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

Italian universities featured more prominently than ever before in the latest set of prestigious international rankings. Here's a look at the country's top-rated institutions and how they stack up globally.

Ranked: Italy's best universities and how they compare worldwide
Photo by Samuele Giglio on Unsplash

Good news, at last, for the Italian higher-education system.

The 2022 edition of the prestigious World University Ranking by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) included 56 Italian universities among the 1,543 most distinguished academic institutions worldwide.

This makes the bel paese the seventh most-represented country in the ranking, which is based on criteria including uses peer review, faculty/student ratio and number of citations of published research.

The top 30 places in the international table were dominated by US and UK universities, with the top three places taken by MIT, Oxford, and Stanford.

But Italian universities featured more prominently on the list than ever before, with a total of 507 Italian university courses included: 55 more than in the 2021 ranking.

READ ALSO: What you need to know before a semester abroad in Italy

In comparison to last year’s figures, 104 Italian university courses climbed up the ranking while 210 held their positions and 138 dropped down. 

Italy now boasts an average of 9.1 QS course placements per single university. That is nearly half a point above the European Union average, sitting at 8.7 programmes per university. That puts Italy joint seventh in the table of countries in terms of the number of placements in the rankings, alongside Sweden.

The top 10 Italian universities remain the same this year, with the Polytechnic University of Milan, the University of Bologna and Rome’s La Sapienza leading the pack.

The best Italian universities according to the QS ranking:

  1. Polytechnic University of Milan
  2. University of Bologna 
  3. University of Rome – La Sapienza
  4. University of Padua
  5. University of Milan
  6. Polytechnic University of Turin
  7. University of Pisa
  8. San Raffaele University
  9. University of Naples Federico II
  10. University of Trento

These historic institutions have long been at the forefront of international academic instruction. La Sapienza was ranked the best university in the world for Classics and Ancient History for the third time in its history. The Rome-based institution was also listed as the best Italian university in as many as 15 subjects (that’s seven more compared to last year) with six top-50 courses at an international level. 

La Sapienza’s rector Antonella Polimeni on Thursday praised the “incredible result”, saying that it “rewards the great efforts made by our academic community in all areas of knowledge”.

A number of other Italian institutions stood out for the excellence of their programmes. 

The University of Bologna, which has been ranked the third-best university on Italian soil, boasts as many as 25 top-100 courses internationally, scoring highly in Classic and Ancient History (22nd place), Agriculture and Forestry (40th), Archaeology (44th).

Milan’s Polytechnic, which took the crown for best-ranked Italian university, retained two top-10 courses: Art and Design (5th place) and Architecture (10th). Meanwhile, Milan’s Bocconi University entered the top 10 in Social Sciences and Management. 

The University of Pisa university also overtook Paris’s Sorbonne in the global ranking.

Overall, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was the top-ranked institution, taking the top spot in 12 different subjects.

US universities once again got the best of British ones, snatching the top spot in 28 out of 51 subjects, while UK universities ‘only’ came in first in 13 areas of study, with the University of Oxford first in six of them.

Zurich’s ETH was ranked the best university in continental Europe as the institute scored first in three different subjects.

See the latest QS rankings in full here.

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

Hoping to move to Italy to begin or continue your studies? If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a quick guide to the most essential things you'll need to know before applying.

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

If you’ve only just started gathering information about living and studying in Italy, there’s a lot of information to digest.

Depending on where you’ll be moving from, you may need to consider everything from visa paperwork to preparing for unusual exam methods, according to the international students we spoke to for a recent article about their experiences in Italy.

Based on their advice and personal experiences, here’s a quick rundown of the eight most important points to keep in mind if you’re planning on moving to Italy to study, as well as links to further information you may find useful.

1. Italian university teaching methods are singular to say the least. Before accepting a formal offer from an Italian university, make sure that you’re totally familiar with the structure of your chosen course. If this information is not readily available online, reach out to the university and ask for a detailed course handbook.

READ ALSO: Five things to know before you apply for an Italian student visa

2. If you’re a non-EU national, carefully read the list of official documents you’ll be required to produce in order to receive your type-D visa and, once in Italy, your permesso di soggiorno (more information available from the foreign ministry’s website here and from the University of Bologna here).

Italy is home to some of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious universities. Photo by Davide Cantelli on Unsplash

3. Prepare any necessary paperwork well in advance. Italian bureaucracy isn’t exactly a paradigm of administrative efficiency.

4. In Italy, university exams are for the most part conducted orally, so you might want to practise your verbal communication skills while you’re still in your home country. This will help you hit the ground running further down the stretch.

5. When it comes to finding accommodation for your first year in Italy, try your best to book a place in a university hall of residence. This will save you the trouble of dealing with letting agencies and private landlords; something students told us they found troublesome.

6. If, for whatever reason, you are not able to get yourself a place via your university’s own channels, refer to reliable student housing websites such as Uniaffitti, Affitti Studenti and Studentsville.

REVEALED: What studying in Italy is really like and what you should expect

7. Italian is by no means an easy language. However, merely having a beginner’s knowledge of the language will come in very handy when dealing with bureaucracy and interacting with local people. You can start by laying some groundwork with language-learning apps and then attend some language classes once in Italy. 

8. While in Italy, try to get out of your comfort zone and socialise with Italian students. This will help you not only immerse yourself in the local culture but also practise your Italian language skills.

See more information in The Local’s studying in Italy section.