It’s not surprising that Italy, the country with the most UNESCO world heritage sites in the world, seems to change within the distance of only a few kilometers! Italy’s variety never ceases to surprise: from culture, to food, to language, to weather, to landscape, and to personality. With 45 world heritage sites – 47 if you include those found in the Republic of San Marino and the Vatican: two countries are located entirely within the Italian peninsula – Italy is certainly never boring!
In many ways, Italy’s University of Bologna paved the way for the university system we have today.
• It was the first higher education institution of its kind in the developed world, dating back to 1088, and it was there that the word ‘university’ was coined.
• In more recent times, it has been integral to the development of standardised university education across Europe, providing the initial inspiration and the setting for the Bologna Process, which aims to develops common higher education systems across Europe.
It should come as no surprise then that the University of Bologna is Italy’s highest-rated institution, coming in at 188th in the QS 2013–14 World University Rankings. The Sapienza University of Rome is next at 196th, followed by the Politecnico di Milano at 230th.
• There are 89 universities in Italy, along with a number of polytechnics and other academies that form part of the higher education sector.
• The number of English language courses on offer is more comprehensive once you get past undergraduate level, but the number of courses available in English at all levels is growing. In fact the Politecnico di Milano announced that from 2014 all of its courses will be taught in English.
• There are around 32,000 foreign students in Italy, including those on exchange programmes and independent students.
Positioned in the center of the Mediterranean sea, Italy is primarily a peninsula extending southeast from the south-central region of the European continent.
Its bordering countries include France, Austria, Switzerland, and Slovenia. Two countries are located entirely within the Italian peninsula: the Republic of San Marino and the Vatican City.
Several geographical factors contribute to Italy’s diverse climatic regions. The Alps in the north prevent the influx of colder air masses from Northern and Eastern Europe.
Just south of this high mountain chain, in the flat and fertile Northern Italian region known as the Po Valley, moist air from the Adriatic produces relatively high year-round humidity and winter fog.
Meanwhile, the central and southern regions enjoy the quintessential “mediterranean” climate, with drier, breezier, warmer, and sunnier weather.
Entry and visa regulations
EU students do not need a visa to study in Italy.
• EU students do, however, need to apply for a residence permit by registering with the local police within three months of arrival.
• Students apply to Italian universities via the Italian consulate in their home country. They should contact their university of choice in the first case to find out about entry requirements and application deadlines before submitting the application. Cut-off dates vary but it is likely students will need to have their applications in between January and April for normal academic year programmes.
• Unlike many other European countries, scholarships and student loans/grants are available to EU students on the same basis as Italian students, although eligibility is usually merit-based or means-tested and all students aren’t necessarily able to access financial assistance. More information on this can be found at the DSU office (although the site is mostly in Italian). Many university websites also have some information about financial aid on their sites.
• EU students can work in Italy without any additional permission, however with youth employment at such high levels due to Italy’s faltering economy, jobs are unlikely to be easy to come by, particularly for those without Italian language skills.
Universities in Italy do not commonly have halls of residence, but they do usually offer an accommodation finding service that can help students find shared rooms or apartments for a lower cost that on the private market.
Italy is one of the more expensive countries in the EU in terms of living expenses and the north of the country is pricier than the south. Some typical approximate costs in Italy include:
• Big Mac meal at McDonald’s: £5.50
• Pint of domestic beer: £3.20
• One litre of unleaded fuel: £1.50
• One litre of milk: £1.10-£1.20
• Coffee in a café: £0.80
• Monthly internet subscription: £20
• Pack of 20 cigarettes: £4
• Cinema ticket: £6
Health and safety
• In common with much of Europe, urban crime is a fact of life in Italy and the latest government statistics show that there has been an increase in the number of crimes reported to police over the past year, particularly bag-snatching and burglary. Don’t carry too many valuables around with you and use common sense in large cities to avoid petty crimes.
EU students are entitled to access healthcare in the same way as Italian locals as long as they have a valid European Healthcare Insurance Card. Most visits to GPs and hospitals are either free or involve very small contributions, and prescriptions are also usually free or have only a nominal cost
• state universities
• technical universities
• non-state universities
• telematic universities
• universities for foreigners
• universities specialising in postgraduate studies
In addition, higher education institutions exist in the non-university sector. These include:
• higher schools of design;
• schools of higher education in language mediation;
• schools of higher integrated education.
One of the key differences between studying in Italy and elsewhere is that most examinations are oral.
Italy is one of the four countries to first implement the Bologna Process, a higher education reform that is now being adopted and implemented throughout all of Europe.
This process increases mobility and access to study in different countries. The Università di Bologna, from where the project took its name, is generally considered to be the oldest university in the world.
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