REVEALED: Which are Italy’s best universities?

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For all of its flaws and chronic underfunding issues, Italian higher education continues to be one of the bel paese’s biggest excellences. 

As many as 56 Italian universities were included in the 2023 edition of the prestigious University Ranking by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), making Italy the seventh-most represented country in the world.

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Italy was also the second-best EU member when it came to the overall number of top-10 courses as it recorded seven (the Netherlands, which came in first, had 16).


Italian higher education overall registered a 6.8-percent year-on-year score improvement, with 139 university courses climbing up the ranking, 249 holding on to their positions, and 103 dropping down. 

Student studying in a library

In spite of chronic underfunding issues, higher education continues to be one Italy’s major excellences. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

As Italy’s higher education system continues to rank among the best in Europe, which are the best universities in the country? 

Here’s a quick look at the best institutions by macro subject area.

Arts and humanities

Rome’s Sapienza University and the University of Bologna were the top two Italian institutions in the arts and humanities field as they came in 41st and 48th respectively in the worldwide ranking.

Both universities fared even better in the classics and ancient history subcategory: the University of Bologna came in 25th while Sapienza claimed the first place for the second year in a row. 

Five other Italian institutions made it into the top 200 for arts and humanities, with just two – Milan’s Politecnico (108th) and Venice’s Ca’ Foscari University (140th) – ranking between 100 and 150.

Engineering and technology

Milan’s Politecnico was by far the best Italian university in the engineering and technology field as it ranked 18th overall and 7th in the aeronautical and mechanical engineering subcategory.

The all-Italian top three was completed by Turin’s Politecnico (45th overall) and the University of Bologna (108th).

Social sciences and marketing

Milan’s private Bocconi University was the best Italian institute for social sciences and marketing as it came in 14th overall. Incidentally, this was also the single best position in a macro area ranking for an Italian university. 

Bocconi University did even better in the business management and marketing subcategories, where it ranked 7th and 8th worldwide respectively.

The University of Bologna and Rome’s Luiss University also fared well in the social sciences as they came in 65th and 88th overall.


Life sciences and medicine

The University of Bologna was the best Italian university in the life sciences and medicine sector. However, it fared quite poorly worldwide as it only came in 96th overall. 

The Italian top three was completed by the University of Milan (102nd overall) and by the University of Padua (129th).

Medicine students in class

The University of Bologna was the best Italian university in the life sciences and medicine sector but only ranked 96th overall. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

Natural sciences

Rome’s Sapienza was once again top of the class in the natural sciences field as it ranked 44th worldwide.

But, besides Sapienza, another Italian university – the seemingly omnipresent University of Bologna – snuck into the top 100, coming in 88th.

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The University of Padua (102nd) completed the top three for Italy.

Rest of the world

Though Italy was the seventh-most represented country in the ranking, it didn’t come close to challenging the United States’ position at the top of the table.

Harvard University

Harvard University ranked first overall in as many as 14 academic disciplines. Photo by Scott EISEN / Getty Images via AFP


US universities ranked first overall in as many as 32 individual disciplines, with Harvard claiming 14 of those for itself.

The UK solidified its position in second place again this year as it dominated 15 disciplines, with Oxford snatching four first places and Cambridge getting two. 

Finally, Zurich’s EHT was the most successful university in continental Europe as it claimed the first spot in three subjects.

The QS World University Ranking assesses the performance of over 15,700 universities around the world based on recruiters’ feedback, academic peer review, faculty/student ratio and number of published research citations. The full methodology is available here.