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Study in Italy

Italy is a popular destination for international students. It offers quality higher education with more affordable tuition fees than other Western European countries. There are around 32,000 international students in Italy, including independent students and those on exchange programmes. With a rich history and tradition of higher education, Italy is always an attractive option for students.

Why study in Italy

Some of the first universities in Europe were founded in Italy during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The University of Bologna, founded in 1088, is recognised as the oldest university to still operate. Today, Italy is the home of many prestigious institutions of higher education. Many of Italy’s institutions perform well in the QS World University Rankings, appearing in the top 200 each year.

Italy has played an important role in recent reform of higher education. This reform is known as the “Bologna Process”. The country is one of the four countries that created the European Area of Higher Education. This was formed by signing the Sorbonne Declaration in 1998, which was to be the first step in the higher education reform. Today the Bologna Process is now being implemented throughout Europe.

Italy has around 97 universities, which are divided into several categories:

  • State universities: These are state funded public institutions and make up the majority in Italy.
  • Other publicly funded universities: Funded by Province rather than state.
  • Private universities: Non state funded.
  • Superior Graduate Schools (Scuola Superiore Universitaria): These are independent institutions that offer advanced training and research courses specialising in postgraduate studies.

You will also find 137 other higher education institutions throughout Italy. These are academies that specialise in certain sectors. They range from art, music and dance colleges, to research based and technical institutions.

Italy has several levels of higher education. Completing undergraduate studies (bachelor’s degree – ‘laurea’) can lead to master’s studies and earning a master’s degree (‘laurea magistrale’). Bachelor’s studies typically take 3 years to complete and master’s studies take 1 year. Following the completion of your masters studies you can do a PhD which usually lasts 3 academic years.

Most of the courses and programmes offered are taught in the Italian language but the number of English language programmes available is growing. Therefore, it may be possible to find courses taught in English if your Italian language skills are not good enough.

About Italy

Italy is a beautiful country located in Southwestern Europe, on the Apennine peninsula. The country comprises of the mainland Italy and the surrounding islands. The country stretches southwards almost to the coasts of North Africa.

Italy has something to offer everyone. It boasts stunning old cities, the Mediterranean and breathtaking natural views. It is known for it’s fantastic food and wine, as well as its passionate people. At the same time, it is among the 8 most industrialised countries in the world, hosting many of the world’s biggest companies and research facilities. Italy has a rich cultural tradition and history as well as many World Heritage Sites that you might wish to visit during your stay.

The top tourist attractions in Italy include:

  • The Colosseum: the largest and most famous amphitheatre in the Roman world, built in the first century AD.
  • Canals of Venice: “The City of Water”, as Venice is called, has over 150 canals. The main tourist attractions are romantic gondolas and Italian architecture along the Grand Canal. If you plan on visiting Venice, don’t forget about St Mark’s Basilica, located on Piazza San Marco.
  • Pompeii: a city that was covered in ash and soil in 79 AD, when the volcano Vesuvius erupted. The city was preserved under the ashes.
  • Leaning Tower of Pisa: its construction started in 1173 and soon after the tower began to sink due to a poorly laid foundation.
  • Lake Como: the lake is shaped like an inverted ‘Y’ and it’s famous for the attractive villas which have been built here since Roman times.

How to Apply

There is no centralised application system used for international students in Italy. This means that you will need to apply to each institution individually. There might be different application requirements depending on the course you wish to apply for, as well as which study level you undertaking. For more detailed information about what requirements there might be, as well as how to apply and any deadlines, please contact your institution, who will be able to provide you with any extra details you might need.

Want to study abroad but not sure on how to begin? Take a look at our advice article on Deciding to study abroad: The first steps.

Costs of studying and living in Italy

Tuition fees at Italian institutions vary, but they are generally lower than in other parts of Europe or North America. This makes Italian universities an enticing proposition for foreign students. International students in Italy have a chance to receive a quality higher education at an affordable cost.

The cost of tuition will vary at each institution. However, you should expect to pay more if you choose to attend a private university. A bachelor’s course will, on average, cost €900 to €4,000 per year at a public institution. Fees at a private institution usually cost, on average, €6,000 to €20,000 per year. If you are from the EU or EEA, you probably won’t pay more than Italian citizens. Other international students should expect higher course costs.

There are options to help you fund your studies. All students (Italian and International) can apply for financial help. The funding will be distributed according to your financial situation and academic merit. If you receive support, this can help with tuition fees, accommodation fees and other living costs. Contact your chosen institution for information about what financial support they can offer to you.

In Italy institutions do not normally have halls of residence. They do however offer services to help you find a place to live. This can include university owned housing, or helping you find suitable private housing. Private renting in Italy is the more expensive option, so make sure you budget for this!

Getting a part-time job is a great way to help fund your studies in Italy. As an EU student, you are able to work without additional permission. As a non-EU student, your visa will dictate if you are permitted to have paid employment whilst you study. If you are allowed to work, it will probably only be up to 20 hours a week. This means that you should not rely on this to fund your studies. If you do wish to get a job, it may be helpful if you have some Italian language skills.

Student visas

Depending on your nationality, you may need to get a visa to study in Italy. If you are from an EU or EFTA country (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) you will not need a visa. If you are from any other country, you will need a visa. All students will need to present details of accommodation, proof of financial stability and a comprehensive health insurance policy.

To get more information about the visa process, documents required, application costs and where to apply, please visit the MAECI website and provide the relevant information. This website will give you information that is specific to your situation.

If you are a non-EU or EFTA student, you will need to apply for a residence permit once you have a visa. This needs to be done within 8 days of your arrival in the country. You can apply for this at the post office in your new city of residence. If you need any advice or information about this process, your institution will be able to assist.

Students who are from an EU or EFTA country do not need to apply for a residence permit. However, if you plan to stay for over 3 months, you must register with the Anagrafe (register office) in your city of residence. You are able to register as a temporary resident if you do not intend to move your permanent residence to Italy. If you choose this option, it must be renewed every year. You are also able to transfer your permanent residence to Italy.

EU students who plan to study in Italy for longer than 3 months need to register with the Italian National Health Service (SSN) to gain complete health coverage. You can do this at the Local Health Authorities (ASL). You will not have to pay any fees, and you will be issued with a health insurance card (Tessera Sanitaria). This allows you access to the same health services as Italian citizens.

Non-EU students must have health insurance in order to apply for a residence permit. There are three different options for international students.

  • Register with the Italian Health Service (SSN) – you can do this at your Local Health Authority (ASL).
  • Purchase a private health insurance policy in your own country – it is always advisable to get this policy validated by the Italian embassy and translated into Italian or English.
  • Purchase a private health insurance policy in Italy – you can do this before or after your arrival, but you need it to apply for a residence permit.

For more information about getting a student visa for Italy, see our Italy Student Visa Guide article.


The national language of Italy is Italian, so it is a great chance to learn another language. Having multiple languages is a fantastic skill, and looks great on your CV!

If your course is taught in Italian, you need will need to provide evidence of your language proficiency. If you cannot provide this evidence, or need to improve your skills, many institutions offer language courses.

As well as courses taught in Italian, an increasing amount are being taught in English. You will need to provide evidence that your English skills meet the required standard for your specific course. If you do not meet these standards, most institutions offer courses that will allow you to improve your language skills.

If you choose to study in English, it is still encouraged that you make the most of being in a new country. You should immerse yourself in the culture and traditions. Try your best to pick up the Italian language and interact with the locals to help you improve. This will make your time more enjoyable, and has the potential to make you more employable!

Student cities in Italy


The capital city of Italy, Rome is home to around 4.3 million residents. This makes it the fourth most populous city in the EU. Rome’s history spans over 28 centuries, and it is one of the oldest continuously occupied sites in Europe. The historic centre of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with sites such as the Colosseum and the Vatican. Due to its rich culture and history, Rome is perfect for foreign students and has something to offer everyone.

Rome is an international centre for higher education, boasting many universities, colleges and academies in a variety of different fields. For example, La Sapienza is one of the largest in the world, and has more than 140,000 students enrolled. Also in Rome is the Istituto Europeo di Design, the Scuola Lorenzo de’ Medici and Rome Business School.

Find out more about Universities in Rome.


The city of Milan has just over 1.3 million residents, making it the second most populous city in Italy after Rome. It has strengths in many fields, including finance, design and fashion. Milan is known as the world’s fashion and design capital, and hosts the Milan Fashion Week. The many art galleries and museums are visited by millions of people every year, and are home to some of the most important art collections in the world, including works by Leonardo da Vinci.

There are 14 higher education institutions in Milan, offering courses in many different areas. For example, Bocconi University was established in 1902, and is a world recognised business school. You will also find institutions such as the New Academy of Fine Arts and the European Institute of Design located in the city.

Find out more about Universities in Milan.


Florence is the capital city of the Tuscany region of Italy. The city’s historic centre has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982, and Forbes ranked the city as one of the most beautiful in the world. The city is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, and has an interesting and turbulent political history, including periods of rule under the Medici family. Florence has numerous museums and art galleries, and is home to plenty of breathtaking architecture.

You will find the University of Florence in the city, as well as Florence University of the Arts and Polimoda International Institute Fashion Design and Marketing. With the variety in types of institution, Florence is bound to have something for everyone!

Common student questions

Can I study in Italy for free?

Higher education in Italy is not government subsidised, meaning that universities can set their own tuition fees. However, fees are generally affordable for international students looking to study abroad. For more information about fees to study in Italy, see our Costs of Studying and Living in Italy section.

Can I study in Italy as an international student?

Italy is a superb place to study as an international student. It has long been a popular destination for studying abroad, and can offer excellent higher education at reasonable prices. If you are from an EU or EFTA country, you will not need a visa to study in Italy. If you are from any other country, you will need to obtain a visa in order to study in Italy. For more information about this, take a look at our Italian Student Visas section.

Can I study in Italy with English?

Many universities offer their courses in English as well as Italian, meaning you can choose which language you wish to study in. If your first language is not English, you will need to provide evidence of your language proficiency. Most Italian universities accept an IELTS or TOEFL certificate.

Search for courses in Italy

More information about studying in Italy

Capital City Rome
Currency EUR, Euro
Language(s) Italian
Universities on StudyLink 38 universities
Major Student Cities Milan, Florence

Read more about studying in Europe

Study in Europe

Degree courses you may be interested in studying in Italy

Masters courses you may be interested in studying in Italy

Highlighted courses in Italy

Economics and Finance BA

John Cabot University Italy

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Italian Language Courses in Sicily Certificate, Summer Course, Winter School

The Italian Academy Italy

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Geological Sciences BSc

Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra Italy

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Medicine and Surgery MD

Humanitas University, Medicine and Surgery Italy

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Journalism Master Degree

IULM University of Milan Italy

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Fashion Direction: Fashion Design & Management Master Degree

Milano Fashion Institute Italy

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Interior and Spatial Design MSc

Politecnico di Milano Italy

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