservatoires, the National Dance Academy and officially recognised music institutes. Afam institutions have legal status and statutory, teaching, scientific, administrative, financial and accounting autonomy.

Afam institutions issue the following qualifications, corresponding to the Bologna Process structure (cycles):

  • Diploma accademico di primo livello (First-level academic diploma), corresponding to a first-cycle qualification, issued at the end of a three-year course of study (180 credits – CFA);
  • Diploma accademico di secondo livello (Second-level academic diploma), corresponding to a second-cycle qualification, issued at the end of a two-year course of study (120 credits – CFA);
  • Diploma accademico di formazione alla ricerca (Research academic diploma), corresponding to a third-cycle qualification;

In addition, Afam institutions may organise courses leading to the acquisition of the following qualifications:

  • Diploma accademico di specializzazione I (Specialisation academic diploma I) and Diploma di perfezionamento o Master I (In-depth diploma or master I). Courses are addressed to holders of a first-level academic diploma and lead to a second-cycle qualification outside the Bachelor and Master structure.
  • Diploma accademico di specializzazione II (Specialisation academic diploma II) and Diploma di perfezionamento o Master II (In-depth diploma or master II).

Courses are addressed to holders of a second-level academic diploma and lead to a third level qualification outside the Bachelor and Master structure.

All qualifications are described in the NQF. Qualifications issued by universities and Afam institutions are also described in the Italian qualification framework of Higher education (QTI).

Each university or Afam institution establishes the organisation of the academic year. In general, the academic year starts on the 1st of November and ends on the 31st of October of the following year. In general, it is organised in two semesters.

Higher technical institutes (ITSs) are highly specialised technical schools established to meet the demand of new and high level competences coming from the labour world, in particular from the technical and technological sectors.

ITSs offer short-cycle non-university higher education, which is part of the education system since 2011/2012. Courses are accessible to holders of an upper secondary education qualification. In general, courses last 4 semesters and lead to the qualification of ‘Higher technician’ (Diploma di tecnico superiore).

Besides universities, Afam institutions and Its, also other specialised institutions offer tertiary education in specific fields. In general, access to courses requires an upper secondary education qualification and an entrance examination. The number of posts available is limited and fixed annually. In some cases, also a previous relevant training is required. These institutes issue qualifications recognised within the education system and refer to national authorities other than the Ministry of education, university and research, therefore, the following articles do not describe the offer into details. Among the specialised institutions offering tertiary education there are: Scuola nazionale di cinema (National School of Cinema), Scuole di archivistica, paleografia e diplomatica (Schools for the archive systems, palaeography and diplomatics), Military academies (Air Academy of Pozzuoli, Revenue Guard Academy, Military Naval Academy of Livorno, Military Academy of the army of Modena), Istituti superiori di scienze religiose (Higher Institutes of Religious Sciences), the Foundation for the preservation and restoration of books.

Legislative references

Ministerial Decree of 8 February 2013, no. 45 (accreditation of doctoral courses)

Decree of the Ministry of education and the Ministry of labour of 7 September 2011 (Its qualifications)

Law of 30 December 2010, no. 240 (organisation of universities)

Financial law of 2007 (Higher technical education and training system)

Decree of the President of the Republic (DPR) of 8 July 2005, no. 212 (organisation of the Afam sector)

Decree of the President of the Republic (DPR) of 28 February 2003, no. 132 (autonomy of Afam institutions)

Ministerial Decree of 22 October 2004, no. 270 (organisation of universities)

Regulation of 3 November 1999, no. 509 (autonomy of universities)

Law of 21 December 1999, no. 508 (Afam)

Bachelor

Branches of Study

University Education

According to the National qualifications framework Bachelor university programmes (3-year courses corresponding to 180 credits – CFU) lead to the qualification called laurea.

Bachelor university programmes are organised in the sanitary, scientific, social and classical study areas.

Bachelor programmes do not include studies in medicine and surgery, pharmacy, veterinary science and dentistry studies, law, primary teacher education and architecture. In fact programmes in these fields of studies are organised in single-cycle courses (6 or 5 years, corresponding to 300-360 credits). These courses lead directly to a second cycle qualification (single-cycle laurea magistrale).

Each study area is made up of so called ‘laurea classes’. One ‘class’ groups together more courses with the same core qualifying objectives and the same core activities established at national level for each class (e.g. the laurea course ‘Labour consultant’ and the laurea course ‘Italian and European law’, belong to the same laurea class (L-14) ‘Juridical services sciences’, included in the social area).

Classes, with the relevant core objectives and minimum amount of credits required, are established at national level for all universities. At present, laurea classes are 43. A complete list of laurea classes is available on a national database constantly updated.

Universities autonomously activate courses and regulate their organisation (course title, objectives, curriculum and relevant study activities, credits, final assessment procedures)  in their own regulations.

High Level Arts and Music Education (Afam)

Afam institutions offer highly qualified specialisations in:

  • visual arts (painting, sculpture, decoration, set designing photography, multimedia, new technologies for arts, film and TV set designing, preservation and restoration of modern and contemporary works of art)
  • drama (acting and direction)
  • dance (classic and contemporary dance, choreography)
  • music (all instruments, jazz and electronic music)
  • design (product design, communication, system and fashion design).

Admission Requirements

University Education

Central regulations establish the general requirements to access university courses.

Admission is restricted for single-cycle courses in medicine and surgery, pharmacy, veterinary science and dentistry studies, primary teacher education and architecture; admission is also restricted for courses in health professions or for bachelor courses for which study plans foresee practical training and the use of laboratories.

Admission requires the possession of an upper secondary school leaving certificate or other equivalent qualification obtained abroad.

Moreover, each university, in its own regulations, may also require an adequate initial preparation. To this end, regulations should establish the knowledge required for admittance and should lay down tests procedures.

Tests can take place on completion of preparatory training activities carried out in collaboration with institutes of upper secondary education. A negative test result does not preclude enrolment; teaching regulations should specify additional specific training requirements to be fulfilled within the first year of the course.

Furthermore, students attending the final year of upper secondary school should submit a pre-enrolment application form to the university in order to allow the design of the university teaching offer and, at the same time, to inform students adequately.

Institutions decide on the acknowledgement of qualifications obtained abroad, in the respect of European Union directives and regulations as well as of the international agreements in force.

High Level Arts and Music Education (Afam)

Admission to Bachelor courses at Afam institutions requires an upper secondary school leaving certificate or another equivalent qualification obtained abroad.
Furthermore, each institution, in its own regulations, require an adequate initial qualification and establish which knowledge is required for the admission, as well as the assessment procedures. Tests can also take place at completion of preparatory training activities, carried out also in collaboration with upper secondary education institutes.

Also highly gifted students, even without an upper secondary school leaving certificate; however, this latter is required to obtain the final qualification.

Institutions decide on the acknowledgement of qualifications obtained abroad, in the respect of European Union directives and regulations as well as of the international agreements in force.

Curriculum

Central regulations establish the general criteria for the organisation of university and High level art and music education (Afam) studies, as well as the qualification universities and Afam institutions issue.

As for university, at national level, the Ministry of education, university and research (laurea classes and, for each class, the qualifying educational objectives and the subsequent learning activities necessary to reach these objectives.

According to central regulations, learning activities for each laurea class (university) and for each study course (Afam) are grouped as follows:

  • basic studies;
  • learning activities in one or more areas typical of each class or course of study.

Each class or course of study should also provide for:

  • learning activities in one or more study areas similar or supplementary to the study areas typical of the field of studies;
  • learning activities chosen by students;
  • learning activities aimed at the final examination to obtain the final qualification and at the evaluation of the knowledge of a foreign language;
  • further learning activities aimed at improving linguistic knowledge, as well as ICT skills, relational skills and any other skill useful to get into the labour market among which, in particular, training and guidance apprenticeships.

Furthermore, learning activities include laboratory activities or artistic productions, where relevant.

Study courses can be subdivided into branches, each with its own specific curriculum.

The minimum number of credits that institutions, in their teaching regulations, should assign to learning activities and areas of study is established at central level. However, the total amount of reserved credits cannot exceed 66% and 60% in university and in Afam education, respectively.

Universities and Afam institutions issue their own regulations, approved by the Ministry of education. In particular, each regulation determines:

  • The name and training objectives of the respective study courses; general framework of the training activities that must be included in the curriculum; credits assigned to the various training activities; outline of the final examination for the final qualification attainment.
  • The organisational aspects of the teaching activities common to all study courses, such as objectives, times and methods to be adopted for planning, co-ordinating and evaluating the results of the activities; procedures to assign the annual teaching tasks to teachers and researchers; examination procedures; student assessment procedures,  within the limits established by central regulations; evaluation of the students’ initial training and organisation of training activities preparatory to the assessment of the initial training; quality assurance.

Therefore, it is not possible to provide an in-depth picture of programmes and contents of each course.   

Teaching regulations of study courses, establish the list of teachings; specific training objectives and credits; curriculum and requirements for the presentation of the individual study plans; provisions concerning any compulsory attendance.

The curriculum is the whole of the training activities (teaching courses, seminaries, practical work and laboratory, didactical activities in small groups, tutoring, guidance, apprenticeship, projects, thesis, individual study activities and self-learning) the students has to carry out to obtain the qualification.

The knowledge of a language of the European Union is required to obtain the final qualification.

The official teaching language is Italian. However, many institutions offer both activities (seminars, conferences) and study courses or single subject courses in a foreign language (mainly English).

Teaching Methods

Universities and High level arts and music education (Afam) institutions, in their own regulations, should establish procedures to carry out teaching activities, in the respect of teaching freedom as well as of teachers’ and students’ rights and duties.

Teachers freely choose their own teaching methods. They can receive just some not mandatory indications. The use of new technologies is more and more widespread, as well as seminars, working groups, etc.

Progression of Students

Students are expected to obtain the credits foreseen in the study plan for each academic year, upon passing the scheduled exams. Students who do not pass the scheduled exams cannot attend courses foreseen for the following academic year.

In order to graduate, students are required to have passed all the exams foreseen by their study plan. If they have not, students are expected to fulfil their duty within the terms established by regulations of each institution.

Students holding a university or Afam first-cycle qualification, have access to the second-cycle programmes.

At present, teaching regulations of each institution lay down procedures and criteria to be followed when students ask to switch from one course to another within the same or different university, or from a university to an Afam institution and vice versa. Regulations can provide for monitoring the acquired credits in order to check if the students’ knowledge is not obsolete. As for the switch from one course to another or from one university to another, teaching regulations must guarantee the recognition of the possible highest number of credits obtained by the student. In the case of switch within the same class of studies, the recognition of credits must not be lower than 50%. The non-recognition of credits must be adequately motivated.

Employability

University Education

According to the most recent labour legislation, (Decree issued on 20 September 2011) universities have a role of intermediation between students and the labour world, on condition that universities enrol in the Register of the employment agencies. This latter is the informative register that includes all the subjects authorised by Ministry of labour to carry out intermediation activities.

‘Cliclavoro’ is the portal where universities publish the CVs of their students and graduates (within 12 months) in order to make them available to employers who can advertise, in their turn, available posts.

Those willing to work freelance, in most cases (e.g. agronomists and forestry graduates, agrotechnicians, architects, social assistants, actuaries, biologists, chemists, geologists, engineers) are required to pass a qualifying State examination and then to enrol in the relevant registers. Registers, managed by Associations (Ordini) and Councils (Collegi), are divided into two sections, according to the level of ability and competence gained at the university: in section A enrol those who have a laurea specialistica/magistrale; in section B those who have a laurea. Separate sectors within the sections of the registers relate to specific educational paths corresponding to highly specific professional activities.

To favour the entry in the labour world, it is mandatory for universities to foresee guidance activities in their regulations. Guidance activities include indoor and outdoor initiatives, such as the promotion of consortia and agreements with enterprises foreseeing grants, apprenticeship or traineeship.

There are more types of apprenticeships, or traineeship:

  • Apprenticeship carried out during or after the university studies and combined with the qualifying State exam for practicing regulated professions (professional bodies and registers).
  • Apprenticeship explicitly foreseen in the teaching regulations of a study course
  • Apprenticeship carried out within international projects
  • Apprenticeship freely organised and offered to students and teachers by an enterprise.

Apprenticeships must be part of training and guidance projects, and according to agreements between the involved universities and enterprises or associations of employers, in some cases also involving other actors such as professional associations, local authorities and public bodies.

Moreover, trainee must be insured (civil liability and occupational accident) and be followed by a tutor who has responsibility for didactics and of the organisation of the activities must be foreseen; finally, trainee should be assigned credits (CFU) for the activities carried out.

Many universities have set up ad hoc offices to have a better organisation of the traineeships offer and to deliver a more efficient information to students.

Beside these offices there are also student associations dealing with the apprenticeship offer. They are mainly international associations that group together students from certain study areas (economics, engineering, law, medicine, etc.) and act through a network of local seats. Many graduates’ associations aim also at establishing a connection between university and enterprises and at facilitating the transition from the university to the labour market, through the promotion of traineeships.

High Level Arts and Music Education (Afam)

Activities carried out by Afam institutions to facilitate the access of students to the labour market depend on the type of profession taught in each institute. Therefore, it is not possible to provide an overall description.

Student Assessment

Each University and Afam lays down in its own teaching regulation the procedures and methods for students’ assessment. However, central regulations require that grades assigned at examinations should be calculated on a scale of 0 – 30, being 18 the minimum mark required for passing the exam. Final tests marks should be calculated on a scale of 0 – 110, being 66 the minimum mark required to be awarded the final qualification. In both cases, it is possible to graduate with honours (30 with honours; 110 with honours).

Both universities and Afam institutions have adopted a credit system for the recognition of students’ learning workload. University students are assigned CFUs (university formative credits), whereas Afam institutions assign CFAs (academic formative credits). CFUs and CFAs have the same following characteristics:

  • credits represent the quantity of learning work, including studying at individual level, students are required to carry out in the study courses. A credit corresponds to 25 hours of study;
  • the average quantity of learning work carried out by a full-time student corresponds conventionally to 60 credits.
  • the total or partial acknowledgement of the credits obtained by a student who wants to continue his/her studies is responsibility of the educational institution that takes in the student;
  • teaching regulations of each institution can provide for a recurrent verification of credits and indicate the minimum number of credits to be achieved within a fixed period of time;
  • on the basis of criteria fixed beforehand, institutions can recognise as CFU/CFA, professional abilities and skills certified in conformity with regulations in force on this subject, as well as other abilities and skills gained through educational activities of post-secondary level planned and carried out in collaboration with the university.

CFU and CFA correspond to Ects credits. Each institution, in its own regulations, establishes a specific conversion table to facilitate the conversion between the national marks and the ECTS grading.

To achieve a first cycle qualification either at university or at an Afam institution, students have to sit for a final test in front of the examination committee. To be admitted to the final test, students must have passed all the exams foreseen in their study plan, and been awarded 180 credits, corresponding to a three-year first-level programme. In the final test the student submits to the commission an original work drown up under the guidance of a supervisor.

Certification

University and Afam students, who have completed a three-year programme, have been assigned the corresponding 180 CFU/CFA and have successfully passed the final test, are awarded a laurea or a Diploma accademico di primo livello (First level academic diploma) respectively.

The university rector and the Afam institution director, who represent the university and the Afam institution, are responsible for the qualifications issue. University titles have academic value and do not qualify to work freelance in one of the regulated professions; instead, they give access to the qualifying State exam required to enrol in the relevant register.

University and Afam institutions, in their teaching regulations, establish methods and procedures to issue both the certification and the Diploma supplement, in compliance with the models adopted in the European countries, providing the main information on the curriculum followed by the student to obtain the certification concerned.

According to specific agreements, the institutions can release qualifications together with other Italian and foreign institutions of the same level, qualified to issue qualifications recognised in Italy according to the international and European community law (joint qualification).

Legislative references

Law of 30 December 2010, no. 240 (organisation of universities)

Decree of the President of the Republic (DPR) of 8 July 2005, no. 212 (organisation of the Afam sector)

Ministerial Decree of 22 October 2004, no. 270 (organisation of universities)

Decree of the President of the Republic (DPR) of 28 February 2003, no. 132 (autonomy of Afam institutions)

Law 2 August 1999, no. 264 (general requirements to access university courses)

Regulation of 3 November 1999, no. 509 (autonomy of universities)

Law of 21 December 1999, no. 508 (Afam)

Ministerial Decree 21 July 1997, no. 245 (general dispositions on pre-enrolment and design of university courses).

Second Cycle Programmes

Second cycle programmes are provided by both universities and High level arts and music education (Afam) institutes.

Second cycle programmes can last either two years, corresponding to 120 Ects credits (CFU/CFA) or, in the case of single-cycle programmes, 5-6 years corresponding to 300-360 credits.

At the end of the relevant second cycle programme, university students obtain a laurea magistrale degree, whereas Afam students obtain a Diploma accademico di secondo livello (second level academic diploma).

The study courses offered by universities and Afam institutions are designed to provide students with advanced competencies for highly qualified activities in specific sectors as well as the acquisition of high-level professional competencies.

Beside the above mentioned qualifications, universities and Afam institutions offer further courses, described in the section ‘Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master structure’.

All qualifications are described in the NQF. Qualifications issued by universities and Afam institutions are described also in the Italian qualification framework of Higher education (QTI).

Branches of Study

University Education

According to the National qualifications framework for higher education, both two-years and single-cycle university second-cycle programmes, lead to a laurea magistrale degree.

Studies are organised in the following study areas: sanitary, scientific, social and classical area.

Each study area is made up of courses and of so called ‘laurea magistrale classes’. One ‘class’ groups together more courses with the same core objectives and the same core activities established at national level for each class (e.g. the laurea magistrale course ‘Visual arts’ and the laurea magistrale course ‘Historical heritage’, belong to the same class (LM-89) ‘History of arts’, included in the classical area). Universities decide to activate or not the courses within the various classes; their decision will be taken in the respect of their academic history and tradition as well as according to the labour market requirements and international competition.

Classes, with the relevant core objectives and minimum amount of credits required, are established at national level for all universities. At present, laurea magistrale classes are 94. A complete list of classes is available on a national data base, regularly updated.

Studies in medicine and surgery, pharmacy, veterinary science and dentistry studies, law, primary teacher education and, only for a few courses, building engineering-architecture, have a single-cycle organisation (6 or 5 years, corresponding to 300-360 credits). These courses lead directly to a second cycle qualification (single-cycle laurea magistrale).

Universities autonomously activate courses and regulate their teaching organisation (course title, objectives, curriculum and relevant study activities, credits, final assessment procedures) in their own regulations.

High Level Arts and Music Education (Afam)

According to the National qualifications framework for higher education, second cycle Afam programmes, which correspond to 120 Ects credits (CFA), lead to a Diploma accademico di secondo livello (second level academic diploma).

Afam institutions offer highly qualified specialisations in: 

  • visual arts (painting, sculpture, decoration, set designing photography, multimedia, new technologies for arts, film and TV set designing, preservation and restoration of modern and contemporary works of art)
  • drama (acting and direction)
  • dance (classic and contemporary dance, choreography)
  • music (all instruments, jazz and electronic music)
  • design (product design, communication, system and fashion design

Admission Requirements

University Education

Central regulations establish the general requirements to access university courses.

Admission is restricted for single-cycle courses in medicine and surgery, pharmacy, veterinary science and dentistry studies, primary teacher education and architecture; admission is also restricted for courses in health professions or for courses for which study plans foresee practical training and the use of laboratories. The selection of courses with limited admission takes places in Italian. In case of medicine and surgery courses, which teaching language is English, the selection for the admission is held in English.

Access to courses requires a laurea (first cycle qualification), or another equivalent qualification obtained abroad. To access single-cycle programmes an upper secondary school leaving certificate, or another equivalent qualification obtained abroad, is required. Each university, in its own regulations, establish specific admission criteria including the possession of certain curricular requirements and the verification of each student’s preparation. All credits obtained in the previous cycle (180 CFU) will be recognised if the second cycle course is fully consistent with the contents of the completed three-year degree course; otherwise, the students will be enrolled with a ‘debt’ (debito formativo).

Single institutions decide on the acknowledgement of qualifications obtained abroad for the admission to courses, in coherence with European Union directives and regulations as well as with international agreements in force.

High Level Arts and Music Education (Afam)

Admission to courses requires a first-cycle qualification obtained either within Afam education (first level academic diploma) or through university education (laurea) or another equivalent qualification obtained abroad.

Single institutions decide on the acknowledgement of qualifications obtained abroad for the admission to courses, in coherence with European Union directives and regulations as well as with international agreements in force.

Curriculum

Central regulations establish the general criteria for the organisation of university and High level art and music education (Afam) studies, as well as the qualification that universities and Afam institutions issue.

As for university, at national level, the Ministry of education, university and research (Miur) has established the laurea classes and, for each class, the qualifying educational objectives and the subsequent learning activities necessary to reach these objectives.

According to central regulations, learning activities for each laurea class (university) and for each study course (Afam) are grouped as follows:

  • basic studies;
  • learning activities in one or more areas typical of each class or course of study.

Each class or course of study should also provide for:

  • learning activities in one or more study areas similar or supplementary to the study areas typical of the field of studies;
  • learning activities chosen by students;
  • learning activities aimed at the final examination to obtain the final qualification and at the evaluation of the knowledge of a foreign language;
  • further learning activities aimed at improving linguistic knowledge, as well as ICT skills, relational skills and any other skill useful to get into the labour market among which, in particular, training and guidance apprenticeships.

Furthermore, learning activities also include laboratory activities or artistic productions, where relevant.

Study courses can be subdivided into branches, each with its own specific curriculum.

The minimum number of credits that institutions, in their teaching regulations, should assign to learning activities and areas of study is established at central level. However, the total amount of reserved credits cannot exceed 66% and 60% in university and in Afam education, respectively.

Universities and Afam institutions issue their own regulations, approved by the Ministry of education. In particular, each regulation determines:

  • The name and training objectives of the respective study courses; general framework of the training activities that must be included in the curriculum; credits assigned to the various training activities; outline of the final examination for the final qualification attainment.
  • The organisational aspects of the teaching activities common to all study courses, such as objectives, times and methods to be adopted for planning, co-ordinating and evaluating the results of the activities; procedures to assign the annual teaching tasks to teachers and researchers; examination procedures; student assessment procedures,  within the limits established by central regulations; evaluation of the students’ initial training and organisation of training activities preparatory to the assessment of the initial training; quality assurance.

Therefore, it is not possible to provide an in-depth picture of programmes and contents of each course.

Teaching regulations of study courses, establish the list of teachings; specific training objectives and credits; curriculum and requirements for the presentation of the individual study plans; provisions concerning any compulsory attendance.

The curriculum is the whole of the training activities (teaching courses, seminaries, practical work and laboratory, didactical activities in small groups, tutoring, guidance, apprenticeship, projects, thesis, individual study activities and self-learning) the students has to carry out to obtain the qualification.

The knowledge of a language of the European Union is required to obtain the final qualification.

The official teaching language is Italian. However, many institutions offer both activities (seminars, conferences) and study courses or single subject courses in a foreign language (mainly English).

Teaching Methods

Universities and High level arts and music education (Afam) institutions, in their own regulations, should establish the procedures to carry out the teaching activities, in the respect of teaching freedom as well as of teachers’ and students’ rights and duties.

Teachers are free to choose their teaching methods. They can be given just some not mandatory indications. The use of new technologies is more and more widespread, as well as seminars, working groups, etc.

Progression of Students

Students are expected to obtain the credits foreseen in the study plan for each academic year, upon passing the scheduled exams. Students who do not pass the scheduled exams cannot attend courses foreseen for the following academic year.

In order to graduate, students are required to have passed all the exams foreseen by their study plan. If they have not, students are expected to fulfil their duty within the terms established by regulations of each institution.

Students holding a university or Afam second cycle qualification, have access to the third-cycle programmes, within the limits of the admission requirements foreseen for this level of higher education.

At present, the teaching regulations of each university lay down procedures and criteria to be followed when students ask to switch from one degree course to another within the same or different university, or from a university to an Afam institution and vice versa. Regulations can provide for monitoring the acquired credits in order to check if the students’ knowledge is not obsolete. As for the switch from one course to another or from one university to another, teaching regulations must guarantee the recognition of the possible highest number of credits obtained by the student. In the case of switch within the same class of studies the recognition of credits must not be lower than 50%. The non-recognition of credits must be adequately motivated.

Employability

University Education

According to the most recent labour legislation, (Decree issued on 20 September 2011) universities have a role of intermediation between students and the labour world, on condition that universities enrol in the Register of the employment agencies. This latter is the informative register that includes all the subjects authorised by Ministry of labour to carry out intermediation activities.

Cliclavoro’ is the portal where universities publish the CVs of their students and graduates (within 12 months) in order to make them available to employers who can advertise, in their turn, available posts.

Those willing to work freelance, in most cases (e.g. agronomists and forestry graduates, agrotechnicians, architects, social assistants, actuaries, biologists, chemists, geologists, engineers) are required to pass a qualifying State examination and then to enrol in the relevant registers. Registers, managed by Associations (Ordini) and Councils (Collegi), are divided into two sections, according to the level of ability and competence gained at the university: in section A enrol those who have a laurea specialistica/magistrale; in section B those who have a laurea. Separate sectors within the sections of the registers relate to specific educational paths corresponding to highly specific professional activities.

To favour the entry in the labour world, it is mandatory for universities to foresee guidance activities in their regulations. Guidance activities include indoor and outdoor initiatives, such as the promotion of consortia and agreements with enterprises foreseeing grants, apprenticeship or traineeship.

There are more types of apprenticeships, or traineeship:

  • Apprenticeship carried out during or after the university studies and combined with the qualifying State exam for practicing regulated professions (professional bodies and registers).
  • Apprenticeship explicitly foreseen in the teaching regulations of a study course
  • Apprenticeship carried out within international projects
  • Apprenticeship freely organised and offered to students and teachers by an enterprise.

Apprenticeships must be part of training and guidance projects, and according to agreements between the involved universities and enterprises or associations of employers, in some cases also involving other actors such as professional associations, local authorities and public bodies.

Moreover, trainee must be insured (civil liability and occupational accident) and be followed by a tutor who has responsibility for didactics and of the organisation of the activities must be foreseen; finally, trainee should be assigned credits (CFU) for the activities carried out.

Many universities have set up ad hoc offices to have a better organisation of the traineeships offer and to deliver a more efficient information to students.

Beside these offices there are also student associations dealing with the apprenticeship offer. They are mainly international associations that group together students from certain study areas (economics, engineering, law, medicine, etc.) and act through a network of local seats. Many graduates’ associations aim also at establishing a connection between university and enterprises and at facilitating the transition from the university to the labour market, also through the promotion of traineeships.

High Level Arts and Music Education (Afam)

Activities carried out by Afam institutions to facilitate the access of students to the labour market depend on the type of profession taught in each institute. Therefore, it is not possible to provide an overall description.

Student Assessment

Each University and Afam lays down in its own teaching regulation the procedures and methods for students’ assessment. However, central regulations require that grades assigned at examinations should be calculated on a scale of 0 – 30, being 18 the minimum mark required for passing the exam. Final tests marks should be calculated on a scale of 0 – 110, being 66 the minimum mark required to be awarded the final qualification. In both cases, it is possible to graduate with honours (30 with honours; 110 with honours).

Both universities and Afam institutions have adopted a credit system for the recognition of students’ learning workload. University students are assigned CFU (university formative credits), whereas Afam institutions assign CFA (academic formative credits). CFU and CFA have the same following characteristics:

  • credits represent the quantity of learning work, including study at individual level, students are required to carry out according to the teaching regulations of the study courses. A credit corresponds to 25 hours of study;
  • the average quantity of learning work carried out by a full-time student corresponds conventionally to 60 credits;
  • the total or partial acknowledgement of the credits obtained by a student who wants to continue his/her studies is responsibility of the educational institution that takes in the student;
  • teaching regulations of each university can provide for a recurrent verification of credits and indicate the minimum number of credits to be achieved within a fixed period of time;
  • on the basis of criteria fixed beforehand, universities can recognise as CFU professional abilities and skills certified in conformity with regulations in force on this subject, as well as other abilities and skills gained through educational activities of post-secondary level planned and carried out in collaboration with the university.

CFU and CFA correspond to Ects credits. Each institution, in its own regulations, establishes a specific conversion table to facilitate the conversion between the national marks and the ECTS grading.

To achieve the second-cycle qualification either at university or at an Afam institution, students have to sit for a final test in front of the examination committee. The test foresees the submission of a final work developed by the student under the guidance of a supervisor. To be admitted to the final test, students must have passed all the exams foreseen in their study plan, and been awarded a total of 120 credits (or 300-360 in case of single-cycle programmes), corresponding to the two years of studies.

Certification

University students, who have completed a second cycle programme, have been assigned the corresponding 120 CFU credits (or 300-360 for single-cycle programmes) and and have successfully passed the final test, obtain a laurea magistrale. Under the same circumstances, Afam students obtain a Diploma accademico di secondo livello (Second level academic diploma).

The university rector and the Afam institution director, who represent the university and the Afam institution, are responsible for the qualifications issue. University titles have academic value and do not qualify to work freelance in one of the regulated professions; instead, they give access to the qualifying State exam required to enrol in the relevant register.

University and Afam institutions, in their teaching regulations, establish methods and procedures to issue both the certification and the Diploma supplement, in compliance with the models adopted in the European countries, providing the main information on the curriculum followed by the student to obtain the certification concerned.

According to specific agreements, the institutions can release qualifications together with other Italian and foreign institutions of the same level, qualified to issue qualifications recognised in Italy according to the international and European community law (joint qualification).

Legislative references

Ministerial Decree of 8 February 2013, no. 45 (accreditation of doctoral courses)

Law of 30 December 2010, no. 240 (organisation of universities)

Decree of the President of the Republic (DPR) of 8 July 2005, no. 212 (organisation of the Afam sector)

Decree of the President of the Republic (DPR) of 28 February 2003, no. 132 (autonomy of Afam institutions)

Ministerial Decree of 22 October 2004, no. 270 (organisation of universities)

Law 2 August 1999, no. 264 (general requirements to access university courses)

Regulation of 3 November 1999, no. 509 (autonomy of universities)

Law of 21 December 1999, no. 508 (Afam)

Ministerial Decree 21 July 1997, no. 245 (general dispositions on pre-enrolment and design of university courses)

Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Both universities and High level arts and music education (Afam) institutes organise third-cycle programmes, lasting a minimum of 3 years.

Courses aim at providing the competencies required to carry out highly qualified research activities.

University third-cycle programmes lead to a Dottorato (PhD), while Afam programmes lead to a Diploma accademico di formazione alla ricerca (research academic diploma).

Beside the above-mentioned programmes, universities and Afam institutions also offer further courses, leading to qualifications falling outside the Bachelor and Master structure.

All qualifications are described in the NQF. Qualifications issued by universities and Afam institutions are also described in the Italian qualification framework of Higher education (QTI).

Organisation of Doctoral Studies

Doctoral studies are offered in all areas and sectors of study and research.

Courses, as well as institutions hosting the courses, should have the accreditation from the Ministry of education, university and research (Miur), upon advice National agency for the evaluation of the university and research system (Anvur).

Universities and any Italian institution of advanced training and research can submit for accreditation.

Accredited institutions establish, in their own regulations, the access requirements to courses, methods to obtain the final qualification, learning objectives and programmes, length of courses, fees, the number of fellowships available, methods for awarding grants and their amount.

Courses can also be organised through consortia and agreements with other public and/or private, Italian or foreign universities and research institutes (international doctorate) and with enterprises involved in research and development (industrial doctorate). However, qualifications are always issued by university institutions.

High level arts and music education institutions (Afam) offer third-cycle courses called equivalent to university PhDs.

Courses are organised in all areas and sectors of high level arts, music and dance education.

Afam institutions can offer third-cycle courses also through consortia and agreements with other Afam institutions, universities and other public or private, Italian or foreign institutions.

Both university and Afam third-cycle courses have a minimum length of 3 years.

Admission Requirements

Access to third-cycle programmes at both universities and Afam institutions requires passing a public competition.

To access the public competition for university third-cycle programmes, a second-cycle qualification (laurea magistrale), or other equivalent qualification obtained abroad, is required.

Access to the competition is open also to those who, at the date of the competition, do not have the qualification required. However, in case of positive outcome, they should get the qualification within the 31st October subsequent to the competition.

The call should be in both Italian and English and be published on the website of the institution offering the doctoral course, on the ministry of education website and on Euraxess. Moreover, the call should indicate the number of available posts, access requirements, assessment criteria, tests (written and/or oral), grants available and costs for future PhD students.

Selection procedures should end by the 30th September of each year.

Access the public competition at Afam requires a second-cycle qualification, attained at an Italian or foreign university or Afam institution.

The call for the selection should be published on the Official Journal, and the Miur should be informed. The call should indicate the number of available posts, tests, the number of grants available and their amount.

Status of Doctoral Students/Candidates

Doctoral students have the status of university full time students with and exclusive engagement with the institution. During doctoral studies, students can carry out tutoring and, within the limit of 40 hours/year, teaching activities.

In case a student is also a civil servant, he/she has the right to unpaid leave for the official duration of the course (e.g. if the course has an official duration of three years and the student needs one more year to finish his/her studies, the fourth year is not covered by the leave). Female students have the right to maternity leave.

Students receive yearly grants renewable upon fulfilment of all activities foreseen in the study plan of the previous year. Grants have a minimum amount established nationwide through Ministerial Decree. The amount can be increased to cover additional costs for research activities to be carried out abroad. Grants covers also social security costs.

Supervision Arrangements

Each university and Afam institution establishes its own assessment and supervision criteria.

Each university doctoral course has its own Teachers’ board, with its own coordinator. The board plans and organises the course. The board is made up of professors, researchers coming from both Italian and foreign universities and research institutes and highly qualified experts. Single regulations regulates the participation in the assembly.

Tutoring is available according to criteria and methods established by each institution.

Each Afam PhD course has its own board, with its own coordinator. The board is made up of all professors of the course and is engaged with the organisation of the course, the definition of study plans and of assessment procedures, etc.

Employability

As for the third-cycle studies, questions concerning guidance and transition to active life are foreseen within the teaching activities of each study course; therefore, they fall within the responsibility of the teaching structure which manages the respective study courses. Please also refer to ‘Employability’ in the first and second-cycle programmes.

Assessment

Assessment of university and Afam doctoral students takes place every year at the time of their admission to the subsequent year. Single institutions establish the assessment methods in their own regulations.

At the end of the whole course, students should pass a final assessment.

University doctoral students’ submit a final research work, written both in Italian and in English, contributing to the advancement of knowledge and methodologies in the subject area chosen by the student. Students should also submit a report on the activities carried out during the doctoral course and on publications made.

At least two external highly qualified professors evaluate the student’s work and write an analytical assessment. If the evaluation is positive the student is admitted to debate his/her work publicly. In case of non-positive assessment, the public dissertation is postponed up to six months to allow the student to amend and integrate his/her work.

The student debates the final work in front of a commission, which composition is defined in universities regulations. The commission approves or reject the work with motivation and can assign the laude to particularly significant works.

Also Afam doctoral students debate their work publically. The final research work should be original and previously approved by relevant bodies of the course. The commission is made up of highly qualified experts of whom at least three should be external.

Certification

At completion of a third-cycle programme, universities issue the qualification Dottorato di ricerca and award the title of Dottore di ricerca (Dott. Ric.) or PhD.

Afam institutions issue the Diploma accademico di formazione alla ricerca (Academic research diploma) and the relevant title of Academic research Doctor.

This subject is regulated by single institutions through their own regulations.

Organisational Variation

For some university courses, distance learning is provided. The universities can provide this type of didactic organisation, also in the form of a consortium with several universities or with the support of other public and private bodies.

Teaching regulations of each university and of the study courses lay down the organisation of possible training activities for students who do not attend full-time and the typology of courses, including distance learning provisions, examinations and other monitoring forms of the students’ performances.

Legislative references

Ministerial Decree of 8 February 2013, no. 45 (accreditation of doctoral courses)

Law of 30 December 2010, no. 240 (organisation of universities)

Decree of the President of the Republic (DPR) of 8 July 2005, no. 212 (organisation of the Afam sector)

Decree of the President of the Republic (DPR) of 28 February 2003, no. 132 (autonomy of Afam institutions)

Ministerial Decree of 22 October 2004, no. 270 (organisation of universities)

Regulation of 3 November 1999, no. 509 (autonomy of universities)

Law of 21 December 1999, no. 508 (Afam)

Mobility in Higher Education

Student mobility

University student mobility takes place mainly through the Erasmus+ Programme. The Programme foresees now more opportunities also for new graduates.

Students can choose among a study period abroad at a partner higher education institution (HEI) and a traineeship abroad in an enterprise or any other relevant workplace.

The study/traineeship period abroad must be part of the student’s study programme to complete a degree at a first cycle (Bachelor), second cycle (Master) and third or doctoral cycle. A student can receive up to 12 months of Erasmus funding per each cycle of study, independently from the number and types of periods abroad.

Academic staff mobility

An increase in the number of academics (teachers and researchers) with teaching/research experience abroad is firmly sought by the Ministry of Education, University and Research and it is a high priority in the political agenda. The main goals are:

  1. to boost the return of Italian academics who have been teaching/researching abroad to their HEIs and Research Institutes (RI);
  2. to promote recruitment of young researchers, researchers and professors;
  3. to support Italian academics to research or teach in international HEI / RI, in the framework of bilateral or multilateral agreements between individual HEIs;
  4. to promote academic mobility within bilateral cooperation agreements between Italy and other countries;
  5. to increase Italian participation to EU research initiatives.

For these goals, there are no specific (numeric) targets set.

The existing national programs are focused on mobility for academics, researchers or Doctoral graduates.

For encouraging the return of Italian academics in Italian HEIs (goal 1) and promoting international recruitment of young researchers, researchers and academics (goal 2), the Ministry has put in place:

  • a program for the International recruitment for researchers and professors to cofund contracts for international researchers or professors who are based in HEIs from other countries and are invited to teach or do research in Italian HEIs;
  • the “Rita Levi Montalcini” Program to attract young researchers (Italians and foreigners) to carry out research projects in Italian HEIs.

Concerning the bilateral institutional cooperation (goal 3), there are two types of programs:

  • bilateral programs to encourage Italian Universities to cooperate with foreign institutions, such as “Università Italo – Francese”, or “Ateneo di studi italo-tedeschi”, with a very strong focus on mobility of academics and students for research project or the award of Joint/Double Doctoral Degrees;
  • national programs to support research, the “Progetti di Ricerca di Interesse Nazionale” – PRIN (Research Projects on National Priorities), which include amongst eligible activities also international mobility for researchers and academics.

Furthermore, the regulations on academic personnel gives several opportunities to Italian professors and researchers who want to spend longer period for teaching and researching abroad either in a sabbatical period or within framework agreements between individual institutions (goal 3).

Academic mobility is also part of bilateral cooperation agreements between Italy and other countries (goal 4). Within cultural cooperation agreements, coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there are resources to support Italian academics for short stay teaching and research activities in partner countries.

The organisation, coordination and financing of the programs mentioned is carried out by different services of the Ministry of Education, of the Directorate General for students, development and internationalisation of higher education and the Directorate General for coordination, promotion and exploitation of research.

The role of the Ministry, in all initiative, includes the definition of funding priorities, the allocation of resources, the decision on eligible activities and participants, the publication of calls and the selection of beneficiaries. The picture is diversified from initiative to initiative concerning the beneficiaries and the financial resources available. In some cases, the reference is the HEI or Research Institute in itself while in other cases the reference are individuals or groups of academics who present proposals, on the basis of existing bilateral/multilateral agreement between their Institution and others.

As complementary information, we refer to data made available by the EU Commission either through staff mobility initiatives under the Erasmus programme or through the reporting of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

Data collection – excluding EU initiatives – is coordinated by the Ministry.

Finally, teaching opportunities for the teaching staff of higher education institutions are also provided by Erasmus+. Erasmus staff mobility programme allows the staff of higher education institutions to acquire knowledge or specific know-how from experiences and good practices abroad as well as practical skills relevant for their current job and their professional development and to the benefit of the institutions.

This action enables teaching staff of higher education institutions to spend a period of between 2 working days and 2 months (at least 8 teaching hours per week or a shorter period) in a HEI in another participating country.

European Higher Education Organization is a public organization carrying out academic, educational and information activities on higher education in Europe.

The EHEO general plan stresses that:

  • Higher education systems require adequate funding and, as an investment in economic growth, public spending in higher education should be protected.
  • The challenges faced by higher education require more flexible governance and funding systems, which balance greater autonomy for education institutions with accountability to stakeholders.

Thus, EHEO plans:

  • improve academic and scientific interaction of universities;
  • protect the interests of universities;
  • interact more closely with public authorities of European countries;
  • popularize European higher education in the world;
  • develop academic mobility;
  • seek funding for European universities.