3.The new university system

3.1 The previous system

The Ministerial Decree no. 509 of 3rd November 1999 set up the new university system in the academic year 2001/02 and also provided for the transitory phase from the old to the new system.This means that universities must complete degree courses that are currently running and give students the opportunity to opt for the new system.For some years to come, the two different systems will continue to co-exist until the old system is phased out.In the previous system university studies were organised as follows:

    1. First level courses (three years) leadingto a first degree called Diploma Universitario with an entrance requirement of school leaving qualification (Diploma di superamento dell’Esame di Stato conclusivo dei corsi di istruzione secondaria superiore, shortened to Diploma dell’Esame di Stato and also known as Maturità).
    2. Second level courses (four to five years with medicine lasting 6 years) leading to the Laurea degree conferring the title of dottoreand with an entrance requirement of a first degree (Diploma universitario) in a related area of study or a school leaving qualification (Diploma dell’Esame di Stato/Maturità).
    3. Third level programmes leading to a research doctorate (Dottorato di Ricerca) or to a specialisation degree (Diploma di Specializzazione/Specialista) with an entrance requirement of the Laurea.

These qualifications are still being awarded during this transitory phase.

3.2 New Academic Degrees and Qualifications

The reform has abolished the old three year degree (diploma universitario) and the old four year degree (laurea) and has introduced the following new academic qualifications organised in three cycles.

First cycle – Undergraduate studies
First degree - laurea
Second cycle – Graduate studies
Second degree – Laurea specialistica
1st Level Master degree – Master universitario di 1° livello
Third cycle – Postgraduate studies
Research doctorate degree – dottorato di ricerca
Specialisation degree – diploma di specializzazione *
2nd level Master degree – master universitario di 2° livello
* offered according to national legislation or EU directives for specific areas of study


3.3 Course objectives

The Ministerial decree establishes a defined set of learning outcomes for each level of degree course.

First degree course
Corso di Laurea
Provide undergraduate students with adequate knowledge of general scientific principles and mastery of methods as well as specific professional skills
First level Master
Corso Master 1° livello
Provide specialisation and continuing education in specific fields.
Second degree course
Corso di Laurea Specialistica
Provide graduate students with advanced education and training for highly qualified professions in specific sectors
Second level Master
Corso Master 2° livello
Provide a higher level of specialisation and continuing education in specific fields.
Specialisation course
Corso di Specializzazione
Provide knowledge and skills for specific professions. Set up exclusively on the basis of specific national laws or EU directives (medical specialisations, secondary school teacher education, legal professions)
Doctoral course
Corso di Dottorato di Ricerca
Provide postgraduates with training (including study periods abroad and training periods at public or private research bodies) for highly specialised research at universities as well as in the public and private sector


3.4 Credit System

The university reform has introduced a system of university credits (Crediti Formativi Universitari) in Italy for the first time. The principal objective has been to make studies more student-centred, reducing the gap between official and real length of courses as well as lowering the drop out rate. The main characteristics of the system are as follows:

  1. the credits represent the total student workload (class time, individual study, exam preparation, practical work etc) and one credit is equivalent to 25 hours
  2. the average full time workload for one academic year is 60 credits which is equivalent to 1500 hours. Universities may opt to increase or decrease this total workload by maximum 20% (1200-1800 hours) but they must justify this change.
  3. the amount of time to be reserved for individual learning or other individual educational and training activities may not be lower than 50%, except for the courses including practical or laboratory work
  4. credits are earned once the student has passed the assessment for each course or activity
  5. the total or partial recognition of credits obtained by students wishing to continue their studies in a different degree programme or different institution is at the discretion of the educational authority concerned, in accordance with the criteria and procedures of the university teaching regulations
  6. teaching regulations of each university can provide for regular reassessment of credit allocation and indicate the minimum number of credits to be achieved within a fixed period of time (in the case of full or part time studies)
  7. universities can recognise credits for professional skills and experience according to the regulations as well as other skills and knowledge acquired in post-secondary level courses that have been designed and taught in collaboration with the university.
    The ministerial decree also establishes the number of credits for each degree.
Length of Degree Course
First degree Laurea 180 credits 3 years
Second degree Laurea Specialistic 300 credits including those already earned valid for the laurea specialistica 2 years following in the previous degree recognised as the first degree in a
relevant field of study
Specialisation degree
Diploma di Specializzazione
120-300 credits in addition to those already
earned in the previous degree recognised for
access to the specialisation degree
2-5 years

Master (first level)
Master Univeritario di primo livello

60 credits in addition to those acquired for the Laurea Minimum 1 year
Master (second level)
Master Universitario di secondo livello
60 credits in addition to those acquired for the Laurea Specialistica Minimum 1 year

The ministerial decree does not set credits for the research doctorate since it is essentially based on individual research activities. The legal length is a minimum of three years in accordance with the regulations in the most recent reform.

3.5 Entry Requirements

The basic entry requirements to the new degree courses are defined as follows.

Degree course
Entry Requirements
First degree course
Corso di Laurea

Italian upper secondary school leaving qualification diploma
dell’esame di stato/maturità, or a comparable foreign
Admission to certain degree courses may be subject to further
requirements as defined by university regulations
Second degree course
Corso di Laurea Specialistica
Italian Laurea or a comparable foreign degree
Second level degree course
Corso di Laurea Specialistica
regulated by EU directives
Italian upper secondary leaving qualification, or a comparable
foreign qualification (Dentistry, Medicine, Veterinary
Studies, Orthodontics, Pharmacy and Architecture last 5-6 years
and require an entrance examination)
Specialisation course
Corso di Specializzazione
Italian Laurea specialistica or a comparable foreign qualification
An entrance exam is also required
Doctoral course
Corso di Dottorato di ricerca

Italian Laurea Specialistica, or a comparable
foreign qualification. An entrance exam is also required
Master course first level
Corso Master (1° livello)

Italian Laurea, or a comparable foreign qualfication
Admission may be subject to further conditions
Master course second level
Corso Master (2° livello)
Italian Laurea Specialistica or a comparable
foreign qualification
Admission may be subject to further conditions

The ministerial decree no. 509 of 3rd November 1999 acknowledges the right of universities to require an adequate previous education level in the basic subjects of the chosen degree course for all applicants. Consequently, they may set additional admission requirements for the different degree courses. The teaching regulations of the universities must therefore determine:

  • the basic notions required for each degree course
  • the type of testing to verify applicants’ previous education
  • the types of foundation courses, if any, to be set up should applicants’ previous education be found inadequate or
  • the specific additional educational requirements that students with conditional entry have to satisfy during the first year of study.
  • When the admission to a degree course at any level is requested on the basis of a foreign qualification, it is the responsibility of the universities to evaluate the qualification concerned and decide its suitability. Institutions apply the recognition criteria and procedures as established in their statutes and teaching regulations as well as any relevant bilateral and international agreements in force.

    3.6 Classification of Courses

    The Ministry has drawn up a classification of degree courses of the same level. There are 47 different classes for the first degree Laurea and 109 different classes for the second degree (Laurea Specialistica). Degree courses may be given different names by the different universities but they have the same learning outcomes and teaching/learning activities. Degree courses of the same class have the same legal value. All classes belong to one of the five subject areas – engineering and architecture, health, humanities, science and technology, law and economics. Each degree programme must cover 6 different types of subject courses as follows:
    a. basic education courses in one or more fields of study
    b. specific courses related to the degree programme
    c. courses in one or more similar or supplementary subject fields
    d. elective courses
    e. preparatory courses for the final examination (including the assessment of foreign language skills for the Laurea
    f. further courses aimed at improving language skills, as well skills relating to computer studies, telematics, interpersonal skills and any other skills considered relevant to the labour market, in particular work experience and training.
    Since it is the universities that name the degree programmes and define the teaching regulations, the learning outcomes and activities are indicated not for the individual degree programmes but for the degree classes, i.e. the groups of degree programmes. Therefore, all the programmes that universities set up in a specific class will have the same learning outcomes and compulsory activities but they will differentiate in name, specific learning outcomes, and especially in the detailed choice of teaching/learning activities that the students will need to carry out as well as in the number of credits allocated. (There are minimum credit requirements fixed by ministerial decree that the teaching regulations of individual institutions must allocate for the different educational activities in relation to each class of degree and subject field.)
    Universities are therefore able to offer different degree courses in the same degree class which either have a strong vocational focus or follow a more academic pathway, or alternatively combine both these elements. In all cases, the courses must provide the students with adequate knowledge of general scientific principles and mastery of methods as well as specific professional skills.

    3.7 Course offerings at Italian Universities

    The Italian Ministry for Education, Universities and Research (MIUR) has set up a database available on its website at http://offertaformativa.miur.it/corsi/ where all first and second degree programmes currently offered at Italian universities are listed. The list below indicates the different classes for both first and second degrees. First degrees are characterised by both theoretical and applied studies and this is often indicated in the Italian title by “scienze” or “scienze and tecnologie”. Second degrees have a strong theoretical part and specialise in a specific subject field.

    First degrees - Undergraduate studies

    Classes of Laurea degrees
    Classi delle Lauree
    1 Biotechnologies Biotecnologie
    2 Legal services Scienze dei servizi giuridici
    3 Applied languages Scienze della mediazione linguistica
    4 Architecture and construction engineering Scienze dell'architettura e dell'ingegneria edile
    5 Humanities Lettere
    6 Social work Scienze del servizio sociale
    7 Town, regional and environmental planning Urbanistica e scienze della pianificazione territoriale e ambientale
    8 Civil and environmental engineering Ingegneria civile e ambientale
    9 Information technology Ingegneria dell'informazione
    10 Industrial engineering Ingegneria industriale
    11 Modern languages and civilisations Lingue e culture moderne
    12 Biology Scienze biologiche
    13 13 Cultural heritage studies Scienze dei beni culturali
    14 Communication studies Scienze della comunicazione
    15 Political science and international Scienze politiche e delle relazioni relations internazionali
    16 Earth sciences
    16 Scienze della terra
    17 Economics and management Scienze dell'economia e della gestione aziendale
    18 Education sciences and teacher education Scienze dell'educazione e della formazione
    19 Public Administration Scienze dell'amministrazione
    20 Agriculture, food industry and forestry Scienze e tecnologie agrarie, agroalimentari e forestali
    21 Chemistry Scienze e tecnologie chimiche
    22 Aviation and maritime navigation Scienze e tecnologie della navigazione marittima e aerea
    23 Visual arts, music, performing arts and fashion studies Scienze e tecnologie delle arti figurative, della musica, dello spettacolo e della moda
    24 Pharmacy Scienze e tecnologie farmaceutiche
    25 Physics Scienze e tecnologie fisiche
    26 Computer Science Scienze e tecnologie informatiche
    27 Environmental sciences Scienze e tecnologie per l'ambiente e la natura
    28 Economics Scienze economiche
    29 Philosophy Filosofia
    30 Geography Scienze geografiche
    31 Law Scienze giuridiche
    32 Mathematics Scienze matematiche
    33 Physical education and Sport Scienze delle attività motorie e sportive
    34 Psychology Scienze e tecniche psicologiche
    35 Social sciences for co-operation,
    development and peace
    Scienze sociali per la cooperazione, lo sviluppo e la pace
    36 Sociology Scienze sociologiche
    37 Statistics Scienze statistiche
    38 History Scienze storiche
    39 Tourism Scienze del turismo
    40 Animal husbandry Scienze e tecnologie zootecniche e delle
    produzioni animali
    41 Technologies for conservation and restoration of cultural assets Tecnologie per la conservazione e il restauro dei beni culturali
    42 Industrial design Disegno industriale


    Classes of first degrees for Health Professions
    Classi delle Lauree delle Professioni Sanitarie
    1 Nursing and midwifery Professioni sanitarie infermieristiche e professione sanitaria ostetrica
    2 Health professions for rehabilitation Professioni sanitarie della riabilitazione
    3 Health professions for technical assistance Professioni sanitarie tecniche
    4 Health professions for preventive care Professioni sanitarie della prevenzione


    Classes of first degrees in the Defence and Security


    Classi delle Lauree nelle Scienze ella Difesa e della Sicurezza
    1 Defence and security Scienze della difesa e della sicurezza

    Second degrees - Graduate studies

    Classes of second degrees
    Classi delle Lauree Specialistiche
    1/S Cultural anthropology and ethnology Antropologia culturale ed etnologia
    2/S Archaeology Archeologia
    3/S Landscape architecture Architettura del paesaggio
    4/S Architecture and construction engineering Architettura e ingegneria edile
    5/S Library studies Archivistica e biblioteconomia
    6/S Biology Biologia
    7/S Agricultural biotechnologies Biotecnologie agrarie
    8/S Industrial biotechnologies Biotecnologie industriali
    9/S Pharmaceutical, veterinary and medical biotechnologies Biotecnologie mediche, veterinarie e farmaceutiche
    10/S Conservation of architectural heritage and environment Conservazione dei beni architettonici e ambientaliConservazione dei beni architettonici e ambientali
    11/S Conservation of scientific and industrial heritage Conservazione dei beni scientifici e della civiltà industriale
    12/S Conservation and restoration of cultural heritage Conservazione e restauro del patrimonio storico-artistico
    13/S Publishing, multimedia communication and journalism Editoria, comunicazione multimediale e giornalismo
    14/S Pharmacy and industrial pharmacy Farmacia e farmacia industriale
    15/S Philology and classical literature Filologia e letterature dell’antichità
    16/S Modern philology Filologia moderna
    17/S Philosophy and history of science Filosofia e storia della scienza
    18/S Theoretical, moral political and aesthetic philosophy Filosofia teoretica, morale, politica ed estetica
    19/S Finance Finanza
    20/S Physics Fisica
    21/S Geography Geografia
    22/S Law Giurisprudenza
    23/S Computer Science Informatica
    24/S Computer Science for humanities Informatica per le discipline umanistiche
    25/S Aerospace and aeronautical engineering Ingegneria aerospaziale e astronautica
    26/S Biomedical engineering Ingegneria biomedica
    27/S Chemical engineering Ingegneria chimica
    28/S Civil engineering Ingegneria civile
    29/S Automotion engineering Ingegneria dell’automazione
    30/S Telecommunications engineering Ingegneria delle telecomunicazioni
    31/S Electrical engineering Ingegneria elettrica
    32/S Electronic engineering Ingegneria elettronica
    33/S Energy and nuclear engineering Ingegneria energetica e nucleare
    34/S Engineering and industrial management Ingegneria gestionale
    35/S Computer engineering Ingegneria informatica
    36/S Mechanical engineering Ingegneria meccanica
    37/S Naval engineering Ingegneria navale
    38/S Environmental engineering Ingegneria per l’ambiente e il territorio
    39/S Conference interpreting Interpretariato di conferenza
    40/S Italian language and civilisation Lingua e cultura italiana
    41/S African and Asian languages and literatures Lingue e letterature afroasiatiche
    42/S Modern European and American languages and literatures Lingue e letterature moderne euroamericane
    43/S Foreign languages for international communication Lingue straniere per la comunicazione internazionale
    44/S Linguistics Linguistica
    45/S Mathematics Matematica
    46/S Medicine and surgery Medicina e chirurgia
    47/S Veterinary medicine Medicina veterinaria
    48/S Methods for the analysis of complex systems Metodi per l’analisi valutativa dei sistemi complessi
    49/S Empirical research methods for social sciences Metodi per la ricerca empirica nelle scienze sociali
    50/S Mathematics and physics: modelling for engineering Modellistica matematico-fisica per l’ingegneria
    51/S Musicology and musical heritage Musicologia e beni musicali
    52/S Dentistry and orthodontics Odontoiatria e protesi dentaria
    53/S Sport management Organizzazione e gestione dei servizi per lo sport e le attività motorie
    54/S Regional, urban and environmental planning Pianificazione territoriale urbanistica e ambientale
    55/S Tourism development and management Progettazione e gestione dei sistemi turistici
    56/S Planning and management of education and training services Programmazione e gestione dei servizi educativi e formativi
    57/S Planning and management of social services Programmazione e gestione delle politiche e dei servizi sociali
    58/S Psychology Psicologia
    59/S Advertising and business communication Pubblicità e comunicazione d’impresa
    60/S International relations Relazioni internazionali
    61/S Materials science and engineering Scienza e ingegneria dei materiali
    62/S Chemistry Scienze chimiche
    63/S Cognitive sciences Scienze cognitive
    64/S Economic sciences Scienze dell’economia
    65/S Adult and continuing education Scienze dell’educazione degli adulti e della formazione continua
    66/S Universe sciences Scienze dell’universo
    67/S Social and institutional communication studies Scienze della comunicazione sociale e istituzionale
    68/S Nature sciences Scienze della natura
    69/S Nutrition and health sciences Scienze della nutrizione umana
    70/S Political science Scienze della politica
    71/S Public sector administration Scienze delle pubbliche amministrazioni
    72/S Religion studies Scienze delle religioni
    73/S Performing arts and multimedia production Scienze dello spettacolo e della produzione multimediale
    74/S Management of rural resources Scienze e gestione delle risorse rurali e forestali
    75/S Sport science and technology Scienze e tecnica dello sport
    76/S Sport science for prevention and rehabilitation Scienze e tecniche delle attività motorie preventive e adattative
    77/S Agriculture Scienze e tecnologie agrarie
    78/S Food industry Scienze e tecnologie agroalimentari
    79/S Livestock management Scienze e tecnologie agrozootecniche
    80/S Navigation science and technology Scienze e tecnologie dei sistemi di navigazione
    81/S Industrial chemistry and related technologies Scienze e tecnologie della chimica industriale
    82/S Environmental and land sciences and technology Scienze e tecnologie per l’ambiente e il territorio
    83/S Economics for environment and culture Scienze economiche per l’ambiente e la cultura
    84/S Management studies Scienze economico-aziendali
    85/S Geophysics Scienze geofisiche
    86/S Geology Scienze geologiche
    87/S Education sciences Scienze pedagogiche
    88/S Cooperation and development studies Scienze per la cooperazione allo sviluppo
    89/S Sociology Sociologia
    90/S Social statistics and demography Statistica demografica e sociale
    91/S Actuarial, financial and economic statistics Statistica economica, finanziaria ed attuariale
    92/S Statistics for experimental research Statistica per la ricerca sperimentale
    93/S Ancient history Storia antica
    94/S Contemporary history Storia contemporanea
    95/S History of art Storia dell’arte
    96/S History of philosophy Storia della filosofia
    97/S Medieval history Storia medievale
    98/S Modern history Storia moderna
    99/S European studies Studi europei
    100/S Techniques and methods for the Information Society Tecniche e metodi per la società dell’informazione
    101/S Communication theory Teoria della comunicazione
    102/S Theory and techniques of legal texts Teoria e tecniche della normazione e dell’informazione giuridica
    103/S Industrial design theory and methods Teorie e metodi del disegno industriale
    104/S Translation of literary and technical texts Traduzione letteraria e traduzione tecnico-scientifica
      Classes of second degrees leading to Health Professions Classi delle Lauree Specialistiche delle professioni sanitarie
    1/S Nursing and midwifery Scienze infermieristiche e ostetriche
    2/S Health professions for rehabilitation Scienze delle professioni sanitarie della riabilitazione
    3/S Health professions for technical assistance Scienze delle professioni sanitarie tecniche
    4/S Health professions for preventive care Scienze delle professioni sanitarie della prevenzione


      Classes of second degrees in Defence and Security Classi delle Lauree specialistiche nelle scienze della difesa e della sicurezza
    1/S Defence and security Scienze della difesa e della sicurezza