University in Italy: 5 things you need to know before applying

Do you see yourself as an Italian university student? 

Would you rather ride a Vespa across Rome, or a bicycle through the streets of Bologna? Or maybe sit on a harbor’s dock in Sicily, drawing a skyline full of tingling sailing boats at sunset? Well, that’s a dream that will come true when you enrol in a university in Italy.

You might have heard of Europe as the old continent. In fact, higher education in Europe dates a long way back. Actually, before the year 1500 there were already 39 official universities in Europe. But did you know that 14 of them were actually Italian Universities?

Studying in Italy could mean attending one of the most ancient world universities, in a contemporary and lively environment. It could also mean attending a modern, avant-garde institution, enjoying the perks of a country with 55 UNESCO world heritage sites.

Other benefits of studying in Italy include, but are not limited to: learning one of the most melodic languages in the world, gaining the highest intercultural skills that no course can teach you, becoming part of a warm-welcoming, engaging community, easily traveling across Europe while creating a long-lasting connection with this beautiful continent.

Not bad, uh?


Already mentally packing your bags and mind-traveling to Italy? First, let’s have a look at these 5  crucial steps to help you enroll in a university in Italy.


1) Is my high school diploma enough?


First of all, you should investigate if your current qualification allow you to apply for a university in Italy. We’ve included all possible cases in our article “Tell me what studies you have completed, I’ll tell you how to enrol in an Italian University”. However, let’s just say that with the right help and guidance, every obstacle can be overcome. A general rule of thumb is that if you can access university in your country, then you can access university in Italy, too. With some exceptions, of course. For example, if your prior education has been shorter than 12 years, you’ll need a preparatory program such a Foundation Course to help you fill this gap. 

So go carefully read about this matter first, and then come back here to this article.

Tips to enroll in Italian universities and pass admissions tests


2) How do I choose the best university in Italy?


While there are actual statistics and ratings about universities in Italy, numbers aren’t all that matters. Due to the many variables involved, it’s not easy to simply nominate the best Italian university.

Above all, you should learn about the different kinds of institutions you might find in Italy. In this way, you will be able to narrow your choices down and attentively evaluate and compare your options.

Currently in Italy there are 95 universities, 44 academies of fine Arts and 85 other music- and art-related higher institutions.

Among the 95 universities, there are 61 public and 17 private universities, 6 special higher schools and 11 online universities.

As you probably already know, Italy holds in high regards all forms of art, including dance and music. This is why there is a specific sector of higher education called AFAM (Alta Formazione Artistica e Musicale, lit. Higher Education in Arts and Music). This includes 44 academies of fine arts, 4 higher institutes for applied arts, the National Academy of Drama, the National Dance Academy and 79 music conservatories and officially recognized music institutes.

While every higher institution has its own admission criteria and quotas, for some degrees the admission quotas are fixed at a national level. 

Every year the Italian Ministry for Education, University and Research (MIUR) sets the admission quota for these specific degrees

  • Single-cycle degree course in Medicine and Surgery (in Italian and in English);
  • Single-cycle degree course in Odontoiatrics and Dental Prostheses;
  • Single-cycle degree course in Veterinary Medicine;
  • Laurea degree and Laurea Magistrale degree courses in Healthcare Professions;
  • Laurea degree and single-cycle degree courses directly structured for the qualification of Architect;
  • Single-cycle degree course in Primary Education Sciences. 

Should you be choosing a degree with a limited admission quota, be aware that your enrolment with the Italian university will be only finalized after you have successfully passed the entry test.

Always remember that a Laurea degree is a 3-year degree, while a Laurea Magistrale can refer to two different types of degree. A Laurea Magistrale can in fact be either a 2-year specialized degree following a Laurea Degree, or it can be a 4- or 5-year single-cycle degree (such as in Medicine). For the purposes of this article, we will mainly focus on the Laurea degree and the single-cycle Laurea Magistrale.

Italian universities for international students


3) University in Italy: admission requirements, pre-enrolment and study visa applications


Once you’ve made up your mind and chosen your preferred Italian University, it is time to prepare your pre-enrolment application.

Being a foreign student, your pre-enrolment application will also support your study visa application, so it is important that your documents are nice and tidy for the Italian consulate/embassy to receive them.

If you are an Italian or European citizen, you will not need a visa to study in Italy. 

The exact admission requirements vary from institution to institution. It is crucial that you refer to your prospective university’s international office for any detailed information about the application process.

Here’s a list of the documents that a university in Italy usually requires:

  1. Original or certified copy of high school diploma, obtained after a 12-year school period. Or, a legal-equivalent certificate (see section 1 of this article).
  2. Certificate of passing of a special academic competence exam, if applicable in the student’s country of origin (i.e. A Levels in the UK, APs in the US, etc.)
  3. Translations of the documents listed in points a) and b), if request by the prospective university in Italy
  4. Any other relevant documents required by the prospective university in Italy

Please note that the pre-enrolment to the degrees with limited admission quotas are handled online through the Universitaly platform.

Some Italian universities are also available to perform a student’s pre-enrolment check. This means that they will evaluate your admission documents before pre-enrolment and provide you with an eligibility confirmation. This confirmation, which will support your pre-enrolment application at the consulate/embassy, cannot in any way guarantee the issuance of the visa. Similarly, it will not automatically result in the enrolment with the university, unless all other documents are successfully presented and accepted.

If you are an international student and you need a visa to study in Italy, please read this carefully.

International students interested in Laurea or Laurea Magistrale (single-cycle) degree in Italy should provide the local Italian consulate/embassy with these documents:

  • Form A (or Form A bis in case of application to an AFAM institution), in two copies
    • If the student’s high school qualification is one of these (Annex 1) the student can only apply for one of the study courses indicated in the list of available places. For the study courses where a national admission entry test is mandatory, the pre-enrolment request is valid as indicated at the time of enrolment for the test
    • If the student’s high school qualification is one of these (Annex 2 , e.g. Italian schools abroad, European high schools, International Baccalaureate, etc.) the student can choose any course irrespectively of the number of available places;
  • Certified copy of high school diploma, obtained after a 12-year school period or a legal-equivalent certificate
    • If applicable, certified copy of the final academic qualification achieved or of a post-secondary qualification achieved at a non- academic institution, which entitles the student to have access to higher education, together with a transcript of exams and syllabi
    • If applicable, a statement of comparability issued by an ENIC-NARIC centre;
  • The pre-enrolment eligibility confirmation issued by the prospective university (if present) 
  • Two passport-size photographs, one of which must be certified;
  • Any further document the student deems necessary

Remember to always check the prospective university’s website and to contact their international office for up-to-date information.

The prospective university is also responsible for checking the validity of the documents presented in the application.


4) Italian language proficiency test


When enrolling in a university in Italy, you should prove your proficiency in Italian.

However, if your desired degree is not taught in Italian, then you will not have to prove you Italian proficiency. There might, however, be other requirements, depending on the course you are applying for.

Every university is responsible for verifying the prospective student’s proficiency in Italian. To this purpose, universities organize remote language testing sessions while students are in their home country. These sessions usually take place at a very early stage of the application process.

In some cases, prospective students are exempted from sitting the university’s language test. Let’s see together in which cases this applies.

Students with a B2 or higher language proficiency certificate – officially recognized by CLIQ (Quality Italian Language Certifications) are exempted from sitting the university language test. However, these students can only apply for one of the available places reserved to foreign students. 

Other examples of students exempted from the Italian language test include:

  • Students with a high school diploma from 4- or 5-year Italian high school abroad
  • Students with a high school diploma from one of the institutions listed in Annex 2 (e.g. European high schools, IB, etc.)
  • Students from Argentina who hold a title proving the study of Italian language for at least 5 years;
  • Students who have earned the certification in Italian language proficiency at the Universities for Foreigners of Perugia and Siena;
  • Students who have earned the certification of Italian language proficiency – officially recognized by CLIQ – with a grade of C1 or C2.

For more information on Italian language certifications and CLIQ recognition, take a look here.


5) Study Visa to Italy – everything you need to know


To begin, let’s define if you should or should not be needing a study visa to study in Italy. If you are a citizen of Italy or the European Union, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and the Swiss Confederation, the Republic of San Marino or the Holy See, then you will not need a study visa.

In all other cases, you will indeed be needing a study visa if you wish to enroll in an higher education institution in Italy and live in Italy long-term.

If your chosen degree in Italy is subject to an admission test or a language test, these will probably take place before your pre-enrolment. In order to sit these tests, you will have to first apply for a short-stay entry visa (Standard Schengen Visa for stays of less than 90 days) to come to Italy and sit the admission test. In some cases, depending on your country of origin, you won’t need a visa at all to come to Italy for less than 90 days. Check this website Visto per Italia for more detailed info. 

Now, let’s look at the requirements to apply for a study visa in Italy.

If you wish to obtain a study visa (type D)  for studying in Italy, you must provide the following:

  • Proof of sufficient financial means for sustenance during the planned study period. Every year, this amount is calculated on a monthly budget. For example, in 2020 the necessary monthly budget is quantified in € 459,83, so the total financial means requested for the academic year are € 5,977.79. Every year in December, the Italian State Pension Authority (INPS) announces the amount of social allowance (assegno sociale) for the following year. So the prospective student should prove the availability of such financial means through personal or parental economic guarantees, but not through a bank or insurance policy guarantee, nor with cash.
  • Proof of sufficient financial means for repatriation, e.g. a purchase receipt of a return ticket.
  • Suitable lodging in Italy.
  • Adequate insurance cover for medical expenses and hospital stays.  

The above mentioned, together with the other documents listed in sections 3 and 4, will all be necessary for a successful visa application.

Every student should always bear in mind that requesting a study visa is an official and formal process, so every document and information must be accurate, reliable and true.  Nonetheless, the final decision upon the issuance of the visa itself remains a prerogative of the Italian consulate or embassy, which always acts in the citizens’ and country’s best interest.

In Italy, every higher institution has a dedicated international office that guides foreign students throughout the enrolment process. They provide all necessary documentation and support for the issuance of the study visa and the student’s arrival in Italy.

Deciding about your future is too important of a decision to be taken lightly. Be patient, be bold, ask questions, do a lot of research, take all the time you need to think your options through.


At the end of the day, the choice of which university in Italy to attend will always be yours. So it better be a well educated one.

Planning on studying in Italy? Contact us!