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Italian higher education for international students
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Old Degrees

Diploma Universitario (DU)

Classification: 1st level university degree; it combines academic contents with professional orientation

Aim: provide undergraduates with adequate academic education, scientific contents and methods, and professional training as required from qualified professionals in specific occupational sectors.

Access: by the Italian school leaving qualification or a foreign comparable one.

Admission: by selective procedures, due to numerus clausus limitations.

Length: 3 years, full time

Subject sectors: a great variety of subject fields included in the 5 great subject areas

Course structure: the traditional Italian theoretical approach to all disciplines is combined with practical experiences; a period of practical training may be included in the curiculum, depending on the main subject field.

Degree: Diploma Universitario; e.g. Diploma Universitario di Consulente del lavoro/ in Disegno industriale/ per Educatore professionale/ di Fisioterapista/di Infermiere/ in Ingegneria informatica/ di Ostetrica/ di Podologo/ Tecnico di laboratorio biomedico/ di Tecnico ortopedico, etc.

Title: Diplomato Universitario (rarely used).

Professional openings:

  • employed positions in private or public undertakings, or
  • practice in Italy of the corresponding regulated professions, if any, or
  • practice of the corresponding regulated professions in those EU member states where similar professions exist (after obtaining professional recognition under the relevant EC Directives).

Further university studies: admission to 2nd level programmes, i.e. 4/6-year Laurea courses; max. a 2-year reduction in the length of a related Laurea course is possible.

(Diploma di) Laurea (DL)

Classification: 2nd level university degree, strongly academic in nature.

Aim: provide students with adequate knowledge of cultural and scientific fields at an advanced degree of theoretical complexity; besides, supply them with research methods so that they may subsequently take up significant professional responsibilities, up to the highest managerial positions.

Access: by the Italian school leaving qualification (or a foreign comparable one) or by a related 1st degree (Diploma SDAFS or DU); in the second case applicants may obtain a reduction in the length of the chosen Laurea course (CL) amounting to max. 1 year (SDAFS) or 2 years (DU).

Admission: at all universities in such fields as architecture, dentistry, human medicine, veterinary medicine by selective procedures due to numerus clausus limitations; in other fields entrance tests may be autonomously introduced by individual institutions depending on places availability.

Length: 4-6 years full time, depending on individual faculties and subject areas; given the curricular complexity and the compulsory research work to be carried out, most students usually take to 2 years longer to comply with all the legal requirements needed for the awarding of the degree.

Subject sectors: a great variety; within the general 5 main areas (Course structure: a core curriculum of indispensable subjects (corsi fondamentali) in a number of disciplinary sectors detetmined by national law is complemented by some complementary subjects, decided autonomuosly by individual institutions; the teaching/learning approach is characterised by in-depth study of theory in all subjects fields; training to research is included, the defence of a dissertation being a compulsory requirement for the awarding of the degree.

Degree: (Diploma di) Laurea (di Dottore) in ….(the subject field follows). The DL is normally an academic, non-professional qualification.

Title: Dottore/Dottoressa, to be shortened to Dott./Dott.ssa. This is a 2nd level academic title not to be misunderstood with the Italian "Dottore di Ricerca" or with such titles as Philosophy Doctor, Docteur, Doctor, Doktor, Doutor, etc. which correspond to 3rd cycle doctorates, and are usually shortened to PhD or Dr.

Professional openings: depending on their degree subject field and on their personal interests, DL holders may:

  • be employed in private/public commercial/industrial undertakings, or in cultural organisations; they are eligible to the highest mangerial positions;
  • practise the corresponding regulated professions (egs. architects, biologists, engineers, lawyers, medical doctors, etc.), after the successful passing of the related State examinations (Esami di Abilitazione Professionale);
  • enter the civil service as officers (funzionari), at VII level, and progress in the career up to the function as office directors (dirigenti, VIII level), and finally as director-general (Direttore Generale);
  • when holding also the related professional licenses, practise the corresponding regulated professions (if any) in another EU member state, after obtaining professional recognition under the relevant EC Directives.

Further university studies: admission to 3rd level programmes, i.e. DR programmes, DS courses, and such programmes as Corsi di Perfezionamento-CP (advanced courses) or Master courses.

* (Diploma di) Dottorato di Ricerca (DR)

Classification: 3rd level university degree, fully academic in nature (established by law in 1980).

Aim: train postgraduates to carry out independent advanced research (at a higher level than that required for the Laurea dissertation).

Access: by the Italian 2nd level degree (4/6-year Laurea) or a comparable foreign degree in a related subject area.

Admission: by public competition organised at national level.

Length: min. 3 or 4 years, depending on subjetc fields.

Subject sectors: most of the sectors covered by the 5 great subject areas.

Course structure: DR programmes mainly consist in independent research projects of a high quality standard to be carried out by individual postgraduates under the supervision of a university teacher who is specifically appointed to act as a tutor; sometimes the attendance of seminars or of a few subject courses may be required; transition from one year to the next depends on the tutor's positive assessment of the doctoral student's performance.

Degree: Dottorato di Ricerca

Title: Dottore di Ricerca

Professional openings:

  • academic career within a university; research doctors start as a researchers and by means of subsequent public competitions may progress up to the juridical status of full professors (professore ordinario);
  • career within public research bodies, and in research laboratories of large companies.

Further university studies: participation in post-doctoral research projects.

(Diploma di) Specializzazione (DS)

Classification: 3rd level university degree characterised by strong professional features; it also implies additional theoretical studies in the chosen speciality, and some research.

Aim: train postgraduates for highly-qualified, specialistic professions.

Access: by a DL (4/6-year Laurea) or a comparable foreign degree in a related subject field; in some cases, additional professional qualifications may be required.

Admission: by public competition organised locally by individual institutions.

Length: 2-6 years full time, depending on individual specialisation fields; postgraduates are required to keep the legal duration of the chosen degree course.

Subject sectors: specialistic fields in dentistry, human medicine & surgery, veterinary medicine; also quite a number of sectors covered by the 5 great subject areas

Course structure: it combines in-depth academic study of the specialistic field concerned with its professional applications; a period of practical training –subject to the evaluation of a supervisor– is normally to be completed before the final degree examination; this mainly consists in the defence of a written dissertation on one or more of the subjects studied throughout the specialization course.

Degree: Diploma di Specializzazione (DS)

Title: Specialista in … (the specific subject field follows).

Professional openings: DS holders may:

  • practise in Italy the respective self-employed specialistic professions with the title as Specialista;
  • take up functions within the civil service which require specialistic education and training in certain fields;
  • be employed as highly-qualified professionals (Specialisti) in private commercial/industrial undertakings;
  • practise the corresponding regulated professions (if any) in another EU member state, after obtaining professional recognition under the relevant EC Directives.

Attestati/Diplomi di formazione permanente e ricorrente

In conformity to Art. 6 of Law 341/1990, providing for supplementary educational services, and to Law 4/1999 (Art. 1, paragraph 15), Italian universities may also set up advanced scientific courses as well as higher continuing education programmes. Access is usually by a DL or a comparable foreign degree, even if sometimes also lower qualifications are accepted (a DU or a school leaving diploma); length generally varies from a few months to max. 1 year; course structure is defined autonomously by each institution.

On programme completion, universities either issue statements of attendance or award LLL qualifications which may be named differently by individual institutions; the most common names are "Attestati" or "Diplomi" (di perfezionamento, di aggiornamento), or Masters.