Italian Higher Education system
Since 1999, Italian university studies have been fully reformed so as to meet the objectives of the “Bologna process”. The University system is now organised on 3 cycles: the 1st cycle academic degree, that is the "Laurea", grants access to the 2nd cycle, and the degree of the 2nd cycle, gives access to 3rd cycle doctorate programmes "Dottorato di Ricerca"( Phd Courses). In addition to the above mentioned degree sequence according to the Bologna pattern, the system offers diplomas both within the 2nd and 3rd cycles.
First cycle (Bachelor degree)
Undergraduate studies consist exclusively in Corsi di laurea-CL (1st degree course) aimed at guaranteeing undergraduate students an adequate command of general scientific methods and contents as well as specific professional skills. General access requirement is the Italian secondary school leaving qualification (Diploma di Superamento dell’Esame di Stato conclusivo dei corsi di istruzione Secondaria Superiore), awarded on passing the relevant state examinations, after completion of 13 years of compulsory schooling; also equivalent foreign qualifications may be accepted. Admission to individual degree courses may be subject to specific requirements. First degree courses last 3 years. The Laurea-L (1st degree, and bachelor-level of the Bologna process) is awarded to undergraduates who have earned 180 ECTS credits. The L allows transition to the labour market, access to the civil service and/or regulated professions; it also grants access to all degree programmes of the 2nd cycle.
Second cycle (Master Degree)
Postgraduate studies include A) Corsi di Laurea Specialistica/Corsi di Laurea Magistrale-CLS/CLM; B) Corsi di Master Universitario di 1° livello-CMU1. CLS/CLM are aimed at providing graduates with an advanced level of education for the exercise of a highly qualified activity in specific areas. Access to CLS/CLM is by the Italian 1st degree (L) or a foreign comparable degree; admission is subject to specific course requirements determined by individual universities; workload: 120 ECTS credits; length: 2 years. The final degree, Laurea Specialistica/Magistrale-LS/LM (master level of the Bologna process), is awarded to graduates who, once satisfied all curricular requirements, have also defended an original dissertation. The change in the final degree name from Laurea Specialistica into Laurea Magistrale was agreed upon in 2004. A limited number of 2nd cycle programmes, namely those leading to professions regulated by EU sectoral directives (in dentistry, human medicine, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, architecture), are defined “single cycle degree programmes” (Corsi di Laurea Specialistica/Magistrale a ciclo unico-CLSU/CLMU); they differ from the majority of usual CLS/CLM in the following characteristic features: access is by the Italian secondary school leaving diploma or a equivalent foreign qualification; admission is always subject to entrance exams; curricula consist of just one long cycle of 5-6 years (at present, only the cLSU/CLMU in human medicine takes 6 years), and a total number of 300-360 ECTS credits. All LS/LM and LSU/LMU allow transition to the labour market, access to the civil service and/or regulated professions; they also grant access to researches doctorates programmes as well as to all other degree courses of the 3rd cycle. B) CMU1 consist in advanced scientific courses or higher continuing education studies, open to the holders of a Laurea-L or a foreign comparable degree; admission may be subject to additional conditions. Course length is min. 1 year. The degree Master Universitario di 1° livello-MU1 (1st level university master) is awarded to graduates who have earned at least 60 credits. The MU1 does not give access to DR programmes nor to other 3rd cycle degree courses.
It covers the following typologies of degree courses: A) Corsi di Dottorato di Ricerca-CDR (research doctorate programmes); B) Corsi di Specializzazione-CS (specialisation courses); C) Corsi di Master Universitario di 2° livello-CMU2 (2nd level university master courses). A) CDR aim at training postgraduates for very advanced scientific research or for professional appointments of the highest level; they envisage the use of suitable teaching methodologies such as updated technologies, study periods abroad, interships in specialistic research centres. Access is by an Italian 2nd degree (LS/LM) or an equivalent foreign degree; admission is subject to the passing of very competitive exams; the legal length must be min. 3 years; the drawing up of an original dissertation is necessary for the awarding of the 3rd degree called Dottorato di Ricerca-DR (research doctorate); the corresponding personal title is Dottore di Ricerca. B) CS are devised to provide postgraduates with knowledge and abilities as requested in the practice of highly qualifying professions; the majority concerns medical, clinical and surgical specialities, but CS have been also established for advanced education and professional training in different contexts. CS may be established exclusively in application of specific Italian laws or EU directives. Access is by an LS/LM or by an equivalent foreign degree; admission is subject to the passing of a competitive examination; course length is min. 2 years. The final degree, called “Diploma di Specializzazione”-DS, give the right to the title as “Specialista”. C) CMU2 consist in advanced scientific courses or higher continuing education studies, open to the holders of an LS or an equivalent foreign degree; admission may be subject to additional conditions. Studies take min. 1 year. The degree (Master Universitario di 2° livello-MU2) is awarded to postgraduates who have earned minimum 60 credits.