Situated in Southern Europe and surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, Italy has become a synonym for culture, entertainment, fashion and good food. Its history of excellence and tradition in the sphere of higher education allows it to boast a number of PhD opportunities at prestigious higher education institutions.
This page covers everything you need to know if you’re considering Italy for your PhD, with information on universities, application requirements, funding and more.
With its rich history, beautiful climate and extraordinary artistic heritage, it’s no wonder that Italy is the fifth most visited country in the world – and if you are considering doing a PhD here, perhaps the road will indeed lead you to Rome at some point in the future.
Home to more UNESCO world heritage sites than anywhere else, Italy has also played an important role in shaping European higher education. As the home of the Bologna Process, Italy has been at the forefront of the system that standardises different degree systems and helps to make international study possible. Ideal for a PhD abroad then!
Here are a few reasons why you should pursue your doctorate in Italy this year:
|Oldest University||University of Bologna (1088)|
|PhD Length||3-4 years|
|Academic Year||October to September|
There are four types of higher education institutions in Italy:
As a PhD student you will likely be pursuing your qualification at one of the Italian universities but specialised qualifications may be offered at other institutions for certain fields.
The universities in Italy fall into two categories:
Italian universities are highly reputable and maintain strong connections with other universities across Europe and the rest of the world. Their educational excellence, student mobility principles and research networks have been attracting increasing numbers of PhD students in recent years.
|University||THE 2020||QS 2020||ARWU 2019|
|Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies – Pisa||=149||=177||-|
|Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa||=152||204||-|
|University of Bologna||=168||=177||201-300|
|University of Padua||201-250||-||201-300|
|Vita-Salute San Raffaele University||201-250||-||501-600|
|Sapienza University of Rome||251-300||203||151-200|
|University of Milan||301-350||=302||151-200|
|Polytechnic University of Milan||301-350||=302||151-200|
|University of Trento||301-350||=389||401-500|
|University of Florence||351-400||=448||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.|
University rankings can help you choose a PhD project or programme, provided you know what to look at. Our guide explains how to use rankings as a prospective postgraduate.
Italy’s rich history and cultural legacy has given shape and character to its various towns and cities. Postgraduate students looking to conduct research here will have a long list of options to choose from for their place of study.
Italy (the home of the University of Bologna), follows (unsurprisingly) the Bologna Process. This organises different levels of study into a three-cycle system, with the third cycle equivalent to the British PhD qualification.
There are two types of PhDs available from Italian higher education institutions: the Dottorato (PhD), awarded by universities, and the Diploma accademico di formazione alla ricerca (research academic diploma) that can be obtained at one of the High level Arts and Music Education institutions (Afams).
Some universities also offer collaborative doctorates, with modules and programmes organised in partnership with universities abroad (international doctorate) or industries (industrial doctorate), although the institution issuing the qualification will be the institution of enrolment.
The Italian academic year runs from October to September and includes two teaching semesters and two examination periods:
Of course, as a PhD student enrolled on a full-time course, your work schedule is likely to differ from the above due to any programme-related obligations, training or modules.
The usual length of study is 3 to 4 years, depending on the institution and course structure.
Your PhD programme can vary from university to university and from course to course. Normally, the Italian PhD process consists mostly of original research work, with some taught courses in the first year.
You may also be expected (or invited) to take part in tutoring or teaching during your PhD, with these activities limited to 40 hours per year (an excellent opportunity to gain some transferrable skills).
At the end of your course, you will be expected to have written a doctoral thesis according to your department’s requirements.
Supervision criteria can vary between institutions, but in general every course has its own coordinator and a teaching board.
Your coordinator (i.e. supervisor) will be the person you will working with closely to conduct research and who will be monitoring your progress. The teaching board consists of researchers, professors and qualified experts (including from abroad) who organise and manage your course proceedings and assessment.
At the end of your PhD, you will be expected to submit a final piece of original research work (thesis) in both English and Italian, along with a report detailing activities and publications from the period of your study.
The submitted project will undergo review by a minimum of two external examiners to judge its quality and contribution to the chosen topic. If they are satisfied, the thesis will qualify for public defence or an additional six months of corrections.
The defence is similar to the UK viva, wherein you present your work and answer any questions raised by a commission of experts. However, unlike the viva, the Italian final assessment is also open to the public.
Some institutions in Italy implement the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) which includes completing a number of credits (most of which attributed to the thesis) in order to obtain your doctorate. However, this isn’t the case with all institutions.
The costs of pursuing a doctorate in Italy are relatively low compared to other European countries and overall, there is no difference between students of different nationalities in terms of fees.
In state universities , the application process might include a fee of around €30-50, whereas the tuition fee can range €800-1,000 per year, although annual enrolment in some institutions can be as low as €150.
It’s worth noting that private universities can be much more expensive than public ones.
International students in Italy can apply for the same financial assistance as Italian students. There are a number of scholarships and bursaries that can assist with living costs and tuition fees for PhD study:
Entry requirements onto a PhD programme can vary, depending on the subject, department and institution. Normally, you will be expected to submit an online application and pass an oral exam.
To do a PhD in Italy, you need to hold a second-cycle qualification (laurea magistrale) or equivalent, in a related field.
You are also eligible to apply if you will have obtained the required qualification by the time your PhD is due to commence.
Students who have acquired their degree outside of Italy will need to obtain academic recognition of their diploma. It’s a good idea to contact your university of choice before you apply and ask them for a prior assessment of your eligibility.
You will then need to obtain the official document recognising your qualification. To do so, you will need to submit an application to the university administration office, where it will be reviewed for suitability.
For students who aren’t residents of Italy, the application and documents must be submitted to the Italian diplomatic representative in their country of residence.
Depending on the programme type and your nationality, you may need to demonstrate proficiency in English and / or Italian by providing a language certificate.
The requirements vary between universities and are based on your
In order to be accepted on a PhD course, you will need to pass a competitive application process, which is also available for students who have obtained their qualifications outside of Italy. Institutions will advertise doctoral opportunities (in both English and Italian) in various places, including here, on FindAPhD.
Each institution establishes the parameters of the course they offer, including the eligibility criteria, regulations, assessment, research goals and fees. This information will be included along with the advertised project or competition call.
The application process is usually online and could include the following:
As part of your application you may also need to submit relevant portfolio and list of publications (if any).
Ordinarily, the process of selection is completed by 30 September each year.
Whether you need a visa to study in Italy and what you will need in order to obtain one, depends on your nationality.
Students from the EU / EEA and Switzerland don’t need a student visa to study in Italy. You will only require a valid proof of identity (passport or national identity card).
As your stay in the country will exceed three months, you are required to register with the local police department when you arrive.
If you are not from the EU / EEA or Switzerland, you will need a student visa to study in Italy. In particular, you will need to submit documents for a long-stay type D student visa at your local Italian Embassy or similar body. The application documents will likely include the following:
The visa application usually costs roughly €50 and should be secured sufficiently in advance, so make sure to check all the necessary deadlines.
All students in Italy are required to have a health insurance. If you are an EU / EEA student, you will normally be covered by the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Other students may need to purchase a health insurance policy in their home country, buy one in Italy or subscribe to the Italian National Health Service (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale - S.S.N.).
Achieving a doctorate in Italy will enhance your employability skills in a number of ways. And, if three or more years of research in Italy have persuaded you to stay longer, your PhD may help you to do so.
As with the visa regulations, the requirements for you to be able to work in Italy will depend on your nationality. Students from the EU / EEA won’t need additional documentation to be employed in Italy after the completion of their course.
Students outside the EU can apply for temporary stay permit that lasts 6-12 months after the completion of their doctorate. You can use this time to find a job in your field of qualification with a company that is interested in your skillset and is willing to accept foreign employees. Note that some knowledge of Italian will normally be important if you’re looking to establish a career in Italy.
Once you’ve secured a job offer, you can apply for an EU Blue Card which you should be eligible to obtain if your annual salary is sufficient. This will allow you to live and work in Italy on a longer-term basis.
Last updated - 21/01/2020