Why Italian Students Choose Universities Abroad

If universities in Italy want to continue to attract Italian students, they need to make sure that they are stepping up to the plate and meeting demand.

Covid-19 has done Italy no favours when it comes to recent employment statistics.

By Lara Statham

Italian universities are right to be worried about academic year 2020-21. Social distancing measures are still very much in place in Italy and outbreaks of Covid-19 in the EU continue to fuel fears of the coronavirus. So, Italian universities are naturally asking themselves who is going to show up this autumn?

However, the problems that Italian universities face are not merely a result of social distancing measures, being forced to deliver lessons online and the subsequent threat that student will stay at home rather than move to be physically near the university of their choice. What is evident is that Covid-19 has done Italy no favours when it comes to recent employment statistics. An article on the BBC website said that the Italian economy has recently contracted by 12.4% as a result of shifting work patterns and current demand. Therefore, new graduates will face increasing challenges in finding work they studied to do.

Italian universities face a double threat

According to a recent report published by AlmaLaurea, a consortium of 76 Italian universities that aims to match graduates with potential employers through its CV upload service, only 74.1% of students graduating from Italian universities found gainful employment within a year of graduation compared to 94.8% for students graduating from Dutch universities. What emerges today is that Italian universities face a double threat to their up-coming student numbers: low employment figures for university graduates combined with the collateral effects of Covid-19 that can only exacerbate the employability issue.

Dutch universities are some of the top ranking globally for employability

Indeed, the more worrying signs for universities can be indicated in those Italian students who have chosen to study abroad. Over the last decade, more and more Italian students have sought to continue their higher education abroad with European countries such as the UK, the Netherlands, Spain and France being some of the most popular destinations. Nineteen-year-old Francesco Asvisio, who is going to Maastrict University in The Netherlands to study Economics & Business Administration, says “…a degree in Italy is not as empowering as one from the Netherlands.”

Dutch universities are some of the top ranking globally for employability: it is no wonder that bright young minds in Italy are keen to build their education credentials and life experience that will allow them to compete for the best jobs the international markets can offer. So, it is no surprise that Italians choose to go abroad for their university education.

Build a better future

As Francesco adds, this can also provide additional benefits for Italian students returning to Italy to look for graduate entry positions. “Having a degree from another country will give me more because I will have started from zero in a foreign country, studied using a problem-based learning approach and will have skills that help me to build a better future for myself.” Roberta Cottino, also 19 who is going to study International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands agrees that a degree from a Dutch university offers a more stimulating learning environment when she says, “…an International Relations degree from Leiden will give me the chance to study in English with people from 60 different countries. Leiden has a great reputation and is 67th in the world rankings. Here I will have the chance to organize a wider range of internships that wouldn’t be available to me if I stayed in Italy.”

Studying abroad means a wider range of employment opportunities

There is certainly the sense among Italy’s young people that studying abroad will offer a wider range of employment opportunities. And they may be right, if the current employment trend for those countries stays as it is. Holland is not the only popular choice for higher education. Despite Brexit, UK universities are still getting applications from Italy. And Dènes Boccalatte, 17, who eventually wants to train to be a secondary school teacher specialising in History and Philosophy, plans to go to university in Switzerland. He believes that obtaining a teaching degree from a Swiss university will have more currency than one that an Italian university can offer, especially since teaching methods in Italy focus more on theory and memorization than a practical application of what you learn.

Universities in Italy want to continue to attract Italian students

Despite the doubts that young people have about their future employment prospects if they choose to go to an Italian university, universities in Italy are increasingly popular with international students. Sapienza University of Rome, The University of Bologna and The University of Padua all attract fairly large number of overseas students despite not appearing in the top 100 of the world rankings table.

What is certain is that for Italian students, world rankings, teaching style and quality of the course and opportunities for developing life skills and building experience are fundamental factors in their choices. Therefore, if universities in Italy want to continue to attract Italian students, they need to make sure that they are stepping up to the plate and meeting demand.

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