Europe - Country Commercial Guide
Italy Education

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2020-03-09


Capital:  Rome
Population:  62,402,659 (July 2020 est.)
GDP:  2.317 Trillion USD (2017 est., Purchasing Power Parity)
Currency:  Euro (EUR)
Language:  Italian

UNESCO Student Mobility Number: 
Italy has 74,268 students studying abroad according to UNESCO. 

CIA World Factbook:
23.06% of the Italian population is under 24 years of age.

In Italy, schools are mainly State schools. Non-state schools may either have a status equal to State schools (equal) or be merely private schools. Equal schools are run by either private subjects or public subjects (e.g. local authorities such as Municipalities and Provinces) and have obtained the equal status after meeting some specific requirements (law no. 62/2000). Equal schools are public entities and can release all official certifications foreseen by the Italian education system. Only private schools are not part of the Italian education system and cannot release official certifications.

The State directly finances State schools through funds included in the budget of the Ministry of Education, University and Research (Miur).
Equal schools, as they are part of the national education system, receive State funds according to specific criteria established by regulations. Regulations also determine that priority must be given to those schools run by non-profit entities (Ministerial Decree of 21 May 2007).

The Higher Technical Education and Training System (IFTS) is financed by the State and co-financed by the Regions.
The State directly finances higher education institutions (Universities and Afam - Higher Artistic Musical and Coreutical Training - institutions) through funds included in the budget of the Ministry of Education, University and Research.
The Italian Constitution establishes that education is accessible to everyone and that compulsory education is free (art. 34). At present, compulsory education lasts 10 years (from 6 to 16 years of age). Education, at all levels, is accessible throughout the national territory and Italian is the official language of education. 
According to the Institute of International Education’s 2019 Open Doors report, Italy is ranked 6th among countries sending students to the U.S. for higher education and training services. During the 2018/2019 academic year 6,113 Italian students were enrolled in undergraduate, graduate, OPT, or Intensive English Programs in the U.S. This was a 5.6% increase over the previous academic year. Italy is also the second most popular host for American students, with 36,945 in the 2017/2018 academic year. This was a 4.5% increase over the previous academic year.

First Cycle of Education
The first cycle of education is compulsory and is made up of primary and lower secondary education. 
•    Primary education (scuola primaria) starts at 6 years of age and lasts 5 years. 
•    Lower secondary education (scuola secondaria di I grado) starts at 11 years of age and lasts 3 years.
Within the first cycle, students pass from one level to the next one without exams. At the end of the first cycle of education, students who pass the final state examination progress directly to the second cycle of education, the first two years of which are compulsory.

Second Cycle of Education
The second cycle of education starts at the age of 14 and offers two different pathways:
•    the upper secondary school education
•    the regional vocational training system (IFP).
The first two years of the second cycle of education are compulsory.
The upper secondary school education (scuola secondaria di II grado) offers both general (liceo) and vocational (technical and vocational) programs. Courses last 5 years. At the end of the upper secondary school education, students who successfully pass the final exam receive a certificate that gives them access to higher education.
The regional vocational training system (IFP) offers three or four-year courses organized by accredited training agencies or by upper secondary schools. At the end of regional courses, learners receive a qualification that gives them access to second-level regional vocational courses or, under certain conditions, short-cycle courses at higher education level. 

Higher Education
The following institutes offer education at higher level:
•    Universities (polytechnics included – Polytechnics are institutes that include a faculty of engineering and an architecture faculty, with specialization schools in the various engineering sectors);
•    High level arts, music and dance education institutes (Alta formazione artistica, musicale e coreutica - Afam);
•    Higher schools for language mediators (Scuole superiori per mediatori linguistici - SSML);
•    Higher technical institutes (Istituti tecnici superiosi - ITS).

Access to university, Afam and SSML programs is solely for students with an upper secondary school certificate. The Ministry of education and individual institutions establish the specific conditions for admission.
Courses at ITSs are accessible to students with an upper secondary certificate and to students who have attended a four-year regional vocational course followed by an additional one-year course in the Higher Technical Education and Training system (IFTS). ITS offers short-cycle bachelor programs, according to the Bologna structure.

Study Abroad
Studying abroad takes place mainly through the Erasmus Program. The Program foresees now more opportunities also for new graduates.
Students can choose among a study period abroad at a partner higher education institution (HEI) and a traineeship abroad in an enterprise or any other relevant workplace.

The study/traineeship period abroad must be part of the student’s study program to complete a degree at a first cycle (Bachelor), second cycle (Master) and third or doctoral cycle. A student can receive up to 12 months of Erasmus funding per each cycle of study, independently from the number and types of periods abroad.
Then the Fulbright Program, the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government, is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries, such as Italy.

In Italy the Program is administered by the Commission for Cultural Exchanges between Italy and the United States -  the US-Italy Fulbright Commission -  a bi-national body financed and managed by the U.S. Department of State and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Honorary Presidents are the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and the United States Ambassador to Italy.

Higher Education 
Number of Italian students studying in the U.S. during the Academic Year 2018/2019: 6,114; +5.6% compared to the previous year.

Courses of study: Italian students go to the U.S. for a degree in business or engineering.  An MBA is highly regarded in Italy, and Italian students who enroll in MBAs generally excel at their studies (being used to the rigor of the Italian system).
Compared to previous year (2018/2019):
    Undergraduate: 2,242  +7.2%
    Graduate Education: 2,179  +4.4%
    Non-Degree: 776  -5.3%
    OPT: 917  +15.9%

Italy’s demand for American educational services has grown over the last year. In the 2018-2019 school year, the U.S boasted 6,114 Italian undergraduates, graduate students, international scholars or participants in intensive English courses. The most popular U.S. programs are English as a Second Language, MBAs and other graduate and short-term programs that give students the opportunity to live in America, to make contacts and to improve their English.  

Italian demand for an American education at the undergraduate level is not particularly strong due to the difficulty in transferring credits, as well as the fact that American degrees are not officially recognized in Italy.  Students often prefer flexible graduate programs and one-year study exchange programs as a way to gain international experience, perfect their English and make contacts abroad, all in a shorter period and at a lower cost.  E-learning opportunities are also becoming increasingly popular in Italy, especially for language training and continuing medical education (CME).

Although the cost of education is usually the main barrier, demand remains high as Italians place great value on a U.S. education. Although some financing options do exist, many students are opting for shorter, less expensive programs to study in the United States. 

One should note that due to university autonomy and a growing sensitiveness towards internationalization, the number of international agreements between Italian and foreign universities has increased. In order to keep records of such inter-university agreements, a platform was created in 2009 by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Conference of Rectors of Italian universities (CRUI).

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs contributes to the internationalization of the university system through agreements and specific projects, funding for the mobility of researchers within bilateral programs, awarding grants and allowances for post-graduation programs and for scientific and technological initiatives, always included in bilateral programs.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs publishes the offer of scholarships, coming from several States and some International organizations for attending courses at universities or higher institutions abroad, for conducting research in public archives, cultural centers, libraries, laboratories and for attending language courses at specialized language centers.

Finally, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stipulated bilateral and multilateral agreements with several EU and non-EU States for the recognition of qualifications.

•    Bologna Children’s Book Fair: 
•    Salone Internazionale del Libro di Torino: 


•    Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research:
•    EACEA National Policies Platform: 
•    Fulbright Italy: 
•    Open Doors IIE: 
•    Italian National MBA Association: 

Elisa Martucci, Commercial Specialist
U.S. Commercial Service – Rome, Italy 
+39 06 4674 2252