Best universities in Italy 2018

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

September 8 2017
University in Pisa

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 based on the Times Higher Education World University Ranking 2018.


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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 higher 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.

Top 5 universities in Italy

1. Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna

Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna 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. Due to this the student population is very small with fewer than 1,000 students attending the university. 

The fields of study at Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna are business sciences, economic sciences, legal sciences, political sciences, agricultural sciences, medical sciences, industrial engineering and information engineering.

2. Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa

The Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, together with the University of Pisa and Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, is part of the Pisa University System

The university was founded in 1810 as a twin institution of the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. 

It offers programmes in both the humanities and sciences and it still operates from its original building, Palazzo della Carovanain the medieval centre of Pisa.

=3. University of Bologna

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

This university is still held in very high regard and has campuses in Bologna, Cesena, Forli, Ravenna and Rimini, and an 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.

=3. Vita-Salute San Raffaele University

A fairly young university having been founded in 1996, the teaching is structured across three departments: medicine, philosophy and psychology.

The mission of Vita-Salute San Raffaele University is to answer the question "Quid est homo" which means "What is the man?", stemming from the belief that humans are biologically, psychologically and spiritually unique.

In 2015, the institute became part of the Gruppo San Donato, the first hospital group in Italy. 

The university is situated in the vibrant city of Milan.

5. University of Trento

The University of Trento was 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 10 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.


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Top universities in Italy 2018

Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2018 results 

Italy Rank 2018 World University Rank 2018 University City
1 =155 Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna Pisa
2 184 Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa Pisa
=3 201–250 University of Bologna Bologna
=3 201–250 Vita-Salute San Raffaele University Milan
5 251–300 University of Trento Trento
=6 301–350 Free University of Bozen-Bolzano Bolzano
=6 301–350 University of Milan Milan
=6 301–350 Polytechnic University of Milan Milan
=6 301–350 Sapienza University of Rome Rome
=10 351–400 University of Padua Padua
=10 351–400 University of Pavia Pavia
=10 351–400 University of Pisa Pisa
=10 351–400 University of Salerno Salerno
=10 351–400 University of Trieste Trieste
=15 401–500 University of Bari Aldo Moro Bari
=15 401–500 University of Bergamo Bergamo
=15 401–500 University of Brescia Brescia
=15 401–500 University of Calabria Cosenza
=15 401–500 University of Florence Florence
=15 401–500 University of Genoa Genoa
=15 401–500 Marche Polytechnic University Ancona
=15 401–500 University of Milan-Bicocca Milan
=15 401–500 University of Modena and Reggio Emilia Modena
=15 401–500 University of Parma Parma
=15 401–500 Polytechnic University of Turin Turin
=15 401–500 University of Rome II – Tor Vergata Rome
=15 401–500 University of Rome III Rome
=15 401–500 University of Siena Siena
=15 401–500 University of Turin Turin
=15 401–500 University of Urbino Carlo Bo Urbino
=15 401–500 Verona University Verona
=32 501–600 Ca’ Foscari University of Venice Venice
=32 501–600 University of Catania Catania
=32 501–600 Catholic University of the Sacred Heart Milan
=32 501–600 University of Ferrara Ferrara
=32 501–600 University of Palermo Palermo
=32 501–600 University of Salento Lecce
=32 501–600 University of Sassari Sassari
39 601–800 University of Cagliari Cagliari

Read more: Best universities in the world 

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