Pursuing a Ph.D. in Italy as an international student does have its own advantages. the opportunity to experience the country’s rich cultural heritage, receive quality education and training, and gain access to a wide range of excellent study courses. After all, Italian universities are well known for their academic excellence, especially in areas like humanities, engineering, and arts.

Additionally, students can dive into Italy’s vibrant lifestyle and witness its historical landmarks for an enriching and unique study abroad experience. Thus, for all those of you interested in pursuing your Ph.D. in Italy, this article will provide you with a brief overview of the application process and the requirements for applying for doctoral programs in Italy.

Is it Expensive to Study Ph.D. in Italy?

Tuition fees for a Ph.D. program in Italy will vary between universities, with public universities often charging lower tuition compared to private universities. Still, studying Ph.D. in Italy is affordable in comparison to other universities abroad. For instance, the yearly tuition cost for a Ph.D. program at the University of Pennsylvania amounts to around $41,500. However, the world’s oldest known institution, the University of Bologna, annually charges around €158, or only $174, for a Ph.D. program, including insurance.

Similarly, the University of Padua, another prestigious Italian institution, can cost between €2,600 to €3,000 annually for non-EU students, with individuals from developing countries paying even less. Additionally, Italian universities often have funding and scholarship opportunities available for international students, so you can apply for monetary assistance to help cover these fees.

Admission Requirements When Applying for a Doctoral Degree

To apply for a Ph.D. in Italy you must comply with several application requirements. These can vary between institutions and will also depend on the selected program. In general, though, these are the documents you will need to provide, to increase your chances of a successful admission.

1. Proof of Master’s degree

A master’s degree related to your study area is typically required by most universities, to demonstrate that you meet the prerequisite academic requirements for your selected Ph.D. program. Submitting proof of your master’s degree also showcases your academic background and potential to pursue advanced research in your chosen study area.

2. Research Proposal

A research proposal will assist the admissions committee in assessing your suitability for the program and your research potential. Hence, you will most likely be required to submit a research proposal outlining your research objective, study area, and the relevance of your study to your selected Ph.D. program. You may also consider increasing your chances of admission by opting for a unique and impactful research topic.

3. Language Proficiency

As with any other degree program, Ph.D. applicants in Italy must provide proof of language proficiency in their program’s language of instruction, which can be either Italian or English. Applicants can demonstrate language proficiency by providing test scores like a Certificate of the Italian Language or Certificate of Italian as a Foreign Language for Italian and International English Language Testing System or Test of English as a Foreign Language for English.

4. Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are often provided to attest to your character, academic achievements, capabilities, and research potential, and are typically an essential part of your Ph.D. application. They must be provided by individuals who can attest to your academic or professional abilities like teachers, mentors, employers, or professors.

5. Curriculum Vitae (CV)

A curriculum vitae is required to showcase your professional background. Its content includes your research experience, publications, presentations, and other academic achievements. It is a document that provides a detailed overview of your research and academic accomplishments, as well as additional extracurricular activities or leadership roles.

A CV is preferred over a resume by universities, as it can provide a more comprehensive overview of your academic and research experience, and is typically used for academic purposes.

Please be informed that general requirements can vary per program and university, with some institutions requiring more documents or qualifications. You can gather accurate information regarding application requirements from the official university website. For instance, the University of Milan and the University of Bologna offer detailed information on application requirements for Ph.D. students on their websites.

Language Proficiency Tests Needed for Doctoral Programs

Ph.D. applicants must meet specific language requirements, usually English or Italian, for successful admission. The primarily accepted language tests in most Italian universities for proving proficiency in English include IELTS and TOEFL. The minimum required scores vary depending on your program and university, with the usual requirements being a TOEFL score of 72-94 (B2 level) for the internet-based test or an IELTS score of 5.5-6.5 (B2 level).

Meanwhile, the tests used to demonstrate proficiency in Italian include CILS, or Certificate of Italian as a Foreign Language, and CELI, or Certificate of the Italian Language, with a minimum required score of C1 for Ph.D. programs. Besides English and Italian-taught courses, many Italian universities may offer Ph.D. programs in other languages. For example, the University of Turin offers programs in French in collaboration with foreign universities.

Steps to Apply for a Doctoral Degree in Italy

Ph.D. applicants in Italy must first go through the admissions procedure before confirming their place as a Ph.D. student in a particular university. Here is a brief overview of the said procedure:

Step 1. Compile and submit your application documents

After you have checked the list of application documents from your desired university, compile them. They may include a statement of purpose, research proposal, letters of recommendation, academic transcripts, and a resume or CV (curriculum vitae). Then, access and complete the application form and submit it along with the necessary documents.

If you want an example of this preliminary step, the University of Bologna includes an elaborate application procedure on its website for Ph.D. applicants. It states that students are required to create an application account, fill out the application form, and submit the form alongside the required documents.

Step 2. Take the entrance exam

Entrance exams are usually a requirement for most Ph.D. applicants to assess their academic potential and abilities. This may involve applicants having to demonstrate their language skills, subject knowledge, and other abilities, via tests or an interview. For instance, all Ph.D. applicants at the University of Milan must take an admissions test before enrollment.

3. Attend an Interview

An interview would allow universities to assess the applicant’s research interests, potential for academic success, and motivation. Some universities may require Ph.D. candidates to attend either an online or in-person interview, depending on their situation. Either way, make sure to diligently prepare for it, so you appear poised and confident, thus, increasing your chances of success.

4. Wait for the admissions decision

After fulfilling the application procedure, entrance exam, and interview, applicants will then have to wait for the final decision. The application will be reviewed by the university admissions committee and selected candidates will be notified via email or an official letter, which may also include enrollment instructions.

Note that application requirements and admissions procedures will vary between universities and programs in Italy. Potential applicants are advised to check the university website for accurate and up-to-date information to ensure they submit a successful application.


Applying for a Ph.D. in Italy typically involves the submission of the necessary documents like academic transcripts, proof of language proficiency, and research proposals. All applicants must go through the admissions procedure of their selected university and program, which may involve extra requirements an entrance exam, or an interview, before awaiting their admissions results.


We hope this article is particularly useful, especially for Ph.D. degree-seeking students! Learn more about studying in Europe by visiting the Study in Italy Page! Also, search available programs you can enroll in on our Open Courses Page!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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