National Higher Education System
Italian higher education is structured in a binary system, consisting of two main sectors:
- the university sector [including the classical 'Politecnicos']
- the non-university sector.
At present, the university sector is made up of 89 university institutions which are classified as State universities, 17 non-State universities (legally recognised by the State), 2 universities for international students and 12 various others.
The non-university sector includes higher schools of design, polytechnics for the arts, academies of fine arts, higher institutes for applied arts, music conservatories and recognised music institutes.
Although the universities offer a wide variety of Masters programmes through English, there are only a limited - but growing - range of undergraduate programmes, taught through English, currently available in Italy.
Fees are state-supported in Italy and, accordingly, tend to be low for EU students. Fees are usually quoted in ranges [eg €600- €3800], which are dependent on a family's disposable income.
Fees are significantly higher in private institutions.
Grants & Loans
All international students are entitled to the same student assistance services as Italian students, on basis of the same criteria as to financial means and/or merit. This applies to scholarships, student loans, housing assistance, refectory meal tickets and fee waivers. These services are managed by the DSU office (Diritto allo studio universitario). You should contact the office at the university where you plan to study to find out what services are available to you.
There is no element of centralisation in the Italian system*: you have to apply directly to the university of your choice, enclosing a dossier of documents, the contents of which varies from university to university.
The admission requirements, processes and deadlines differ between institutions, though in most state-sector institutions, you are required to sit an entrance exam, which takes place in September.
Note that there can be a long [and sometimes frustrating] paper trail in securing enrolment at Italian institutions, including 'Legalisation' or your qualifications by our authorities and 'Certificates of Equivalence' from the Italian consulate.
* though application to the entrance exam [IMAT] to Italian medical schools is centralised