How University works in Italy: courses, exams and credits, the complete guide

At the end of high school we find ourselves faced with the fateful moment decision: start work right away or delve deeper into an area by signing up for a degree course? The University foresees three cycles: the first arrives at the achievement of first level degree (the so-called “three-year degree”), the second leads to II level degree (“master's degree”) and the third consists of Ph.D.
But how does university work? in this article we will try to answer most common questions that you come across when you choose to take this path.

  • 1The university structure
    • 1.1Degree courses
    • 1.2The departments
    • 1.3The academic areas
  • 2Registration: open and closed numbers
  • 3The path: CFU, exams and “fuori corso”
    • 3.1What are CFUs?
    • 3.2Exam session calls
    • 3.3Students “out of course”
  • 4Finish your university studies
    • 4.1Thesis
    • 4.2Graduation

The university structure

First of all we need to define theorganization of the university.
This institute is composed, in order of increasing size, of degree coursescome on departments and give them academic areas.

Degree courses

The degree course and the teaching structure to which one student can register once they have the High school diploma.

don't miss this article

How do you read the gas meter and how does it work? A little guide

There list of scheduled exams from the degree course offered by a given university is said study plan and is available, typically, on official site of the course itself.
By consulting the study plan, the future student will be able to evaluate whether the courses offered are suitable for them interest and whether the proposed training reflects their own expectations.

The degree courses are divided into two categories: single-cycle degree courses And three-year or master's degree courses.

university students

The degree courses a single cycle are organized to have a durationtypically, five-yearly without interruptions.
In this type of degree course there is, therefore, no specialization that can be undertaken at the end of the third year of studies, although, in many cases, universities offer a number of optional exams of the individual student concentrated, mainly, in the last two years to the end.

With the MURST decree of the 1999 of the minister Hortensio Zecchino university courses of study were reformed by establishing the famous “3+2 system” which allowed the separation of single-cycle degree courses into one three-year period (three-year degree) and in a two-year period the final (master's degree).
In this case, after having obtained a three-year degree, also defined in jargon “bachelor's degree”the student receives a certificate of completion and can decide to to interrupt the university career or continue with a course master's degreealso called “Master Degree”for which the three-year degree in his possession is valid enabling.

The departments

THE departmentsto date, have expertise both in the field of research than in that of teaching.
They house the research facilities and their administrative structures, in addition, establish educational activities of each course.
Historically, however, these two functions they were separate Between departments And facultywith the latter having a function purely oriented towards the definition of teaching activities.
The term faculty is still widely used in university jargon, albeit following the law no. 240 remembered how “Gelmini reform”the latter were suppressed.

The teachers' office is usually located in a department.
Examples of departments are: Architecture, Chemistry, Economy, Physics, Engineering, Letters or Mathematics.

The academic areas

The academic areas it's macro categories which group departments within themselves, some examples of academic areas are: biological science, medical sciences, legal sciences, industrial engineering and information and many others.

Registration: open and closed numbers

Once you have chosen the university path to undertake, there is the phase of enrollment in the degree course. An undergraduate degree can be a open numberTherefore without any restrictions to the maximum number of students who can enroll or to closed number where instead there is one selection of the admitted students to the course based on result of a test.
Typically in both cases the students are subjected to gods preliminary tests suitable for evaluating the preparation of the students they want enroll for that given degree course, in courses with a limited number of places, one is instead carried out selection of the best candidates based on the results of the tests submitted.

In the case of open-entry courses, the result of the test may lead the student to have to take one or more courses or additional tests in order to fill the gaps emerged during the entrance test but, in any case, the result does not affect admission to the student's degree program. At the end of the enrollment process the student can enrollor to receive the badge number who will identify it within their university.

The path: CFU, exams and “fuori corso”

Once enrolled, we begin courses of the first quarter, the organization of lessons it is decided, as mentioned, by the department, and is typically divided into quarters or semesters (from September-October to March and from March-April to September) interspersed with sessions of exam (typically between January and March and between June and September, excluding August).

What are CFUs?

Each exam is then assigned a number CFU (University credits) which represents the workload required of the student to successfully take that given exam, typical values of CFU for the exams are 3, 6, 9 And 12. The number of CFU is typically proportional to the hours Of frontal lesson provided for the teaching of that subject (a single lesson typically lasts two hours).

university lecture

Exam session calls

The quarter of lessons is interspersed with an exam session period within which the professors select two or more useful dates for the appeals, the latter are i days in which they will be carried out exams which can be written, oral or one both (typically on separate days).

Sometimes the appeal can also consist of a laboratory where the student will have to demonstrate the ability to apply the principles learned during the course. The exam grade consists of a rating out of thirty of the student's preparation and is expressed by the professor, sufficiency is achieved with a grade of eighteen thirtieths and sometimes to the maximum rating of thirty thirtieths one can be added praise to underline the exceptional nature of the work produced by the student.

Once the exam is passed, the CFU associated with that course is obtained the final degree exam you can request it once you have obtained the minimum credits required for your degree course.

Finally, exams can be considered “mandatory” or “to choice” from your degree course, in the first case they are exams that will take place necessarily overcome while in the second case the university leaves freedom of choice, for a pre-established number of credits, to the student among a range of exams so as to allow go into detail the topics most in line with interests of the individual student.

Ultimately there are the so-called “extra-curricular exams”whose CFU do not contribute to the amount necessary for the request for the thesis or final degree exam (nor the results to the calculation of the average of the student's results) but represent extra courses and exams that the student he personally decides to support as enrolled at that given university.

Students “out of course”

The organization of lessons and subsequent exams should “set the pace” of the student's study and preparation, however in some cases, this is not possible due to personal vicissitudes or topics not fully understood.
A student defines himself out of course when he is unable to finish his studies within the years required by his faculty – therefore three in the case of the three-year degree, two in the case of the master's degree and five for single-cycle courses. However, there is a tolerance of six additional months beyond the maximum term of the course of study within which the student can complete the course.

out of course

When you go off course the consequences are mostly of economic nature, you no longer have access to regional study subsidies or any bonuses in the basic degree score and, from the second year outside the course onwards, you pay a late payment of 100 euros per year.

Finish your university studies

To complete the university course it is necessary to pass a final exam.
The final exam is comparable in all respects to the canonical exams carried out during the training course and, generally, requires the examinee (the student) to present a written essay said Thesis and expose its contents orally.


At the end of the exams the student will have to choose a professor (a Speaker) to delve deeper into a topic that will be the subject of the final thesis (Thesis).
There thesis it's a elaborate which is proposed to the examining commission of which the examinee must demonstrate anaccurate knowledge.
Bachelor's theses (or master's degrees) are typically divided into two categories:

  1. Compilative thesesin which the student reworks and/or synthesizes theories and concepts already processed from others
  2. Experimental thesesin which the student is tasked with producing a theory and/or results originals and unpublished.
    Typically this type of thesis requires a time greater to be elaborated with respect to a compilation solution but allows, on average, to obtain a better score.

The time taken by the student to produce this document depends mainly on the degree of in-depth analysis requested by the professor and on the objective of the thesis.

The degree and the final grade

The student arrives at the day of defending his thesis knowing his own degree basisor the score of departure of the final exam which is calculated through the average weighted or arithmetic of the grades obtained during the period of study, to which the extra curricular points assigned on the basis of rules chosen by the university.

At the end of the candidates' presentation the commission meets for evaluate the final test and assign the final vote to the student's studies by adding the thesis grade to the degree basis.