It isn’t difficult to see why Italy is a popular place to study. After all, it is the home of the University of Bologna, believed to be the world’s oldest university.
Italy has one of the richest cultures on the planet, an amalgamation of the customs and traditions of its 20 regions.
Situated in the heart of southern Europe, Italy has a multitude of landscapes: from the alpine pistes in the north to the Mediterranean beaches in the south. You would be forgiven for thinking you had crossed international borders every time you entered a new region.
Italy (tied with China) is home to more Unesco World Heritage sites than any other nation in the world. These attractions, alongside Italy’s famous cuisine and rich history, are just some of the reasons it is among the world’s most visited countries each year.
If you think Italy sounds like a good destination for your studies, read on to find out about the nation’s best institutions based on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021.
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Every major Italian town has a university, most of which are state-funded. However, there are also private universities and superior graduate schools, which are specifically focused on teaching and research at graduate level and above.
There are four main types of qualification in the Italian higher education system. The most basic is the three-year laurea – the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree.
The laurea magistrale consists of the three-year laurea followed by an additional two years of study, which makes it the equivalent of a master’s degree. Then there’s the laurea magistrale a ciclo unico, a five- or six-year course only awarded in some fields – including medicine, architecture and law – which is similar to an integrated master’s degree because there is no separation between the bachelor’s and master’s parts to the qualification.
Finally there’s the dottorato di ricerca, a doctoral programme primarily offered in superior graduate schools.
Top 5 universities in Italy
The University of Bologna, founded in 1088, is believed to be the world’s oldest university.
This university is held in high regard and has campuses in Bologna, Cesena, Forli, Ravenna and Rimini in Italy, and an international campus in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Bologna has varied nightlife and lots of live music, from opera to modern DJs and bands.
The University of Bologna is also responsible for the Bologna Process, a series of agreements between European countries with the aim of ensuring cooperation and comparability between the higher education systems of Europe.
The university’s long list of alumni includes Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket, a number of popes, Nobel-winning inventor and engineer Guglielmo Marconi, and Enzo Ferrari and Giorgio Armani, founders of their eponymous brands.
The Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies – Pisa is a public university specialising in applied sciences.
The university has a rigorous entrance exam and if students are able to achieve top marks and demonstrate proficiency in two languages, they are able to study for free. As a result, the student population is very small with fewer than 1,000 students attending the university.
The Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies offers degrees in business sciences, economic sciences, legal sciences, political sciences, agricultural sciences, medical sciences, industrial engineering and information engineering.
The university was founded in 1810 as a branch of the École Normale Supérieure in Paris.
It offers programmes in both the humanities and sciences and still operates from its original building, Palazzo della Carovana, in the medieval centre of Pisa.
The Sapienza University of Rome was founded in 1303 by Pope Boniface VIII, making it Rome’s oldest university.
It is also the largest university in Europe, supporting about 115,000 students, including nearly 9,000 international students, and almost 4,000 academic staff. It offers 280 degree programmes and 200 specialist courses across 63 departments, with 50 libraries available for student use (the largest number of any Italian university) as well as 18 museums.
Through the Erasmus exchange programme, Sapienza is partnered with at least 400 other universities, and maintains a strong international presence.
The University of Padua was founded in 1222 as a school of law. It is the second oldest university in Italy and the world’s fifth oldest university.
The university is made up of 32 departments and eight schools. It also has a university hospital, a museum and 14 halls of residence.
The University of Padua is part of a network of historical research universities known as the Coimbra Group, which also includes Trinity College Dublin, Heidelberg University, KU Leuven and the University of Salamanca.
Vita-Salute San Raffaele University is a young institution, founded in 1996, and situated in the vibrant city of Milan. The teaching is structured across three departments: medicine, philosophy and psychology.
The mission of Vita-Salute San Raffaele is to answer to the question: “Quid est homo?” (“What is man?”), stemming from the belief that humans are biologically, psychologically and spiritually unique.
In 2015, the institution became part of the Gruppo San Donato, Europe’s largest private hospital group.
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Top universities in Italy 2021
Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2021 results
Read more: Best universities in the world