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 Laurea Specialistica/Magistrale, the main degree of the 2nd cycle, gives access to 3rd cycle doctorate programmes resulting in the degree called Dottorato di Ricerca. In addition to the mentioned degree sequence after the Bologna pattern, the system offers other degree programmes and related degrees both within the 2nd and 3rd cycles.
I. First cycle. Undergraduate studies consist exclusively in Corsi di Laurea-CL (1st degree courses) 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 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 global schooling; also foreign comparable qualifications may be accepted. Admission to individual degree courses may be subject to specific course 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.
A) Corsi di Laurea Specialistica/Corsi di Laurea Magistrale-CLS/CLM;
B) Corsi di Master Universitario di 1° livello-CMU1.
A) CLS/CLM are aimed at providing postgraduates 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 those graduates who, once satisfied all curricular requirements, have also defended an original dissertation in the final degree examination. The change of the 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 "one long 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 school leaving diploma or a foreign comparable 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 research doctorate 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 60 credits at least. The MU1 does not give access to DR programmes nor to other 3rd cycle degree courses.
III Third cycle. Postgraduate studies consist of 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 consequence; they envisage the use of suitable teaching methodologies such as updated technologies, study periods abroad, stages in specialistic research centres. Access is by an Italian 2nd degree (LS/LM) or a foreign comparable degree; admission is subject to the passing of very competitive exams; 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 the advanced education and professional training of lawyers, magistrates, and teachers (all levels). CS may be established exclusively in application of specific Italian laws or EU directives. Access is by an LS/LM or by a foreign comparable 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 th 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 a foreign comparable 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 min. 60 credits.
Credits: degree courses are usually structured in credits (crediti formativi universitari - CFU). A university credit generally corresponds to 25 hours of global work per student, time for personal study included. The average workload of a full time student is conventionally fixed at 60 credits/year.
Classes of Degree Courses: all CL and CLS/CLM sharing the same educational objectives and the same fundamental types of teaching-learning activities are organised in groups called "classi di appartenenza" (classes of degree courses). The content of individual degree courses is autonomously determined by universities; however, when establishing a CL or a CLS/CLM, individual institutions have to adopt some general requirements fixed at national level. Degrees belonging to the same class have the same legal validity.
Academic Titles: the latest university legislation has defined the academic titles corresponding to the degrees of the Bologna sequence. The L entitles to be called "Dottore", the holders of an LS/LM have a right to the title as "Dottore Magistrale, the DR attributes the title as "Dottore di Ricerca".
Joint Degrees: Italian universities are allowed to establish all the degree programmes in cooperation with foreign partner universities, both European and non-European; they may therefore design integrated curricula on completion of which joint or double/multiple degrees are awarded.