universities in Italy

Have you thought about enrolling in an Italian University? This can be a smart way to learn not only new subjects, but also develop a set of soft skills that would set you apart. Your ability to understand and integrate yourself in a different culture would be your first step for – maybe – a brighter career in a big multinational corporation. Learning a new language, for example, could help you widen your job options.

Being in an unknow country, far away from what you have known so far, can be a way to step outside one’s comfort zone (of which they say, brings out the best in everyone). But what if all of this is also placed in a context of amazing nature and developed cities, welcoming people and awesome food? Jokes aside, before packing your stuff and moving, it could be interesting for you to know a little bit more about the current university situation in Italy.

Graduates in Italy

In 2021 there have been about 352000 graduates in Italy, with a majority of women graduates compared to man (58%).

The number of total graduates is in slight but constant increase each year (just to give an example, in 2001 we had 172000 graduates, -51% compare to 2021). The university that churns out the most students of all si Torino University and Torino Politecnico, followed by the University of Piemonte Orientale.

Even if the situation is constantly improving, Italy is still far away from other European countries, as far as the number of graduates on the total population. According to Istat, only the 20% of the population (between the ages of 25 and 64) has a bachelor’s degree, compared to the 33% of the European average. There are relevant geographical differences: we have a majority of graduates in the Center (241%), followed by the North (21%) than at the end the South (16%).

Foreign university students in Italy

We can see a constant increase in foreign students enrolling in Italian universities every year. In 2005 Italy had just 4’438 foreign graduates from local universities, whereas in 2021 we had around 17’000 foreign graduates.

In the academic year 2020/2021 we had 18’500 enrolled foreign students, the majority coming from Europe (8’325, mainly from Albania and Romania) and Asia (4’752), followed by Africa (3’262) and Americas (2’091).

The best universities… and the preferred fields of study

According to the QS World University Rankings 2022, the best classified Italian universities are Politecnico di Milano, Alma Mater Studiorum of Bologna, Sapienza in Rome and University of Padua, all ranked in the top 200 list. With regards to the field of study, we have in the top 10 list: archeology and classical studies at Sapienza (Rome), management at Bocconi (Milan) and architecture, art and design at Politecnico di Milano.

Italy is universally known for its cultural heritage, design and fashion tradition, as well as its productive manufacturing sector. This reflects in foreign students’ university field choice as well: the majority comes to study design, architecture, engineering, languages and modern cultures.

Student Visa for non-EU nationals

Deciding the city, university and field of study is not enough: remember that if you come from outside UE you will need a student visa to move and attend an university in Italy. For more information on how student visas work in Italy, read the article.

Generally speaking, student visas are conceived for people that have been accepted in an Italian University or in a foreign University in Italy (or another equivalent educational institution). This applies also to high school or school for technical studies, specific university curricular trainings or approved vocational courses.

However, there are other requirements to get a student visa, such as having an health insurance, appropriate means of subsistence, suitable accommodation in Italy, and sufficient knowledge of the language used in the classes. Moreover, applicants should be at least 14 years old to apply for a student visa.

Please contact us if you would like to learn more on student visa requirements.

Working while studying

Relatively few students in Italy (21 %) have any kind of work experience prior to entering higher education, compared to other countries where this situation is more common. Moreover, the number of working students fluctuates a lot. 10 years ago we had 250’000 working students, number that decreased progressively until 2015, when it reached the lowest peak of 166’000. Now the number is increasing again and more and more students are choosing part-time, evening or weekend jobs to complement their college years.

Can international students work in Italy?

Foreign students in Italy can combine their educational activities with a job as long as it meets certain limitations. Since the student visa implies that the main motivation for staying in Italy is studying, the work activity cannot be predominant and must be limited to 20 hours per week. Therefore, if a student wishes to help finance his or her studies part time, he or she may do so.

However, if one happens to find a full-time job while studying, or to have found a job immediately after graduating, the student visa can remain valid. If you’re a foreign student coming from outside UE and planning to stay in Italy to work, keep in mind that is possible to convert your study visa in a working visa as long as one has completed the university degree or master and has a job opportunity. Read here for more information.


Despite not hosting the very best universities in the world, Italy can boast of excellent universities and degree programs on specific fields that have a long tradition. The number of foreign students is growing year by year fostering an open, dynamic and multicultural environment. If Italy is your choice, I am sure you will not regret it!



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