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Italian Higher Education System

Higher education in Italy falls into three distinct categories: university education, higher-level artistic and musical training, higher-level technical training and other higher education opportunities.

The entire sector, but especially the university education category, underwent a radical renewal at the end of the 1990s, motivated both by choices of national significance and by the desire to bring the system into line with the European model outlined by the Bologna Process, which Italy has helped to promote from the outset.

In line with this model, Italian university education is today based on three main cycles of study, which are as follows:

First Cycle (Primo Ciclo)
  - 1st Level Degree Course (Corso di Laurea - three years)
  - Single-Cycle Degree Course (Corso di Laurea Magistrale a Ciclo Unico - five or six years)

Second Cycle (Secondo Ciclo)
   - 2nd Level Degree Course (Corso di Laurea Magistrale - two years)
   - 1st Level Master Course (Master Universitario di Primo Livello)

Third Cycle (Terzo Ciclo)
   - Doctoral Programme (Dottorato di Ricerca)
   - Specialisation School (Scuola di Specializzazione)
   - 2nd Level Master Course (Master Universitario di Secondo Livello)



1ST LEVEL DEGREE (LAUREA)

The 1st level degree course gives the student an appropriate command of general scientific methods and principles, even when the programme is oriented toward the acquisition of specific professional knowledge, and provides a solid base for those who wish to continue their studies with a 2nd level degree or a 1st level master.
To be admitted to a 1st level degree course, you must have a secondary school diploma or a suitable equivalent foreign qualification.
The 1st level degree course lasts three years.
To obtain the qualification (1st level degree) it is necessary to accumulate 180 credits (60 for each year of the course).


SINGLE-CYCLE DEGREE (LAUREA MAGISTRALE A CICLO UNICO)

Single-cycle degree courses do not draw a distinction between the initial three-year period of study and the subsequent two-year period of specialisation; the entire study cycle is structured over a single period of five or six years, at the end of which it confers a 2nd level degree (laurea magistrale).
The single-cycle degree provides the student with advanced education and training for professions in specific fields regulated by European directives that require a high level of qualification (medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, pharmacy and architecture) and for access to legal professions.
To be admitted to a single-cycle degree course you must have a secondary school diploma.
To obtain the qualification (single-cycle degree) it is necessary to accumulate 300 credits, in the case of five-year courses, and 360 credits, in the case of six-year courses (60 for each year of the course).


2nd LEVEL DEGREE (LAUREA MAGISTRALE)

The 2nd level degree, also known as a specialised degree, provides the student with advanced education and training for professions in specific fields that require a high level of qualification.
To be admitted to a 2nd level degree course, you must have a 1st level degree or a suitable equivalent foreign qualification.
The course lasts two years.
To obtain the qualification (2nd level degree) it is necessary to accumulate 120 credits (60 for each year of the course).


MASTER

The aim of a master course is to reinforce, broaden and hone the skills and expertise of graduates and postgraduates, utilising and expanding upon previous training to meet the demands of the professional world. There are both 1st and 2nd level master courses.
To be admitted to a 1st level master course, which is part of the second cycle of university studies, you must have a 1st level degree.
To be admitted to the 2nd level master course, which is part of the third cycle of university studies, you must have a 2nd level degree.
A master course generally lasts from six months to one year (500 didactic and  experiential hours).
To obtain the qualification (1st or 2nd level master) it is necessary to accumulate 60 credits.
There are a limited number of places available for master courses. To be admitted you must pass the selection examinations.


DOCTORAL PROGRAMME (DOTTORATO DI RICERCA)

Provides the expertise necessary for high-level research activities in universities, public institutions and private associations.
To be admitted to a doctoral programme you must hold a 2nd level degree. Candidates must also pass the selection examination, as only a limited number of places are available.
A doctoral degree is awarded after a period of study lasting three to four years.


SPECIALISATION SCHOOL (SCUOLA DI SPECIALIZZAZIONE)

Provides the student with knowledge and skills required in specific professional fields. These courses may only be instituted by the application of specific laws or European Union directives.
To be admitted to a specialisation course you must hold a 2nd level degree.
The length of the course and the number of credits required to obtain the specialisation qualification are defined by the academic structure of each course.


ADVANCED COURSE (CORSO DI PERFEZIONAMENTO)

A refresher/permanent training course that allows students to develop their expertise and skills in order to further improve their professional qualities.
To be admitted you must hold a 1st or 2nd level degree. The courses vary in length.
It differs from a master, in that no academic qualification is awarded; students will receive a certificate that details the skills that have been acquired.




Educational credits
The university educational credits system was introduced to facilitate the mobility of students at both national and international level. Credits (CFU) are units that are used to measure the total amount of coursework required from a student, in terms of hours of study and tuition.
One credit corresponds to 25 hours of work. An academic year requires a total of 60 credits.
Credits are obtained by passing examinations or through other forms of assessment established by each university.
They do not count towards the overall mark and are therefore independent of the grade obtained with examinations or assessments of other kinds. 

Grade debits
Grade debits, on the other hand, indicate a lack of adequate preparation for admission to a particular course of study.

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