Top Universities in Italy

Italy certainly has plenty of charms to tempt tourists and international students alike: a diverse landscape; an immense cultural and historical legacy; iconic and historic sites including Rome’s Colosseum and Pisa’s Leaning Tower; incomparable cuisine; an impressive history of inventions and discoveries… and, of course, universities in Italy include some of the world’s oldest and most prestigious.

Aside from the monumental legacy of the Roman civilization, Italy has a long history of leadership and innovation. Notable Italians include explorers Christopher Columbus and Marco Polo; Enrico Fermi (physicist who created the world’s first nuclear reactor); Leonardo da Vinci, who proved the world is not flat; Alessandro Volta, who studied electricity (recognize the term ‘Volt’?); and Galileo Galilei, who discovered four moons around Jupiter and invented the telescope, with which he proved that the Earth revolves around the sun.

That’s just for starters – the list of famous Italian thinkers and inventors goes on and on, ranging from eyeglasses and espresso machines to automobiles and eau de cologne. The origin of the word ‘university’ is also attributed to Italy, and the University of Bologna is believed to be one of the very oworld.ldest in the

Then there’s the famous Italian fashion houses, and of course that fabulous food…

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Top universities in Italy

A total of 30 universities in Italy feature in the QS World University Rankings® 2018, of which 14 make it into the world’s top 500. The top five are:

Politecnico di Milano

Politecnico di Milano

The highest-ranked Italian university at 170th in the world, Politecnico di Milano ranks particularly well for its art and engineering courses, with places in the top 20 of the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017 for art and design (joint seventh), architecture (14th), civil and structural engineering (14th), and mechanical engineering (29th). Notable alumni of Politecnico di Milano include celebrated Italian chemist Giulio Natta, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1963 for his work in high polymers.

Università di Bologna

University of Bologna

Not far behind is Università di Bologna (UNIBO), at joint 188th. UNIBO lays claim to being one of the very first universities established, although the actual date of its founding is uncertain. If the name sounds familiar, that may be due to Italy’s continued leadership in higher education. The University of Bologna gives its name to the Bologna Process, the ongoing project to make academic systems and qualifications more compatible across Europe.

Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa

A new entry in the QS World University Rankings at joint 192ndScuola Normale Superiore di Pisa was established in 1810 by a Napoleonic decree. It’s a small university, with only around 500 students enrolled. It ranks within the world’s top 400 universities for physics and astronomy and receives the highest score among all Italian universities for its research citations per faculty member (18th in the world).

Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna PisaPisa

Also new to the World University Rankings in 2018, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna Pisa is also located in Pisa and ranked joint 192nd in the world this year. Established in 1987 from previously existing institutions, the university mainly operates in the applied sciences and is part of the Pisa University System alongside Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa and Università di Pisa.

Sapienza – Università di Roma

Sapienza University of Rome

Ranked joint 223rd in the world, Sapienza – Università di Roma is another of the world’s oldest universities, founded in 1303. Sapienza is one of the largest European universities, with a large student population (110,000) of which around 6,000 are from outside Italy. It counts six Nobel laureates among its alumni and faculty members, including particle physicist and inventor Carlo Rubbia.


Other top universities in Italy include:

  • Università di Padova (joint 296th in the world)
  • Politecnico di Torino (307th)
  • Università degli Studi di Milano (joint 325th in the world)
  • Università di Pisa (421-430)
  • Università degli Studi di Trento (441-450)
  • Università degli Studi di Firenze (UNIFI) (461-470)
  • Universitá degli Studi di Roma – Tor Vergata (461-470)
  • Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (481-490)
  • Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II (481-490)