Italian university system
The Italian Higher Education system is undergoing considerable transformations affecting its inner academic structure, in the framework of a larger European university reform.
The Sorbonne Declaration, signed by Italy, France, Germany and the United Kingdom in May 1998, underlined the essential role of universities in the construction and development of a "Europe of Knowledge".
One year later, in June 1999, the Bologna Declaration, signed by 29 European countries, drew up a proposal for the creation of a European Higher Education Area by 2010. It aims at improving the competitiveness of European higher education in the world.
In particular the Italian higher education reform is designed to reduce the student dropout rate and university-career time, to combine a high standard academic offer with professional competence and skills, to facilitate national and international student mobility.
The new Italian university system includes First and Second Cycle Degree Programmes (in Italian: 'Lauree triennali / Lauree' and 'Lauree Specialistiche / Lauree Magistrali'), together with first and second-level Specialist Master's Programmes (in Italian: 'Master universitari di I e II livello'), Research Doctorates (corresponding to the third cycle of the European university system) and Specializing Schools (such as the Advanced Training School for Secondary School Teachers - SSIS).
- A First Cycle Degree Programme involves three years of full-time study and leads to a basic degree (in Italian: 'Laurea triennale' according to Ministerial Decree no. 509/1999, or simply 'Laurea' according to Ministerial Decree no. 270/2004). This qualification provides students with 180 university credits (CFUs) and the final title of 'Dottore'.
- Graduates then have two options: they can either find employment or continue their university career with a Second Cycle Degree Programme, consisting of two years of more specialized study leading to a postgraduate degree (in Italian: 'Laurea Specialistica' according Ministerial Decree no. 509/1999, or Laurea Magistrale according to Ministerial Decree no. 270/2004). This kind of qualification provides students with other 120 university credits (CFUs), so at the end of their university career, graduates will have obtained 300 university credits (180 + 120) and the final title of 'Dottore Magistrale'.
- Students wishing to deepen specific subjects can enrol in first- or second-level Specialist Master's Programmes (in Italian: 'Master universitari di I e di II livello'), which usually involve one year of full-time study. They belong to the framework of the Italian university system, but they do not correspond to the English meaning of Master's degrees: as a matter of fact, they provide students with professional knowledge and expertise at a technical-operational or planning level, and they are also aimed at professionals wishing to retrain. Only graduates who have completed at least a First Cycle Degree Programme are admitted to a first-level Specialist Master's Programme, whereas only those who have achieved a Second Cycle Degree are admitted to a second-level Specialist Master's Programme. For more information on such continuing education opportunities, please visit the website page concerning Specialist Master's Programmes.
- Students wishing to pursue doctoral studies may attend a three-year Research Doctorate (PhD programme, in Italian: 'Dottorato di ricerca'). Doctoral applicants shall be in possession of a second-cycle/postgraduate qualification to be considered for admission.
- The reform also provides a range of Specializing Schools for specific jobs (doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc.) entailing one or two years of study. Those wishing to apply must have a Second Cycle Degree.
Also following the university reform outlined by the Italian Ministerial Decree no. 270/2004, Ca' Foscari University of Venice guarantees already enrolled students the possibility to complete their educational programme in accordance with the previous academic systems, which include the degree programmes related to the Italian Ministerial Decree no. 509/1999 and those prior to it (thus belonging to the old university system, in Italian 'Vecchio Ordinamento').
In particular a degree programme prior to the Ministerial Decree no. 509/1999 is a four/five/six-year course of study with annual (in Italian: 'annualità') or semester exams instead of credit-based ones.
For each learning activity, students gain a certain number of university credits (in Italian: 'Crediti Formativi Universitari', abbreviated CFU) and a qualitative evaluation (mark awarded on a 30-point scale or pass/fail exam).
The minimum passing mark is 18/30, and 30/30, with honour if any, is the best mark. 1 CFU consists of 25 coursework and workload hours and one academic year corresponds to 60 university credits.
Ca' Foscari University is compliant with the European directives on ECTS (European Credit Transfer System), recognizing the equivalence 1 CFU = 1 ECTS and adopting an ECTS mark conversion scale based on a statistical distribution mechanism of marks for any single educational area. For further information please visit the website page regarding the ECTS system.