Best universities in Italy 2017

Explore the top universities in Italy using data from the Times Higher Education's World University Rankings
January 3 2017

View universities in Italy ranked in the 2016-17 World University Rankings


It isn’t difficult to see why Italy is an increasingly popular place to study. After all, it is the home of the University of Bologna, believed to be the worlds’ oldest university.

Italy’s journey through history has been far from smooth but it has left the country with one of the richest and most diverse cultures on earth, an amalgamation of the different customs and traditions of its 20 individual regions.

Situated in the heart of southern Europe, Italy is a stone’s throw from a number of major European cities as well as hosting its own diverse landscape. From the alpine pistes in the north to the Mediterranean beaches in the south, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d crossed international borders every time you pass into a new region.

Italy is home to more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other nation in the world. These attractions, alongside Italy’s world-famous cuisine, phenomenal historical legacy and endless culture are just a handful of reasons why it is consistently 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 some of the country’s best institutions.


Resources: top universities worldwide

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Italy’s top institutions

Each of Italy’s major towns and cities plays host to a major university, most of which are state-funded. However, there are also private universities in Italy as well as 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 high education system. The first and most basic is the three-year laurea – the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree.

The Laurea Magistrale is comprised 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, which is a five or six year course only awarded in some fields – including veterinary 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 ricerea, a doctoral program primarily offered in superior graduate schools.

University of Bologna

The first top university to mention is the University of Bologna, founded in 1088 and believed to be the world’s first and oldest university.

This university is still held in very high regard and in 2014 and 2015 it was the most popular university in Italy, with total of almost 85,000 students split between its campuses in Bologna, Cesena, Forli, Ravenna and Rimini, and including the international campus in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Bologna can feel like a university town – there’s a varied nightlife and a lot of live music, from classical opera to modern DJs and bands.

The University of Bologna is also responsible for the Bologna Process, which is a series of agreements between European countries with the aim of ensuring cooperation and comparability between the higher education systems of Europe.

In line with the university’s ample contributions over the years, its long list of alumni includes Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Beckett, a number of Popes, Nobel Prize-winning inventor and engineer Guglielmo Marconi and even Enzo Ferrari and Giorgio Armani, founders of their eponymous worldwide brands.

Universities in Pisa

Another popular university town is Pisa, home to some of Italy’s most prestigious institutions including Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa and Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, as well as the University of Pisa. Together the three institutions universities make up the Pisa University System higher education network.

Students make up a significant proportion of the Pisa population and the city has developed a reputation as a hub of academia, with a host of leading academics coming through the city’s education system, perhaps the most famous being Galileo Galilei.

University of Trento

The modern northern city of Trento is also home to one of Italy’s most prestigious universities. A comparatively young university, the University of Trento was only founded in 1962 but in its short history it has grown to be considered as a leading institution in Italy, rivalling some of the longest-established universities in the world.

The university’s ten departments are spread between three locations: in the centre of Trento, in the more suburban areas of Trento and in the nearby town of Rovereto.

Italian universities are renowned for their range of international relations but the University of Trento is among the most globally connected, with over 420 study and research agreements with universities across the world.

Universities in Milan

The city of Milan plays host to eight universities and with a vibrant nightlife, cosmopolitan feel and rich historical legacy, it is no surprise that it is one of the most popular cities for students.

Among those eight universities are the Polytechnic University of Milan which is Italy’s largest technical university and the oldest university in the city. It boasts a leading Engineering department.

There is also the University of Milan which ranks among the best in Italy, and the University of Milan-Bicocca, recently founded as a research-based university.

Studying in Rome

The Italian capital of Rome is breath-taking. The historical and cultural sites dotted around the city coexist within the cosmopolitan, urban feel of one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations.

The Sapienza University of Rome, founded in 1303, has over 115,000 students and is one of the most prestigious in the city, with a huge number of leading Italian scholars among its alumni.

Top universities in Italy 2017

Italy Rank World University Rank University
1 =137 Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa
2 =190 Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna
=3 201-250 University of Bologna
=3 201-250 Polytechnic University of Milan
=3 201-250 University of Trento
=6 251-300 Bocconi University
=6 251-300 Free University of Bozen-Bolzano
=6 251-300 Sapienza University of Rome
=9 301-350 University of Milan
=9 301-350 University of Padua
=9 301-350 University of Pavia
=12 351-400 University of Calabria
=12 351-400 University of Milan-Bicocca
=12 351-400 Polytechnic University of Turin
=12 351-400 University of Salerno
=12 351-400 University of Trieste
=12 351-400 University of Turin
=18 401-500 University of Bari Aldo Moro
=18 401-500 University of Bergamo
=18 401-500 University of Brescia
=18 401-500 University of Ferrara
=18 401-500 University of Florence
=18 401-500 University of Genoa
=18 401-500 Marche Polytechnic University
=18 401-500 University of Modena and Reggio Emilia
=18 401-500 University of Naples Federico II
=18 401-500 University of Pisa
=18 401-500 University of Rome II – Tor Vergata
=18 401-500 University of Rome III
=18 401-500 University of Salento
=18 401-500 Verona University
=32 501-600 Ca’ Foscari University of Venice
=32 501-600 University of Cagliari
=32 501-600 University of Catania
=32 501-600 Catholic University of the Sacred Heart
=32 501-600 University of Palermo
=32 501-600 University of Parma
=32 501-600 University of Siena
=32 501-600 University of Urbino Carlo Bo

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