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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Higher education


7.Higher education

Last update: 27 November 2023

This chapter describes the segment of the education and training system that follows the completion of upper secondary education and that covers a set of different higher education systems:

  • the university system, that includes universities and other equivalent institutions 
  • the system of the Higher education for the fine arts, music, and dance (Alta formazione artistica, musicale e coreutica - AFAM)
  • the system of the Higher technological tertiary education (Sistema terziario di istruzione tecnologica superiore)

According to law 240/2010, universities are the primary seat of free research and free training and are a place of learning and critical elaboration of knowledge. In the implementation of the provisions set in the Constitution, each university shall operate on the basis of principles of autonomy and responsibility, combining research and teaching for the cultural, civil and economic progress of the country.

The institutes that belong to the university system are:

  • State universities
  • non-State recognised universities
  • non-State recognised online universities
  • higher schools for language mediators and specialisation institutes for psychotherapists 

According to the DPR 212/2005, AFAM institutions carry out production and research activities in the artistic field, in particular the fine arts, music, choreography, drama and design, in order to promote the achievement of educational objectives and the pursuit of high artistic and professional standards.

The institutions belonging to the AFAM system are:

  • State academies of fine arts (Accademie di belle arti statali)
  • recognised non-State academies of fine arts (Accademie di belle arti non statali riconosciute)
  • higher institutes for artistic industries (Istituti superiori per le industrie artistiche - ISIA)
  • conservatoires (Conservatori)
  • the National academy of drama (Accademia nazionale d'arte drammatica)
  • the National dance academy (Accademia nazionale di danza)
  • the officially recognised music institutes
  • other institutions authorised to release recognised qualifications 

Institutions belonging to the university and AFAM systems organise programmes of the first, second and third cycle of the Bologna Process structure (corresponding to the ISCED 6, ISCED 7 and ISCED 8 levels, respectively). In addition, universities and AFAM institutions may organise courses leading to other qualifications outside the Bologna structure. All the relevant qualifications are described in the NQF. Qualifications issued by universities and AFAM institutions are also described in the Italian qualification framework of higher education (Quadro dei titoli italiani dell'istruzione superiore - QTI).

The providers of Higher technological education are the Higher technological institutes (Istituti tecnologici superiori - ITS Academies), from now on referred to also as ITSs, that are specialised tertiary institutions established to meet the demand of new and high-level competences coming from the labour world, in particular the technological sectors. ITSs have recently been reformed (law 99/2022). Main changes are described in the chapter on ongoing reforms in higher education, awaiting the decrees that are to define the organisation of the courses.

Institutions of the university and AFAM systems as well as ITSs, have legal status and statutory, teaching, scientific, administrative, financial and accounting autonomy. They establish the organisation of the academic year, which, in general, starts on the 1st of November and ends on the 31st of October of the following year and is usually organised in semesters.

Besides universities, AFAM institutions and ITSs, other institutions offer courses leading to a qualification equivalent to a second-cycle qualification issued by universities (DM 87/2009). Among them: the Higher institute for the conservation and restoration (Istituto superiore per la conservazione e il restauro) in Rome, the School of the Gemstone Factory (Scuola dell'Opificio delle pietre dure) in Florence, with its branch in Ravenna at the School of Restoration of the Mosaic (Scuola di retauro del mosaico), the Higher school at the Central institute for the pathology of archives and books (Istituto centrale per la patologia degli archivi e del libro) in Rome. In general, access to courses requires an upper secondary education qualification and an entrance examination. The number of places available is limited and fixed annually. In some cases, also a previous relevant training is required. These institutes fall within the responsibility of the Ministry of culture instead of the Ministry of university and research and, therefore, their offer will not be described in this chapter.