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Studying Medicine in Italy as an International Student: EU vs Non-EU Students 

Table of Contents

Studying medicine in Italy for international students is possible no matter what country you come from. However, the country you come from can make it easier or more difficult to obtain a seat and can also greatly impact the things you need to do to secure enrolment.  

One of the first things aspiring international medical students in Italy realise is that admission is separated into two groups: EU students and non-EU students. Universities usually allocate a certain number of seats for EU students and a certain number of seats for non-EU students. This has tremendous consequences on how your admission will be impacted, and it is thus vital to understand how your category will affect you. Make sure to read this carefully so you do not make any mistakes during your application process! 

Who is an EU student? 

At first glance it might seem simple, the answer is any student from an EU country, right? While students from EU countries are generally considered EU students, it is not always as straightforward as this. There are a few types of scenarios where you will be considered an EU student. 

Firstly, if you are a citizen in any European Union member country, you are an EU student. It does not matter if you hold a second citizenship from another non-EU country. It also does not matter where you completed high school (at least in terms of deciding whether you are EU or not). Basically, if you have citizenship in any EU member state, you are an EU student, plain and simple. 

There are also cases where this holds true even if your country of citizenship is not in the EU. This is the case for Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and San Marino. If you have one of these citizenships, you will be an EU student.  

There is also another way you can be considered an EU student even if you do not hold citizenship in the above-mentioned countries, and that is when you are given EU equivalent status. If you are a resident of Italy and have one of the following residence permits, you will also be considered an EU student… 

  • EU permit for long-term residents  
  • Residence permit for the purpose of employment, self-employment or for investor 
  • Residence permit for family reasons 
  • Residence permit for political or humanitarian asylum 
  • Residence permit for religious reasons 
  • Residence permit for other special cases 

Who is a non-EU student? 

If none of the above-mentioned citizenships or residence permits apply to you, you are a non-EU student. Please note that EU refers to membership in the European Union, not simply being part of Europe. Countries like Serbia and Belarus may be part of Europe, but they are not part of the EU, so you will still be considered a non-EU student in this case, unless you meet the requirements talked about before. 

Please note, that the United Kingdom was formerly an EU member state, but due to Brexit, the country is no longer a member. The United Kingdom is thus now also considered in the non-EU category. 

Competitiveness Based on EU and non-EU Status 

The various public medical schools in Italy that use the IMAT offer a certain amount of seats to EU students and a certain amount of seats to non-EU students. It is generally the case that there are far more seats for EU students. In recent years, especially in 2023, it has been getting harder for non-EU students to secure a seat, since the IMAT score required is higher than for EU students. In 2023, the scores required for non-EUs were often considerably higher than for non-EUs (over 10 points sometimes!). 

Thus, it is generally far more beneficial to be an EU student. However, you should note that what determines the entry score on the IMAT is the number of students that apply, so if very few non-EU students apply to a specific university, the score could be considerably lower than average. This is very hard to predict beforehand. It brings us to another very important consideration for non-EU students… 

IMPORTANT! University Choices as an EU or non-EU 

When an EU student applies to the IMAT, they can select as many of the public medical schools as they want. Once the IMAT is over and the scores are released, they will be considered for all of the universities. Put simply, if you get above the required score for any university you applied to, you will be eligible to enrol in that university provided you have not already enrolled or rejected an offer from that university.  

For non-EU students, it does not work this way! You get only ONE choice! When you apply for the IMAT, you will also be able to select many choices, but only the university you put in first place will be able to accept you (the one you pre-enrolled for). Thus, if you do not get the required score for your first-choice university, you will not get a place anywhere, even if you get above the required score for another university you applied for. This is extremely important to remember! Every year there are always devasted students who misunderstood the rules and missed out on admission despite having a score that would be enough in another university.  

For non-EU students, you need to choose your first-choice university VERY carefully! To find out more about the Universities in Italy, we have also put together a comprehensive list of all Public Medical Universities in Italy.

IMPORTANT: Application Procedures and Requirements for EU and non-EU Students  

There are many differences between EU and non-EU students in terms of requirements and the university application. Below you will find a helpful table… 

EU Students Non-EU Students 
Do not need a visa  Need a visa 
Do not need to pre-enrol  Need to pre-enrol 
Can enrol after the start of the semester* Enrol at the start of the semester 

*EU students as mentioned before have multiple choices of university and will be allocated seats over time if the seats do not fill up immediately. This brings us to the topic of so-called ‘Rounds’. 

Italian Medical School Admission Rounds 

When the IMAT scores are officially released, EU students can log into Universitaly and see if they obtained a score high enough to get into a university. If they do not, they will wait a week until the next ‘round’ happens, in which case the scores will be lower. This process continues weekly until all the seats in the EU category have been filled. This is great news since it means even if you did not get in straight away, you could potentially secure a seat weeks or even months later! 

If you are a non-EU, there is only one round. If you do not secure a seat in your first choice university here, you are almost certainly not going to obtain a seat in that year.  

Can I Choose to be EU or Non-EU when Studying Medicine in Italy for International Students

No. Being EU or non-EU is not up to you, it is determined based on the criteria previously mentioned. And you must under no circumstances try to omit or manipulate information to your benefit! Hiding a second citizenship, or doing something else that can make you apply as an EU if you are a non-EU or a non-EU as an EU, will likely prevent you from enrolling.  

To sum up, you cannot pick and choose what category you belong to. You need to ensure you know what category you fall under, and then understand how this will impact your situation when applying to medical school in Italy.  

Why Study Medicine in Italy?

Italy has recently become a hotspot for aspiring medical students seeking a top-quality education that is both economically viable and academically rigorous. Unlike many other countries where the application process is arduous and university seats are limited, Italy has streamlined its admissions process, making it relatively straightforward and accessible.

To be eligible to enroll in a public medical school in Italy, aspiring students simply need to have completed 12 years of school education and pass the IMAT (Italian Medical Admissions Test). The quality of education is impressive, with modern European universities offering world-renowned medical degrees. In Italy, most students pay a nominal fee per year or nothing at all, making it an ideal option for those who are budget-conscious. Generous scholarships are also readily available for those who display financial need or academic merit.

Although proficiency in the Italian language is not mandatory, it is advisable for effective communication living in Italy considering local interactions that will naturally occur. For those serious about gaining admission, a comprehensive preparation course for the IMAT exam is available.

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Brand New to IMAT Buddy 2024

Studying Medicine in Italy - Our Full Service Consultancy Program

Our brand new complete one-on-one consultancy service assists you with all components required for studying medicine in Italy. This brand-new service covers all aspects required to successfully move to Italy and study medicine, including: 

At IMAT Buddy we leave out the stuff that textbooks and online videos waste your time with and focus solely on the material that you will need to ace the IMAT Test.

Further Articles on Choosing a University in Italy

4 Responses

  1. I have a question
    As this year University of Cagilari has offered 20 seats for non-European students but approval from MUIR is still pending. If I register Cagliari as my first choice and another university as second. If unfortunately this year Cagliari did not receive approval from the Ministry. Can my application be forwarded to another university or will it be rejected?

    1. Are you a non-EU candidate? As a non-EU you need to pre-enroll in the university you are considering. Your application will thus not be automatically transferred, you will need to pre-enroll in another university manually.

      1. One more question Sir!!
        If my first university (Cagliari) did not get approval from the Ministry this year
        Can I pre-enroll to another university? If I pre -enroll like Catania
        Will that university (Catania) accept my application as my first university? (After if Cagilari didn’t get approval)

        1. As long as you do not pass the deadline for pre-enrolment for that university it should be fine. You would cancel your previous first choice, then pre enroll in your new first choice.

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