The State supports universities through funds foreseen by its own budget, to be distributed among the various universities:
- 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 basic 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 the last years the allocation of financial resources from the State has been modified introducing criteria that gradually reduce the historical base for allocations and increasing other criteria such as:
- the standard cost per student
- the bonus quota in relation to teaching and research results
- equalisation measures to safeguard particularly critical situations.
Always within the annual fundings coming from the FFO, other interventions that are earmarked are:
- Fund for the support to youngsters and to favour students’ mobility
- Fund for post-degree grants for PhDs
- Resources for special plans for the recruitment of professors and researchers
Source: Ministero dell'università e della ricerca, pagina 'Finanziamenti’ (last visited: June 2023)
Criteria for the allocation of the resources of the FFO are defined annually by Ministerial decree.
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 Higher education for the fine arts, music and dance (Afam) institutions receive funds from the State for their administrative and didactic functioning. 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. 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. The share of funds linked to performance indicators is established annually by Ministerial decree. For 2022, the share has been approx. 40% of the resources allocated (DM 581/2022)
Source: Ministero dell’università e della ricerca, ‘Atti e normativa’ (last visited: June 2023).
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, obligations and guidelines on the structure of university budget, which will ensure easier comparability between institutions and controls by the State authorities.
Within the 1st January 2015, each university adopted an economic and asset accounting system and the university's single balance sheet, as well as analytical accounting systems and procedures for management control purposes (Source: Camera dei deputati, ‘Aree tematiche’ (last visited: June 2023).
Finally, as part of the public administration sector, financial administration of universities is subjected to the control of the Minister of economy and finances and the Court of auditors.
Fees within public higher education
All State and legally recognised universities have legal status and financial autonomy; therefore, the amount of fees and contribution for each study course is established by the board of directors of each university.
Contributions from students vary from one university to the other, according to their legal status (state or non-state universities), their geographical location in the country, the study courses offered (for example, scientific studies are more expansive than classical studies). Moreover, contributions vary according to student's family size and income.
However, it is important to know that:
- a minimum fee for enrolment is foreseen by law; it changes slightly every year. In academic year 2021/2022 it was € 200 (Source: European Commission, National Student Fees and Support Systems in European Higher Education 2022/2023);
- 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).
Students with an insufficient number of credits and/or out of course pay higher fees. Fee differentiation policies are applied according to field of study and cycle. Italian and non-Italian students pay the same amounts.
From academic year 2021/2022, students with the economic indicator (ISEE) lower than EUR 20 000 are totally exempted from paying fees, while those in range between EUR 22 000 and 30 000 are partially exempted according to decreasing percentages established by universities (DM 1014/2021). In academic year 2021/2022 the average amount of paid fees of students in higher education has been 1 650 EUR.
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 allowance by the university. However, universities can announce Doctorate posts that don’t foresee allowances. In this case, the students pay annual enrolment fees, established by each single university.
As for university courses falling outside the Bologna structure, fees are established by each university.
Fees for courses offered within the Higher education in fine arts, music and dance (Afam), are generally established by each institution, according to its financial autonomy.
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 study at HE. 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.
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 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.
Income- and merit-based scholarships are available for all students, regardless of course type and nationality.
Income-based scholarships range from a minimum of EUR 2 482 to a maximum of EUR 6 158. The most common annual amount is EUR 4 326.
The minimum and maximum amounts of the scholarships are set by law.
Scholarship recipients are exempt from fees. In the first cycle, 16.3% of students (both full-time and part-time) received income-based scholarships and 17.7% in the second cycle. No data are available on merit-based scholarships.
There is no age limit for students receiving scholarships.
Further details are available in the Eurydice report National Student Fees and Support Systems in European Higher Education 2022/2023.
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.
Contents revised: October 2023