the italian higher education system
1st cycle programmes
include the degree programmes (Corsi di Laurea) aimed at providing students with an adequate knowledge of scientific methods and contents, as well as with specific professional skills. Their prescribed duration is of 3 years and they award 180 ECTS credits. The general access requirement is the Italian high school leaving qualification (Diploma di Superamento dell’Esame di Stato conclusivo dei corsi di Istruzione Secondaria Superiore commonly known as Diploma di Maturità), awarded after successful completion of the final state examination at the conclusion of 13 years of global schooling. Comparable foreign qualifications may also be accepted. Admission to individual degree programmes may be subject to specific course requirements. In order to achieve the final qualification, it is often necessary to complete an internship, and to defend a brief dissertation or present a final project. The Laurea entitles students to access 2nd cycle courses, to enter the labour market, the civil service and/or regulated professions.
2nd cycle programmes
include the following types of courses:
a)Corsi di Laurea Magistrale: they are aimed at providing students with education at advanced level to work as highly qualified professionals in specific fields. Their prescribed duration is of 2 years and they award 120 ECTS credits.
The access requirement is the Italian 1st cycle degree (Laurea) or a comparable foreign degree. Nonetheless, admission may be subject to specific course requirements established by each university. The final qualification, Laurea Magistrale is awarded to those students who, after satisfying all curricular requirements, also defend an original piece of research during the final examination. A limited number of 2nd cycle programmes, namely those leading to regulated professions1 are defined “single-cycle degree programmes” (Corsi di Laurea Magistrale a ciclo unico). They differ from the regular 2nd cycle courses as follows: admission is always subject to entrance exams; curricula consist of just one cycle of 5-62 years and they grant from 300 to 360 ECTS credits in total.
All courses leading to a Laurea Magistrale allow students to access PhD programmes and all other 3rd cycle degree courses, as well as to enter the labour market and the civil service and/or regulated professions.
b) Corsi di Master universitario di primo livello: they are courses at advanced level or programmes of higher continuing education, accessible to holders of a Laurea or a comparable foreign 1st cycle degree. Admission may be subject to additional conditions. The minimal course length is of 1 year. The final qualification is awarded upon completion of at least 60 ECTS credits. Even though the Master universitario di primo livello is a 2nd cycle qualification, it does not grant access to 3rd cycle programmes.
3rd cycle programmes
include the following types of courses:
a) Research Doctorate programmes (Corsi di Dottorato di Ricerca): aimed at training students for scientific research at very advanced level or at granting access to high-profile professions. They foresee the use cutting-edge technologies, study periods abroad and training in specialised research centres. The access requirement is an Italian 2nd cycle degree (Laurea Magistrale) or a comparable foreign degree. Admission is subject to the result of very competitive entrance examinations. Their minimum prescribed duration is of 3 years. In order to achieve a 3rd cycle degree, students have to present a dissertation on an original piece of research, called Dottorato di Ricerca (Research Doctorate). This ualification grants the academic title of Dottore di Ricerca.
b) Specialization courses (Corsi di Specializzazione) are aimed at providing students with the knowledge and skills requested to practice highly-qualified professions; the majority of them focuses on medical, clinical and surgical disciplines. In any case, they may be established exclusively in application of specific Italian laws or EU directives. The access requirement is a Laurea Magistrale or a comparable foreign degree. Admission is subject to the results of a competitive examination. The minimum prescribed duration of the course is of 2 years. The final degree – called Diploma di Specializzazione – also awards the academic title of Specialista.
c) Corsi di Master universitario di secondo livello: advanced scientific courses or programmes of higher continuing education, open to the holders of a Laurea Magistrale or a comparable foreign degree; admission may be subject to additional conditions. The minimum duration of such courses is of 1 year and they award 60 ECTS credits. The final qualification is called Master universitario di secondo livello and does not give access to other 3rd cycle programmes.
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