Top Universities for PhD Study in Italy - 2023

Top Universities for PhD Study in Italy - 2023

Written by Taru Medha

With a rather extensive higher education system, universities in Italy have a lot to offer for any aspiring PhD student. There are many different kinds of institutions that provide PhD degrees in Italy. They are either state (or publicly) funded or privately funded. Many universities also offer courses in English so make sure to check what's available on the institution websites.

  • State universities are completely autonomous and have full legal capacity.
  • Private universities need to be accredited by the Italian Ministry of Education to be able to award valid postgraduate degrees.

Qualifications from state-recognised private universities carry the same weight as those awarded by state universities.

As a PhD student in Italy, you can choose from any of the following kinds of institutions to complete a doctorate at:

  • Universities (Università) (both state and privately funded) are focused on scientific research and award postgraduate degrees till the PhD level.
  • Polytechnics (politecnici) offer the same level of qualifications as universities (università) but only in Engineering and Architecture.
  • Institutes for Higher Artistic Education (Istituzioni AFAM — Alta Formazione Artistica e Musicale) include Academies of Fine Arts, National Drama Academies, State Music Conservatories and National Dance Academies among other art-related educational institutions.
  • Higher schools (Scuole Superiori) are institutions that have special legal status which allows them to specialise solely in postgraduate university studies.
  • Universities for foreigners (Università per Stranieri) are universities oriented towards providing foreign students with knowledge of Italian language and culture. There are two of these universities (the oldest in Perugia, founded in 1921, and the other in Siena). Their other responsibility is to administer the two Italian language tests (CILS and CELI).
  • Online/distance universities that deliver state-accredited courses by e-learning.

Top 10 Universities for PhD courses in Italy

With a history of exceptional contribution to both arts and science, Italy is a dream study destination for many students looking to do a PhD. Universities in Italy have maintained their international repute with a number of them still ranking highly on global ranking tables. This makes Italy an excellent place for international students to study.

The table below lists the 10 best universities in Italy for PhD study according to global rankings. This information is based on the latest rankings tables, researched and published by Times Higher Education, QS and the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU). It is important to note that each ranking system has their own methodology, and different factors affect the final result for a particular university.


Top 10 Italian Universities in 2023
University THE 2023 QS 2023 ARWU 2022
University of Bologna =161 =167 201-300
Scuola Normale Superiore de Pisa =183 - 501-600
Humanitas University 201-250 - 401-500
University of Padua 201-250 =243 151-200
Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies - Pisa 201-250 - -
Sapienza University of Rome 201-250 171 101-150
Vita-Salute San Raffaele University 201-250 =436 401-500
University of Pavia 251-300 561-570 401-500
University of Milan-Bicocca 301-350 601-650 301-400
Politecnico di Milano 301-350 139 201-300
Information in this table is based on the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings and Academic Ranking of World Universities. Visit their websites for more information.

Italy introduced the three-cycle structure of higher education that is followed across Europe (also known as the Bologna process). This system aims to allow easy credit transfer (called ECTS) and a qualification recognition framework within Europe. In Italy, you’ll have the opportunity to attend historic universities, benefit from cutting edge modern research and enjoy the chance to explore one of the most beautiful parts of Europe.

Search for a PhD in Italy

You can browse and compare a list of available PhD degrees in Italy on the FindAPhD website.



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Last Updated: 04 May 2023