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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice


7.2.First-cycle programmes


Last update: 21 December 2022

Branches of Study

University Education

According to the National qualifications framework Bachelor university programmes (3-year courses corresponding to 180 credits - CFU) lead to the qualification called laurea.

Bachelor university programmes are organised in the sanitary, scientific, social and classical study areas.

Bachelor programmes do not include studies in medicine and surgery, pharmacy, veterinary science and dentistry studies, law, primary teacher education and architecture. In fact programmes in these fields of studies are organised in single-cycle courses (6 or 5 years, corresponding to 300-360 credits). These courses lead directly to a second cycle qualification (single-cycle laurea magistrale).

Each study area is made up of so called 'laurea classes'. One 'class' groups together more courses with the same core qualifying objectives and the same core activities established at national level for each class (e.g. the laurea course 'Labour consultant' and the laurea course 'Italian and European law', belong to the same laurea class (L-14) 'Juridical services sciences', included in the social area).

Classes, with the relevant core objectives and minimum amount of credits required, are established at national level for all universities. At present, laurea classes are 43. A complete list of laurea classes is available on a national database constantly updated.

Universities autonomously activate courses and regulate their organisation (course title, objectives, curriculum and relevant study activities, credits, final assessment procedures)  in their own regulations.

High Level Arts and Music Education (Afam)

Afam institutions offer highly qualified specialisations in:

  • visual arts (painting, sculpture, decoration, set designing photography, multimedia, new technologies for arts, film and TV set designing, preservation and restoration of modern and contemporary works of art)
  • drama (acting and direction)
  • dance (classic and contemporary dance, choreography)
  • music (all instruments, jazz and electronic music)
  • design (product design, communication, system and fashion design).

Admission Requirements

University Education

Central regulations establish the general requirements to access university courses.

Admission is restricted for single-cycle courses in medicine and surgery, pharmacy, veterinary science and dentistry studies, primary teacher education and architecture; admission is also restricted for courses in health professions or for bachelor courses for which study plans foresee practical training and the use of laboratories.

Admission requires the possession of an upper secondary school leaving certificate or other equivalent qualification obtained abroad.

Moreover, each university, in its own regulations, may also require an adequate initial preparation. To this end, regulations should establish the knowledge required for admittance and should lay down tests procedures.

Tests can take place on completion of preparatory training activities carried out in collaboration with institutes of upper secondary education. A negative test result does not preclude enrolment; teaching regulations should specify additional specific training requirements to be fulfilled within the first year of the course.

Furthermore, students attending the final year of upper secondary school should submit a pre-enrolment application form to the university in order to allow the design of the university teaching offer and, at the same time, to inform students adequately.

Institutions decide on the acknowledgement of qualifications obtained abroad, in the respect of European Union directives and regulations as well as of the international agreements in force.

High Level Arts and Music Education (Afam)

Admission to Bachelor courses at Afam institutions requires an upper secondary school leaving certificate or another equivalent qualification obtained abroad. Furthermore, each institution, in its own regulations, require an adequate initial qualification and establish which knowledge is required for the admission, as well as the assessment procedures. Tests can also take place at completion of preparatory training activities, carried out also in collaboration with upper secondary education institutes.

Also highly gifted students, even without an upper secondary school leaving certificate; however, this latter is required to obtain the final qualification.

Institutions decide on the acknowledgement of qualifications obtained abroad, in the respect of European Union directives and regulations as well as of the international agreements in force.


Central regulations establish the general criteria for the organisation of university and High level art and music education (Afam) studies, as well as the qualification universities and Afam institutions issue.

As for university, at national level, the Ministry of education, university and research (laurea classes and, for each class, the qualifying educational objectives and the subsequent learning activities necessary to reach these objectives.

According to central regulations, learning activities for each laurea class (university) and for each study course (Afam) are grouped as follows:

  • basic studies;
  • learning activities in one or more areas typical of each class or course of study.

Each class or course of study should also provide for:

  • learning activities in one or more study areas similar or supplementary to the study areas typical of the field of studies;
  • learning activities chosen by students;
  • learning activities aimed at the final examination to obtain the final qualification and at the evaluation of the knowledge of a foreign language;
  • further learning activities aimed at improving linguistic knowledge, as well as ICT skills, relational skills and any other skill useful to get into the labour market among which, in particular, training and guidance apprenticeships.

Furthermore, learning activities include laboratory activities or artistic productions, where relevant.

Study courses can be subdivided into branches, each with its own specific curriculum.

The minimum number of credits that institutions, in their teaching regulations, should assign to learning activities and areas of study is established at central level. However, the total amount of reserved credits cannot exceed 66% and 60% in university and in Afam education, respectively.

Universities and Afam institutions issue their own regulations, approved by the Ministry of university and research. In particular, each regulation determines:

  • The name and training objectives of the respective study courses; general framework of the training activities that must be included in the curriculum; credits assigned to the various training activities; outline of the final examination for the final qualification attainment.
  • The organisational aspects of the teaching activities common to all study courses, such as objectives, times and methods to be adopted for planning, co-ordinating and evaluating the results of the activities; procedures to assign the annual teaching tasks to teachers and researchers; examination procedures; student assessment procedures,  within the limits established by central regulations; evaluation of the students' initial training and organisation of training activities preparatory to the assessment of the initial training; quality assurance.

Therefore, it is not possible to provide an in-depth picture of programmes and contents of each course.   

Teaching regulations of study courses, establish the list of teachings; specific training objectives and credits; curriculum and requirements for the presentation of the individual study plans; provisions concerning any compulsory attendance.

The curriculum is the whole of the training activities (teaching courses, seminaries, practical work and laboratory, didactical activities in small groups, tutoring, guidance, apprenticeship, projects, thesis, individual study activities and self-learning) the students has to carry out to obtain the qualification.

The knowledge of a language of the European Union is required to obtain the final qualification.

The official teaching language is Italian. However, many institutions offer both activities (seminars, conferences) and study courses or single subject courses in a foreign language (mainly English).

Teaching Methods

Universities and High level arts and music education (Afam) institutions, in their own regulations, should establish procedures to carry out teaching activities, in the respect of teaching freedom as well as of teachers' and students' rights and duties.

Teachers freely choose their own teaching methods. They can receive just some not mandatory indications. The use of new technologies is more and more widespread, as well as seminars, working groups, etc.

Progression of Students

Students are expected to obtain the credits foreseen in the study plan for each academic year, upon passing the scheduled exams. Students who do not pass the scheduled exams cannot attend courses foreseen for the following academic year.

In order to graduate, students are required to have passed all the exams foreseen by their study plan. If they have not, students are expected to fulfil their duty within the terms established by regulations of each institution.

Students holding a university or Afam first-cycle qualification, have access to the second-cycle programmes.

At present, teaching regulations of each institution lay down procedures and criteria to be followed when students ask to switch from one course to another within the same or different university, or from a university to an Afam institution and vice versa. Regulations can provide for monitoring the acquired credits in order to check if the students' knowledge is not obsolete. As for the switch from one course to another or from one university to another, teaching regulations must guarantee the recognition of the possible highest number of credits obtained by the student. In the case of switch within the same class of studies, the recognition of credits must not be lower than 50%. The non-recognition of credits must be adequately motivated.


University Education

According to the most recent labour legislation, (Decree issued on 20 September 2011) universities have a role of intermediation between students and the labour world, on condition that universities enrol in the Register of the employment agencies. This latter is the informative register that includes all the subjects authorised by Ministry of labour to carry out intermediation activities.

‘Cliclavoro’ is the portal where universities publish the CVs of their students and graduates (within 12 months) in order to make them available to employers who can advertise, in their turn, available posts.

Those willing to work freelance, in most cases (e.g. agronomists and forestry graduates, agrotechnicians, architects, social assistants, actuaries, biologists, chemists, geologists, engineers) are required to pass a qualifying State examination and then to enrol in the relevant registers. Registers, managed by Associations (Ordini) and Councils (Collegi), are divided into two sections, according to the level of ability and competence gained at the university: in section A enrol those who have a laurea specialistica/magistrale; in section B those who have a laurea. Separate sectors within the sections of the registers relate to specific educational paths corresponding to highly specific professional activities.

To favour the entry in the labour world, it is mandatory for universities to foresee guidance activities in their regulations. Guidance activities include indoor and outdoor initiatives, such as the promotion of consortia and agreements with enterprises foreseeing grants, apprenticeship or traineeship.

There are more types of apprenticeships, or traineeship:

  • Apprenticeship carried out during or after the university studies and combined with the qualifying State exam for practicing regulated professions (professional bodies and registers).
  • Apprenticeship explicitly foreseen in the teaching regulations of a study course
  • Apprenticeship carried out within international projects
  • Apprenticeship freely organised and offered to students and teachers by an enterprise.

Apprenticeships must be part of training and guidance projects, and according to agreements between the involved universities and enterprises or associations of employers, in some cases also involving other actors such as professional associations, local authorities and public bodies.

Moreover, trainee must be insured (civil liability and occupational accident) and be followed by a tutor who has responsibility for didactics and of the organisation of the activities must be foreseen; finally, trainee should be assigned credits (CFU) for the activities carried out.

Many universities have set up ad hoc offices to have a better organisation of the traineeships offer and to deliver a more efficient information to students.

Beside these offices there are also student associations dealing with the apprenticeship offer. They are mainly international associations that group together students from certain study areas (economics, engineering, law, medicine, etc.) and act through a network of local seats. Many graduates' associations aim also at establishing a connection between university and enterprises and at facilitating the transition from the university to the labour market, through the promotion of traineeships.

High Level Arts and Music Education (Afam)

Activities carried out by Afam institutions to facilitate the access of students to the labour market depend on the type of profession taught in each institute. Therefore, it is not possible to provide an overall description.

Student Assessment

Each University and Afam lays down in its own teaching regulation the procedures and methods for students' assessment. However, central regulations require that grades assigned at examinations should be calculated on a scale of 0 - 30, being 18 the minimum mark required for passing the exam. Final tests marks should be calculated on a scale of 0 – 110, being 66 the minimum mark required to be awarded the final qualification. In both cases, it is possible to graduate with honours (30 with honours; 110 with honours).

Both universities and Afam institutions have adopted a credit system for the recognition of students' learning workload. University students are assigned CFUs (university formative credits), whereas Afam institutions assign CFAs (academic formative credits). CFUs and CFAs have the same following characteristics:

  • credits represent the quantity of learning work, including studying at individual level, students are required to carry out in the study courses. A credit corresponds to 25 hours of study;
  • the average quantity of learning work carried out by a full-time student corresponds conventionally to 60 credits.
  • the total or partial acknowledgement of the credits obtained by a student who wants to continue his/her studies is responsibility of the educational institution that takes in the student;
  • teaching regulations of each institution can provide for a recurrent verification of credits and indicate the minimum number of credits to be achieved within a fixed period of time;
  • on the basis of criteria fixed beforehand, institutions can recognise as CFU/CFA, professional abilities and skills certified in conformity with regulations in force on this subject, as well as other abilities and skills gained through educational activities of post-secondary level planned and carried out in collaboration with the university.

CFU and CFA correspond to Ects credits. Each institution, in its own regulations, establishes a specific conversion table to facilitate the conversion between the national marks and the ECTS grading.

To achieve a first cycle qualification either at university or at an Afam institution, students have to sit for a final test in front of the examination committee. To be admitted to the final test, students must have passed all the exams foreseen in their study plan, and been awarded 180 credits, corresponding to a three-year first-level programme. In the final test the student submits to the commission an original work drown up under the guidance of a supervisor.


University and Afam students, who have completed a three-year programme, have been assigned the corresponding 180 CFU/CFA and have successfully passed the final test, are awarded a laurea or a Diploma accademico di primo livello (First level academic diploma) respectively.

The university rector and the Afam institution director, who represent the university and the Afam institution, are responsible for the qualifications issue. University titles have academic value and do not qualify to work freelance in one of the regulated professions; instead, they give access to the qualifying State exam required to enrol in the relevant register.

University and Afam institutions, in their teaching regulations, establish methods and procedures to issue both the certification and the Diploma supplement, in compliance with the models adopted in the European countries, providing the main information on the curriculum followed by the student to obtain the certification concerned.

According to specific agreements, the institutions can release qualifications together with other Italian and foreign institutions of the same level, qualified to issue qualifications recognised in Italy according to the international and European community law (joint qualification).

Legislative references

Law of 30 December 2010, no. 240 (organisation of universities)

Decree of the President of the Republic (DPR) of 8 July 2005, no. 212 (organisation of the Afam sector)

Ministerial Decree of 22 October 2004, no. 270 (organisation of universities)

Decree of the President of the Republic (DPR) of 28 February 2003, no. 132 (autonomy of Afam institutions)

Law 2 August 1999, no. 264 (general requirements to access university courses)

Regulation of 3 November 1999, no. 509 (autonomy of universities)

Law of 21 December 1999, no. 508 (Afam)

Ministerial Decree 21 July 1997, no. 245 (general dispositions on pre-enrolment and design of university courses)