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In Italy, the laurea is the main post-secondary academic degree. The name originally referred literally to the laurel wreath, since ancient times a sign of honor and now worn by Italian students right after their official graduation ceremony and sometimes during the graduation party. A graduate is known as a laureato, literally "crowned with laurel."


The Laurea degree before the Bologna process

Early history

In the early Middle Ages Italian universities awarded both bachelor's and doctor's degrees. However very few bachelor's degrees from Italian universities are recorded in the later Middle Ages and none after 1500. [1] Students could take the doctoral examination without studying at the university. This was criticised by northern Europeans as taking a degree per saltum because they had leapt over the regulations requiring years of study at the university. [2]

Twentieth century

To earn a laurea (degree) undergraduate students had to complete four to six years of university courses, [3] and finally complete a thesis.

Laureati are customarily addressed as dottore (for a man) or dottoressa (for a woman), as are holders of at least a laurea (Legge n. 240/2010 art. 17 comma 2 Riforma Gelmini). This is in contrast with the convention in countries where the title of doctor is restricted to holders of a PhD (or in some cases to medical doctors).

Until the introduction of the dottorato di ricerca (PhD-level education) in the mid-1980s, the laurea constituted the highest academic degree obtainable in Italy and gave the holders access to the highest academic positions. Nobel prize winners such as Enrico Fermi, Emilio Segrè, Giulio Natta, Carlo Rubbia and Giorgio Parisi held it as their highest degree.

The pre-Bologna laurea degree (formally named Diploma di laurea or Laurea vecchio ordinamento or Laurea), is now equivalent under Italian law [4] to the new Italian master's degree named Laurea magistrale.

Reforms due to the Bologna process

Spurred by the Bologna process, a major reform was instituted in 1999 to align its programmes with the more universal system of undergraduate (bachelor's degree) and postgraduate studies (master's and doctoral degrees). This allowed for greater mobility of university students via exchange programmes to other countries such as the United States and Commonwealth nations. The old laurea was split into undergraduate and postgraduate studies, and their programmes have been reformed. [5]

First cycle: Laurea

The Laurea (180 ECTS credits), a first cycle degree that is equivalent to a bachelor's degree, includes bachelor-level courses, simpler than those of the old laurea, and its normative time to completion is three years (note that In Italy scuola secondaria superiore or Lyceum, high school, takes five years, so it ends at 19 years of age). To earn a laurea, the student must complete a thesis, but a less demanding one than required for the old laurea (typically, a non-research thesis).

Second cycle: Laurea magistrale

The Laurea magistrale (formerly known as Laurea Specialistica, 2002–2006) is a second cycle degree equivalent to a master's degree (120 ECTS credits) which can be earned in a two-year programme after the laurea and requires an extensive thesis (usually, 150–250 pages).

In some fields (particularly Medicine, Law, Engineering and Architecture) the Laurea magistrale a ciclo unico is awarded. This is a five or six year second cycle (master's) degree (300 or 360 ECTS), which does not require a previous first cycle degree for the admission (like an Integrated master's degree in the UK). [6]

The Laurea magistrale should not be confused with the Italian Master, which is not a master's degree, but a one-year diploma (60 ECTS) which guarantees a more practical education but does not give access to further levels of studies (it can be considered similar to a Postgraduate diploma). A I level Master (Master di I livello) is a diploma which can be obtained after a Laurea; a II level Master (Master di II livello) can be gained after a Laurea magistrale and is useful for pursuing further studies (like a PhD) or for professional achievements.

Third cycle: Dottorato di ricerca

The Dottorato di ricerca (equivalent to a Doctor of Philosophy) is a third cycle degree which can be undertaken only after achieving a Laurea magistrale. It was introduced in the mid-1980s [7] and consists of three/four years of PhD-level courses and experimental work, including the final defense of an innovative thesis.

Other than the PhD, another third-cycle title is the Diploma di Specializzazione, gained after a two-year (Law, Diploma di Specializzazione in Professioni legali) or a three-to-six year (Medicine, depending on the particular field) course of study and research. [8] To enrol for a Diploma di Specializzazione, a Laurea magistrale (in Law or Medicine, respectively) is required. The Diploma di Specializzazione in Professioni legali is required to apply for appointment as a judge, [9] whereas the Specializzazione in a specific medical field is required to be recognized as a Specialist Medical Doctor. [10]

Related Research Articles

An academic degree is a qualification awarded to students upon successful completion of a course of study in higher education, usually at a college or university. These institutions commonly offer degrees at various levels, usually including undergraduate degrees, master's, and doctorates, often alongside other academic certificates and professional degrees. The most common undergraduate degree is the bachelor's degree, although in some countries there are lower level higher education qualifications that are also titled degrees.

A master's degree is an academic degree awarded by universities or colleges upon completion of a course of study demonstrating mastery or a high-order overview of a specific field of study or area of professional practice. A master's degree normally requires previous study at the bachelor's level, either as a separate degree or as part of an integrated course. Within the area studied, master's graduates are expected to possess advanced knowledge of a specialized body of theoretical and applied topics; high order skills in analysis, critical evaluation, or professional application; and the ability to solve complex problems and think rigorously and independently.

A bachelor's degree or baccalaureate is an undergraduate academic degree awarded by colleges and universities upon completion of a course of study lasting three to six years. The two most common bachelor's degrees are the Bachelor of Arts (BA) and the Bachelor of Science. In some institutions and educational systems, certain bachelor's degrees can only be taken as graduate or postgraduate educations after a first degree has been completed, although more commonly the successful completion of a bachelor's degree is a prerequisite for further courses such as a master's or a doctorate.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Doctorate</span> Academic or professional degree

A doctorate, doctor's degree, or doctoral degree is an academic degree awarded by universities and some other educational institutions, derived from the ancient formalism licentia docendi. In most countries, a research degree qualifies the holder to teach at university level in the degree's field or work in a specific profession. There are a number of doctoral degrees; the most common is the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), awarded in many different fields, ranging from the humanities to scientific disciplines.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Master of Science</span> Masters degree awarded for post-graduate study in the sciences

A Master of Science is a master's degree in the field of science awarded by universities in many countries or a person holding such a degree. In contrast to the Master of Arts degree, the Master of Science degree is typically granted for studies in sciences, engineering and medicine and is usually for programs that are more focused on scientific and mathematical subjects; however, different universities have different conventions and may also offer the degree for fields typically considered within the humanities and social sciences. While it ultimately depends upon the specific program, earning a Master of Science degree typically includes writing a thesis.

Bachelor of Laws is an undergraduate law degree in the United Kingdom and most common law jurisdictions. Bachelor of Laws is also the name of the law degree awarded by universities in the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong S.A.R., Macau S.A.R., Malaysia, Bangladesh, India, Japan, Pakistan, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Botswana, Israel, Brazil, Tanzania, Zambia, and many other jurisdictions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bologna Process</span> System for compatibility of higher education qualifications in the European region

The Bologna Process is a series of ministerial meetings and agreements between European countries to ensure comparability in the standards and quality of higher-education qualifications. The process has created the European Higher Education Area under the Lisbon Recognition Convention. It is named after the University of Bologna, where the Bologna declaration was signed by education ministers from 29 European countries in 1999. The process was opened to other countries in the European Cultural Convention of the Council of Europe, and governmental meetings have been held in Prague (2001), Berlin (2003), Bergen (2005), London (2007), Leuven (2009), Budapest-Vienna (2010), Bucharest (2012), Yerevan (2015), Paris (2018), and Rome (2020).

A law degree is an academic degree conferred for studies in law. Such degrees are generally preparation for legal careers. But while their curricula may be reviewed by legal authority, they do not confer a license themselves. A legal license is granted by examination, and exercised locally. The law degree can have local, international, and world-wide aspects, such as in England and Wales, where the Legal Practice Course or passing Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) is required to become a solicitor or the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) to become a barrister.

An engineer's degree is an advanced academic degree in engineering which is conferred in Europe, some countries of Latin America, North Africa and a few institutions in the United States. The degree may require a thesis but always requires a non-abstract project.

Education in Italy is compulsory from 6 to 16 years of age, and is divided into five stages: kindergarten, primary school, lower secondary school, upper secondary school and university (università). Education is free in Italy and free education is available to children of all nationalities who are residents in Italy. Italy has both a private and public education system.

The dottorato di ricerca is the highest Italian academic degree, the equivalent of a Ph.D.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Higher education in Italy</span>

Higher education in Italy is mainly provided by a large and international network of public and state affiliated universities. State-run universities of Italy are under the supervision of Italian's Ministry of Education. There is also a number of private universities and state-run post-secondary educational centers providing a vocational instruction.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Libera Università Maria SS. Assunta</span> Private Roman Catholic university in Rome, Italy

The Libera Università Maria SS. Assunta, often simply abbreviated as "LUMSA", is a private Roman Catholic university founded in 1939 in Rome. It is the second oldest university in Rome after Sapienza.

These are some of the honorifics used in Italy.

A magister degree is an academic degree used in various systems of higher education.

The Bologna process for standardisation of European higher education specified an undergraduate degree of at least three years called the "licence" or bachelor's degree, followed by a two-year diploma called the master's degree, then a doctorate, meant to be obtained in at least three years. Because of these indicated schedules, the reform is sometimes (erroneously) referred to as "3-5-8". The system applies to the European Higher Education Area.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Doctor of Philosophy</span> Postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities in many countries

A Doctor of Philosophy is the most common degree at the highest academic level awarded following a course of study. PhDs are awarded for programs across the whole breadth of academic fields. Because it is an earned research degree, those studying for a PhD are required to produce original research that expands the boundaries of knowledge, normally in the form of a dissertation, and defend their work before a panel of other experts in the field. The completion of a PhD is often a requirement for employment as a university professor, researcher, or scientist in many fields. Individuals who have earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree may, in many jurisdictions, use the title Doctor with their name, although the proper etiquette associated with this usage may also be subject to the professional ethics of their own scholarly field, culture, or society. Those who teach at universities or work in academic, educational, or research fields are usually addressed by this title "professionally and socially in a salutation or conversation." Alternatively, holders may use post-nominal letters such as "Ph.D.", "PhD", or "DPhil". It is, however, considered incorrect to use both the title and post-nominals at the same time.

MJur is an academic degree in law awarded by some universities.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Doctor of Law</span> Doctoral degree in law

A Doctor of Law is a degree in law. The application of the term varies from country to country and includes degrees such as the Doctor of Juridical Science, Juris Doctor (J.D.), Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), and Legum Doctor (LL.D.).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Superior Graduate Schools in Italy</span>

A Superior Graduate School is a completely independent institution from a legal point of view, which offers advanced training and research through university-type courses or is dedicated to teaching at graduate or post-doctoral level.


  1. Grendler, Paul F. (1998). "How to Get a Degree in Fifteen Days: Erasmus' Doctorate of Theology from the University of Turin". Erasmus of Rotterdam Society Yearbook. 18: 40–69: 49. doi:10.1163/187492798X00050.; reprinted in Grendler, Paul F. (2006). Renaissance Education Between Religion and Politics. Aldershot: Ashgate. ISBN   9780860789895.
  2. Grendler, Paul F. (2001). The Universities of the Italian Renaissance. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 181. ISBN   9780801880551.
  3. Fleck, Christian (September 2018). Shaping Human Science Disciplines. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 164. ISBN   9783319927794.
  4. "Decreto Interministeriale del 9 luglio 2009 - Atti Ministeriali MIUR".
  5. "Qti" . Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  6. "Decreto Ministeriale del 16 marzo 2007 - Atti Ministeriali MIUR".
  7. "Decreto Presidente Repubblica 11 luglio 1980, n. 382" . Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  8. "ECTS - Il Sistema Universitario Italiano" . Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  9. "Ministero della Giustizia. Magistrato ordinario: come si diventa?" . Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  10. "SSM - Scuole di Specializzazione in Medicina".