Here are the top-ranked universities in Italy

Wondering where to study in Italy? Here are the Italian universities that score highest in the latest global ranking.

Here are the top-ranked universities in Italy
A statue of Minerva, Roman goddess of wisdom, outside Rome's Sapienza University. Photo: AFP

Italy has 36 universities in the latest QS World University Rankings for 2021, two more than last year. Within Europe, that puts it ahead of France (with 31) and Spain (27), but well behind the UK (84) or Germany (47).

QS, the world’s most consulted ranking, measures factors including the opinions of academics and employers, class sizes and the number of international students.

This year, it declared the best Italian university to be the Politecnico di Milano, which came 137th (up from 149th last year) out of around 1,000 institutions worldwide and top in Italy for the fifth year in a row.


The biggest technical university in Italy, Milan’s Polytecnico scores highly for research and for its reputation with employers.

It also does well with international students, with more than 100 countries represented in the student body and almost all postgraduate courses offered in English.

Next up was the University of Bologna, the world’s oldest, at 160th place.

The historic university enjoys a strong reputation among academics and in recent years has attracted more EU funding for research and innovation than any other Italian institution.

Here are the rest of the top ten in Italy:

  • La Sapienza, Rome: 171st overall
  • Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa: 204th
  • University of Padua: 216th
  • University of Milan: 301st
  • Politecnico di Torino: 38th
  • University of Pisa: 383rd
  • University of Naples: 392nd

The University of Naples rose from 424th place to take a spot in the top ten – the only university in southern Italy to be included in a list which is usually dominated by institutions in the north.

Other Italian universities score particularly well in certain categories, with most of Italy’s best marks coming for research. Employers ranked Milan’s Bocconi University, which as a specialist business and law school isn’t included in the overall ranking, 70th in the world for its highly hireable graduates, while Pisa’s Scuola Normale Superiore came 16th worldwide for an excellent ratio of faculty to students.

Most Italian universities, however, scored poorly on class sizes, with top-ranked Politecnico di Milano employing just over 1,500 faculty for nearly 36,000 students. (The Scuola Normale Superiore, for comparison, has around 190 academics for 560 students.)

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know for a semester abroad in Italy

Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Those considering studying at one of Italy’s large public universities should be prepared for “a big, relatively anonymous university experience”, says Lucas Mennella, a college counsellor at St Stephen’s School in Rome.

“If you’re coming from Europe, there’s not going to be a big difference from other state universities: big classes, mostly lectures, limited contact with your professors, and your whole grade is an exam,” he tells The Local.

“But if you’re coming from the US, Italian public universities don’t tend to provide all the add-ons that American universities have – like gyms, associations, anything like that.”

READ ALSO: ‘Studying in Italy can be remarkably cheap’

Students might also find themselves having to do some extra legwork to impress employers.

“If you were to [do an undergraduate degree in] Bologna or somewhere like that, it’s perfectly fine but there aren’t very good job prospects coming out of it,” Mennella says. “You basically have to do a masters to be competitive. And they don’t usually help you find internships or anything like that.”

Many of his students choose to go abroad for their degrees, he says, but within Italy, Politecnico di Milano, Bocconi and the private LUISS in Rome are usually the top choices.

And for people looking to study abroad in Italy, there are several American universities either based in Italy or with campuses here – John Cabot University, the American University of Rome and Temple University Rome to name just a few – where students can find American-style tuition, albeit for much higher American prices.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


‘It’s their loss’: Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

The UK is missing out by barring highly skilled Italian graduates from accessing a new work visa, Italy's universities minister said on Wednesday.

'It's their loss': Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

Universities and Research Minister Cristina Messa said she was disappointed by the UK’s decision not to allow any graduates of Italian universities access to its ‘High Potential Individual’ work permit.

“They’re losing a big slice of good graduates, who would provide as many high skills…it’s their loss,” Messa said in an interview with news agency Ansa, adding that Italy would petition the UK government to alter its list to include Italian institutions.

Ranked: Italy’s best universities and how they compare worldwide

“It’s a system that Britain obviously as a sovereign state can choose to implement, but we as a government can ask (them) to revise the university rankings,” she said.

The High Potential Individual visa, which launches on May 30th, is designed to bring highly skilled workers from the world’s top universities to the UK in order to compensate for its Brexit-induced labour shortage.

Successful applicants do not require a job offer to be allowed into the country but can apply for one after arriving, meaning potential employers won’t have to pay sponsorship fees.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome. Photo by TIZIANA FABI / AFP.

The visa is valid for two years for those with bachelor’s and master’s degrees and three years for PhD holders, with the possibility of moving into “other long-term employment routes” that will allow the individual to remain in the country long-term.

READ ALSO: Eight things you should know if you’re planning to study in Italy

Italy isn’t the only European country to have been snubbed by the list, which features a total of 37 global universities for the 2021 graduation year (the scheme is open to students who have graduated in the past five years, with a different list for each graduation year since 2016).

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, EPFL Switzerland, Paris Sciences et Lettres, the University of Munich, and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute are the sole European inclusions in the document, which mainly privileges US universities.

Produced by the UK’s Education Ministry, the list is reportedly based on three global rankings: Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings, and The Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Messa said she will request that the UK consider using ‘more up-to-date indicators’, without specifying which alternative system she had in mind.