According to the latest statistics, 3,548 fewer high school graduates have registered to take this year's entrance exam for medical courses at some of Italy's most respected universities – 5.6 percent fewer than last year.
Over the past two years the fall in interest is even more dramatic, with the number of potential medical students down 28 percent since 2013, according to statistics cited by the Italian daily La Repubblica.
“Studying medicine means studying for six years and specializing for another four,” said Santo Davide Ferrara, president of the school of medicine and surgery at the University of Padua. “Many think it is no longer worth the effort.”
More than 60,000 students are registered to take the rigorous exams due to take place on September 8th.
But others are reportedly disillusioned after a thousand students were recently found by an Italian court to have been wrongfully excluded from the medicine and orthodontics exams in 2014.
Others are still pursuing legal action about the conduct of the exams.
“Continuing legal action and the readmission of students who were not considered suitable has created confusion and discredited rankings and tests,” said Ferrara.
Falling interest has also been influenced by a drop in the number of available places in the country's medical faculties, down from 9,983 last year to 9,513 this year.
Many Italian students are reportedly looking to begin their studies at universities where there are fewer barriers in countries like Spain, Hungary and Switzerland, before resuming their studies in Italy.
The fall in numbers has also raised concerns about the ageing of the profession – the average age of the Italian doctor is now 56.