Skip to main content
European Commission logo
EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Higher education funding


3.Funding in education

3.2Higher education funding

Last update: 21 December 2022


The State financially supports universities through funds foreseen by the State budget which are to be subdivided among the various universities as follows:

  • Fund for the regular financing of the universities (FFO);
  • Fund for university building and great scientific equipment (FEU);
  • Fund for the development planning of university system (FPS).

The first one (FFO) is subdivided into three parts:

  • a basis share, related to the historical transfer (corresponding to the amount received by universities in the previous years);
  • a re-balance share, to be divided according to criteria related to the standards of the production costs per student and to objectives of research re-qualification;
  • a share destined to programme agreement among universities and the Ministry of university and research (Mur).

In addition to these revenues, universities are financed through compulsory contribution of students, within the limits set out by the regulations in force, and autonomous financing (voluntary contributions, activities’ earnings, surplus, profits derived from the alienation of properties, liberality acts, considerations for contracts and agreements).

The High level arts and music education (Afam) system, for its administrative and didactic functioning, receives funds from the Ministry of Treasury. These funds are allocated to single institutions by the Ministry of university and research.

Financial autonomy and control

The funding distribution implemented since 1994 increased the autonomy of Universities in their use of State financial support, as it introduced lump sum contribution to HEIs. In order to encourage Universities to improve the quality of their services, an increased part of the FFO has been distributed according to performance indicators related to teaching activities, research activities and efficiency of institutional organization. In 2012, the portion of FFO distributed along these criteria reached the 12%.

Further changes in financial autonomy and control have been introduced with the Law 240/2010. On one side, a new system for quality assurance and accreditation of institutions and Programs includes a broad revision on quality evaluation and promotion of good practices and a stronger link between University performance and funding distribution. On the other side, article 6 (c. 1 and 4) includes obligations and guidelines on the structure of University budget which will ensure easier comparability between institutions and controls by the State authorities. It is important to underline that it does not restrict resource allocation but only harmonize the way budget and reports are presented.

Finally, as part of the public administration sector, financial administration of Universities is subjected to the control of the Minister of Finances and the Court of Auditors.

Fees within public higher education

All State and legally recognised universities have legal status and financial autonomy; as a consequence, the amount of fees and contribution for each study course is established by the board of directors of each university.

However, it is important to know that:

  • a minimum fee for enrolment is foreseen by law; it changes slightly every year. In academic year 2010/2011 it was € 186.92 (Ministerial decree of 28 February 2010);
  • the overall contribution students pay to cover management and services costs cannot exceed the 20% of the state funds allocated to universities (DPR no. 306/1997);
  • Regions apply a tax aimed at awarding grants and special allowances to students (law no. 549/1995).

Contributions from students vary from one university to the other, according to their legal status (state or non-state universities), geographical location on the national territory, study courses (for example, scientific studies are more expansive than classical studies). Moreover, contributions vary according to student's family size and income.

However, the trend is a gradual increase; in fact, fees have become the double in the last ten years. In academic year 2009/2010, the average fees and contributions paid by first and second cycle students were approximately € 940.00 in State universities € 4 100.00 in non-state legally recognised universities. Usually, students do not pay fees to enrol in the research Doctorate. On the contrary, the winners of the competitive exam for admission receive a monthly benefit by the university. However, universities can announce Doctorate posts that don’t foresee any scholarship. In this case, the students of the doctorate courses have to pay annual enrolment fees, established by each single university.

Fees for Specialization Diploma courses and university master courses, are established by each university.

Fees for courses offered within the High level arts and music education (Afam) system, are generally established by each institution, according to its financial autonomy. However, also the Afam system is gradually adapting to the system applied by universities. In academic year 2009/2010, the average fees and contributions paid by first and second cycle students were approximately € 700.00 in State High level arts and music education institutions and € 2 650.00 in non-state legally recognised Afam institutions.

Financial support for learners' families

At higher level, financial support is mainly addressed to learners. However, learners' families indirectly benefit for the support received by learners.

Financial support for learners

Support and services destined to students are regulated at central level (Law no. 390/1991).

The State is responsible for policy, co-ordination and planning of interventions concerning the right to University studies. Every three years, the government sets the criteria to evaluate the students' outcomes and their financial conditions, the selection procedures to benefit from the services destined to praiseworthy and less prosperous students as well as the gradual re-qualification of the financial resources.

The Regions are responsible for providing general services (canteen, transports, accommodations, etc.); grant; health service; loans; etc. These measures are implemented by a specific body with management and administration autonomy in every single University.

Universities are responsible for the organisation of their own services, including guidance and tutoring. They run libraries, laboratories, language courses, distance learning courses, courses for working students, students' part-time jobs, university guidance, etc. Universities can totally or partially exempt students from fees payment according to their study results and incomes. Furthermore, Universities provide grants to attend Doctorate (in this case the financial support is not necessarily provided by the University) and other third-cycle courses.

In order to grant scholarships to all eligible students, a national supplementary fund has been set up starting from 1997. This fund must be allotted to the Regions.

Italian and foreign students, as well as stateless and political refugee students with the same services and supports (Law no. 40/1998).

For non-resident students, a tax deduction (19%) of the costs for accommodation has been established in order to guarantee their right to study.

State financial aids are not foreseen for students attending third-cycle courses. Each university can take into consideration the economic circumstances of students at enrolment in the Doctorate courses and in awarding the relevant grants.

Private education

Financing of non-State legally recognised universities and Afam institutions are described above.

Besides state and legally recognised higher education institutions, there are several institutions which, although being 'higher institutions', are not described in the present chapter because, at present, they do not issue first, second and third cycle certifications. Furthermore, such institutions fall under the competences of Ministries other than the Ministry of university and research.