Higher Education Degree Programs in Italy

The Italian higher education system has a three cycle degree structure-

First Cycle (Primo Ciclo- Called Laurea triennale)
  •  Bachelor's program (Corso di Laurea)
  •  Single-cycle Degree (Corso di Laurea Magistrale a Ciclo Unico)
Second Cycle (Secondo Ciclo- Called Laurea magistrale)
  •   Master's program (Corso di Laurea Magistrale)
  •   1st Level vocational master (Master Universitario di Primo Livello)
Third Cycle (Terzo Ciclo)
  •    Doctorate  (Dottorato di Ricerca)
  •    Specialisation School (Scuola di Specializzazione)
  •    2nd Level vocational master (Master Universitario di Secondo Livello)
A first-cycle degree program called Laurea triennale leads to a Bachelor-level degree. A second-cycle degree program called Laurea magistrale leads to a Master-level degree. There are certain courses that lead to a Master-level degree but are of longer duration. They start at first cycle and take 5 or 6 years to complete. These are known as Single-cycle Master degrees.


The first cycle includes bachelor program and single-cycle degree.

Bachelor's Degree Program (Corso di Laurea Triennale – CL)

This is the 1st level degree program that provides the student with specific professional knowledge and skills. It offers a string foundation for those who want to continue their studies with a second level degree program or a 1st level master.The bachelor degree program lasts for three years. To get the the 1st level degree, it is mandatory to have 180 credits.

Single-Cycle Degree (Corso di Laurea Magistrale a ciclo unico - CLMu)

The single-cycle degree provides the student with advanced education and training for in specific professional fields. The specific fields include veterinary medicine, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, architecture etc. Single-cycle degree courses lasts for five to six years and after successful completion of it, a second level degree, i.e. Master’s degree is awarded. It is mandatory to have at least 300 credits for a five-year course and 360 credits for a course of six-years, to get the single-cycle degree.


Second cycle includes Master degree program and Vocational Master courses.

Master's Program (Corso di Laurea Magistrale - CLM)

This is the second level degree that provides the students advanced education and training related to a specific field. The course lasts for two years. To attain the 2nd level degree, it is mandatory to gather 120 credits.

Vocational Master (Master Universitario di I livello - CMU1)

There are an increasing number of vocational master courses available across Italy. Vocational Master’s course opens a door to a new calling. It basically enhances your skills, broadens your knowledge and expertise and trains you to conform to the needs of the corporate world. There are two levels of vocation master programs: first level and second level. A vocational master course lasts from six months to one year and in order to acquire the 1st or 2nd level vocational master qualification, it is required to have 60 credits.


The third cycle consists of the doctorate research degree program, specialisation schools and advanced courses.

Doctorate Research Degree Program-PhD (Corso di Dottorato di Ricerca – CDR)

The doctorate research degree program provides the knowledge and skills essential for carrying out the high-level research activities in universities, public establishments and private organisations. A doctoral degree lasts for three to four years.

Specialisation School (Scuola di Specializzazione – SS)

Specialisation schools provide the student with the knowledge and skills for particular professional activities. The course duration and the number of credits needed to gain the specialisation qualification are determined by the academic structure of each course. The specialisation course lasts for two years and in order to acquire the specialisation qualification, it is necessary to gather credits between 300 and 360 credits. At the conclusion of the course, final examination takes place that requires the students to give the presentation of a specialisation thesis.

Advanced Course (Corso Di Perfezionamento) 

Advanced courses help the student to achieve a new level of mastery. Students are groomed for better career growth. Such courses develop student’s expertise and skills thereby enhancing their professional qualities and expanding their competencies. The duration of the course varies. After successful completion of the course, students are awarded a certificate describing about the skills attained by the students.

Higher Education Degree Structure at a Glance

 Degree ProgramDuration (in years)  Credits (ECTS) Admission Requirements
 First Cycle   
 Bachelor's Program 3 180 Secondary School Diploma and Entrance exam (in some cases)
 Single-Cycle Degree 5-6 300-360 Secondary School Diploma and Entrance exam (in some cases)
 Second Cycle   
 Master's Program 2 120 Bachelor's degree and Entrance exam (in some cases)
 Short Vocational Master Program 1 60 Bachelor's degree and Entrance exam (in some cases)
 Third Cycle   
 Doctoral Research   - Second-Cycle Degree and Entrance Examination
 Specilisation Schools  120-360 Second-Cycle Degree and Entrance Examination
 Advanced Master's Program  60 Second-Cycle Degree and Entrance Examination
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