The Italian Higher Education System

The Italian higher education system is a binary system, divided into two large sectors or compartments, institutionally and functionally different: the University sector and the Higher Education for Fine Arts, Music and Dance sector, known succinctly as the AFAM sector.


The university sector

The Italian university sector comprises higher education institutions divided thus: 

  • public universities
  • legally recognised non-public universities 
  • on-line universities 
  • higher schools and institutions with special charter

The list of university institutions can be viewed at the website: http://cercauniversita.cineca.it

At the UNIVERSITALY site a further list of university institutions may be found: http://www.universitaly.it/index.php/maps/.


The Italian University System is organised in three cycles defined academic qualifications are associated with each cycle which allow students to progress with their studies, to participate in public recruitment competitions and to enter the workplace and careers in the professions (diagram of the university system).


University study courses are structured in credits. A university credit (CFU) is usually equivalent to 25 hours of study by a student, including individual study in the total. The average quantity of academic work performed by a full-time student in one year is by convention measured as 60 CFUs. The CFU system is equivalent to the ECTS system.


Degree and Master’s Degree study courses that share goals and educational activities are gathered in “classes” (degree classes). The education contents of each degree course are determined autonomously by each single university: they are obliged to include certain educational activities (and the corresponding number of credits) fixed at a national level. These requisites are established in relation to each class. The qualifications in the same class all have the same legal value.


University qualifications confer on the holder different academic titles: a degree bestows the academic title of “Dottore”, the Master’s Degree is defined as “Dottore Magistrale in…”; the Research Doctorate bestows the title of “Dottore di ricerca” or “PhD”.


Italian universities can establish joint programmes in collaboration with other universities, both Italian and foreign, for which joint degrees or double/multiple degrees are awarded upon completion.


For further information on the qualifications of the university system, please visit the Qualifications of the university system section, or visit the Italian qualifications framework – QTI website.

The AFAM sector

The Italian non-university sector is primarily composed of Higher Education for Art, Music and Dance (AFAM) institutions.


AFAM institutions are divided thus:

  • State Academies of Fine Arts
  • Legally recognised Academies of Fine Arts
  • Higher Schools of Design (ISIA)
  • State Music Conservatories
  • Higher Institutes for Musical Studies
  • National Dance Academy
  • National Academy of Drama


AFAM institutions perform activities of training, production and research in the artistic field in the visual arts, musical, dance, drama and design sectors.


A complete list of AFAM institutions can be found at the http://www.afam.miur.it/argomenti/istituzioni.aspx website.

A further list of AFAM institutions can be viewed at the UNIVERSITALY website: http://www.universitaly.it/index.php/maps/.


The AFAM system is organised in three cycles: defined qualifications are associated with each cycle which allow students to progress with their studies, to participate in public recruitment competitions and to enter the workplace and careers in the professions of this sector (diagram of the AFAM system).


Study courses are structured in credits. An academic credit (CFA) is usually equivalent to 25 hours of study by a student, including individual study in the total. The average quantity of academic work performed by a full-time student in one year is by convention measured as 60 CFAs. The CFA system is equivalent to the ECTS system.


AFAM institutions can establish joint programmes in collaboration with other institutions, both Italian and foreign, for which joint degrees or double/multiple degrees are awarded upon completion.


For further information on the qualifications of the AFAM system, please visit the Qualifications of the AFAM system section, or visit the Italian qualifications framework – QTI website.

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