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Education in Italy

Tuition Fees & Cost of Living

Italy is not just a tourist paradise. With highly-ranked universities, a growing list of programmes taught in English, and affordable tuition fees, this fantastic country should be on the radar of any international student.

Read on to find out more about tuition fees in Italy for international students.

Tuition fees in Italy: How much does it cost to study at university?

Studying in Italy is considerably cheaper than in other countries. On average, tuition fees at public Italian universities range from €500 to €4,000 per year. They can vary depending on the course you enrol in and, most importantly, based on your family income. You will need to submit an application to have your household income assessed in order for the university to determine your fee level. This means your fees could end up being considerably cheaper.

Fees can be higher at private universities or at business schools. For example, at the Università Bocconi in Milan, fees are around €13,000; and at Università Cattolica Sacro Cuore (also Milan), prices run as high as €16,000 per year.

Here is a little tour of some of Italy’s most popular universities – and the range of fees they charge international students:

Learn more on courses and application to Study in Italy


It is worth noting that some of the best universities in Italy, which are also highly ranked worldwide, have really cheap fees compared to universities in other countries. For example, at the University of Bologna, one of Italy’s top-ranked universities, fees for most Bachelors and Masters top out at around €3,000 per year. Studying at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice will set you back only up to around €2,000 per year. And at Sapienza University of Rome - also a top 200 university worldwide -, fees are even lower: Courses usually cost less than €1,000 per year.

How does income-based tuition work in Italy?

Tuition fees at public universities in Italy are variable based on family income, meaning that students will pay according to their economic situation.

Each university can set their own tuition fees, and decide the level of fees at specific income levels. You will usually find a range of the minimum and maximum cost. The highest tuition fees at large public universities are often between €2,000 and €3,000 euros and therefore still lower than in most other countries.

Students paying according to their capabilities sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it? Remember that when you’ll have to deal with the inevitable world-famous Italian bureaucracy.

What determines how much you have to pay in tuition fees is the “Equivalent Economic Situation Indicator” - or ISEE, short for the Italian term, L’indicatore della Situazione Economica Equivalente.

For international students whose assets are outside of Italy, universities have a different ISEE, the ISEE parificato. This is an option always available for EU students. Some universities offer it also to non-EU students.

To assess your economic situation, you will have to submit a range of documents about yourself and your parents’/family assets (bank account balance, tax returns, and of course your passport) usually to tax support offices (CAF – centro di assistenza fiscale) affiliated with the university. The details of what documents need to be sent where can vary from institution to institution.

It can be a complicated process, but universities offer assistance through their website and their offices. Ask the admissions officers or look out for the segreteria studenti and ufficio tasse.

Ensure that you

  • Have a list of all the documents you need to submit;

  • Arrange for official translations of those documents to Italian where needed;

  • Are aware of the deadlines for the submission.

    Note: Applying for the ISEE assessment is optional – you don’t have to do it. If you don’t apply, you will pay the maximum tuition fees that the university generally charges. If you already know that you would not qualify for a lower fee, this can save you the bureaucratic hassle.

    Some universities don’t have the option for non-EU students to submit an ISEE and have a ‘flat tax’ instead. It is usually cheaper for students coming from developing or low-income countries.

Are there application fees at Italian universities?

There are usually no application fees at Italian universities. However, if your chosen programme is highly selective, you might have to participate in an admission test - and that can cost some money. For example, admission tests for a medical degree typically range from around €25 up to €100.

Students in Italy usually pay their university fees in three instalments spread out over the academic year. The exact timings vary from university to university.

Timing: When do you have to pay the cost of tuition as a student in Italy?

Generally, when starting your degree programme in autumn, you can expect to pay

  1. the first instalment when you enrol in your Bachelor’s or Master’s – so, usually between September and November;
  2. the second one in late autumn or winter – usually December or January;
  3. and a third instalment in spring – usually between March and May.

For example, at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, the tuition fee instalments are usually spread out to late September, mid-December and mid-May. And at Università di Roma La Sapienza, fees are typically due in early November, late December and late March.

The exact amount of fees that you pay in each instalment can vary. The first instalment generally also includes a regional tax - often between €120 and €180 - and a stamp duty - usually less than €20. Make sure you check with your university when the deadlines are, and mark them in your calendar: There could be late fees if you miss a tuition payment date.

Can you study in Italy for free?

There are some opportunities to study for free in Italy, or for very low fees. Tuition fees at public universities are variable based on your household income. Depending on your personal situation, you could end up studying completely tuition-free, or paying next to nothing for your course.

Each university decides for itself what the income threshold should be - the level of earnings below which there are no tuition fees. To qualify, you will have to submit a range of documents in order to have your household income assessed (the “ISEE” assessment). Unfortunately, at some universities, this option is not available for non-EU students.

And if you don’t find an option to study for free, don’t despair. Even the highest programme fees are more affordable than in other popular European destinations. And it will certainly be worth it when you think about the great time you’ll have studying in Italy! Also, there are scholarships available for international students.

Are there scholarships for international students?

There are some scholarship opportunities for international students that want to study at one of the universities in Italy. Some are offered by the government, especially the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ministero degli Affari Esteri). Also, each individual university will have its own scholarship programmes, sometimes in partnership with the government or the region.

Usually, international students can apply to the same scholarship programmes available for Italian students, unless otherwise specified. It’s worth inquiring early at your university what schemes are available, and what you need to do to qualify - look out for student services called Ufficio Borse di Studio or Diritto allo Studio. Scholarship applications can get complicated, and by giving yourself plenty of time to prepare the needed documents you will have a buffer if any unforeseen challenges arise.

What is the monthly cost of living as a student in Italy?

The monthly cost of living in Italy as an international student can vary depending on many factors, for example the city, how you want to live, how much you want to eat out and so on. As a principle, you’ll need somewhere between €900 and €1,300 a month to cover rent, food, transportation, entertainment etc.

Rents in some cities are considerably higher than in others. Rome, Milan and Venice are known to be expensive, while accommodation is cheaper in cities like Naples, Pisa or Genoa. Here are some examples:

  • In the capital, Rome (Roma), you can find rooms from €400-550 a month, plus utilities.
  • In Bologna, rent for a room could cost you around €350-500 per month, plus utilities bills.
  • In Venice (Venezia), rooms will be about the same starting price as Rome and Bologna, and occasionally you can find shared rooms at €250-300 in Mestre, the onshore part of the city. If you live there, you’ll need to invest some of your savings in a travel card to actually get to campus. (But remember, this doesn’t cover gondolas!)
  • In fashionable Milan (Milano), rooms will start at about €400 per month plus bills, but most will be around €450-500.
  • In Pisa, most rooms will be around €300-500.

Going out to eat does not have to be expensive: A meal at a pizzeria can cost you around €10-€15, while a breakfast at a café can be had for around €3. Public transport is relatively affordable, especially with student discounts: Expect monthly tickets to be priced around €25 or annual tickets with a small discount at around €200 to €250.

Do I need to pay for medical appointments in Italy as an international student?

Medical appointments are free in Italy on the national health service, the servizio sanitario nazionale. Italy has a high-quality national health system which provides many services, such as doctor’s appointments and some hospital appointments and procedures, including emergency, for free.

EU students can join the national health service free of charge, or alternatively rely on their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) from their home country. Non-EU students, however, will have to pay an annual fee. But as far as health insurance goes, it is quite cheap at around €150 per year.

How to save money as a student in Italy

Student life is always about saving money. Here are some tips on how to enjoy la dolce vita while on a tight budget:

  • Avoid the tourist traps, especially in Rome, Venice and Florence. It’s beautiful to have a stroll in the most famous parts of Italy and enjoy the sights, but don’t get ripped off by bars and cafés selling overpriced food and drink.
  • Get a water bottle, and fill it up at home: Water fountains may not be as common as in other parts of the world, and in most places you will not get water for free.
  • Have your coffee at the counter as the Italians do – table service costs more, and the same applies to anything you’ll have in a café.
  • Make use of the university canteen – or even better, make lunch at home and bring it with you.
  • Buy food at the (discount) supermarket and cook at home most nights. Your Italian flatmate will be happy to share their grandma’s best recipes!
  • Look out for student nights in clubs and bars, as they usually have cheap drinks.
  • The best way to start a night out is an aperitivo: For the price of a drink (around €7) you can get enough food to make a dinner. Look out for those offering buffet aperitivo, or apericena. Your Italian friends will know where to go.
  • If you need to use public transport, ensure you get the travel card (abbonamento) with student discount.
  • If you feel like doing some shopping, go and scout deals at the neighbourhood market.
  • Finally, the most important tip: Learn Italian! Local knowledge will not only make your experience immensely more enjoyable, but it will make it easier for you to know how to save money in your daily life.
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Can I work while studying at university in Italy?

As an international student in Italy, you are allowed to work - and it’s a great way to finance your studies. In an ideal world, we’d like to tell you that you can just study and spend the rest of your time roaming around on a Vespa. But we all know that a part-time job can be necessary to support yourself during your study. Also, it might help you practise your Italian and meet some new friends.

As an international student in Italy, you are allowed to work - and it’s a great way to finance your studies. In an ideal world, we’d like to tell you that you can just study and spend the rest of your time roaming around on a Vespa. But we all know that a part-time job can be necessary to support yourself during your study. Also, it might help you practise your Italian and meet some new friends.

The rules that apply depend on your citizenship:

  • There are no particular restrictions for students from EU countries – they have the same rights as Italian citizens.
  • Non-EU students can still work for a maximum of 20 hours a week – or 1,040 hours a year -, but cannot start a business.

A popular option for students looking for part-time jobs are the so-called 150 ore. These are 150 hours that selected students spend working for the university (usually in the administrative departments) at a decent wage. Every university has its own application process.

A note for EU students: While you don’t need a visa or a work permit, if you plan to stay in Italy for more than three months you are required to register as a temporary resident at your local council.

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