All About Transferring into English Med Schools in Italy

The staff here at Med School team we have been getting a lot of personal messages from people hoping to transfer into the English-language medical schools at the state universities here in Italy. I have done some research on the topic, and will tell you what I have learned about it.

We seem to be contacted by people who want to know, among other things:

  • Can they transfer from an EU medical school?
  • Can they transfer from a non-EU medical school?
  • Can they transfer from a non-medical degree?
  • Can they move to advanced years of the medical degree, if they have previous studies in another course such as biology?

I have spoken to administrators here, and I will try to convey the information that I received, as accurately as I can, combined with what I know from other sources. I might have made errors; if you find any, please accept my apologies — and let me know. What I write here is based on my experience in Milan, but the rules for the other five schools — Bari, the two Naples schools, Pavia, and the two Rome schools — are probably the same, or very similar.

Anyone in any English-language medical school around the world can apply to transfer into IMS-Milan. Note that the first school must teach in English; you cannot transfer from a school whose language of instruction is German, or Russian, or any language other than English. Whether the school is an EU or non-EU school makes no difference in your right to apply to transfer.

You cannot transfer into IMS from a non-medical degree; it must be the equivalent of an MD, DO, MBBS, or any professional degree, intended to allow you to obtain a state licence to be a practicing physician. If you are in another type of degree program, you must take the IMAT and enter IMS in year one.

One of the key determining factors as to whether you can transfer into an Italian school is whether there are spots available. Last year, there were no spots available here for transfer into the 2nd year, and either one or no spot into the 3rd year. In previous years, the numbers were also very low. This may be different for some other universities, especially those in Rome and southwards, where, in some cases, not all the first-year seats were filled, and so there may be room in the 2nd year. So, even if you are fully qualified to transfer into a school, it may be impossible, simply because there are no spots available.

In order to transfer, you must have basically completed the entire equivalent curriculum of the years previous to the year that you want to transfer into. You must also have all that work validated by your current medical school. So, for example, if you studied biophysics at Columbia University and are now a student at the University of Oxbridge, but have not done biophysics in Oxbridge, and Oxbridge has not recognized your Columbia work, you cannot transfer into IMS-Milan, which does biophysics in its first year. Is there any wiggle-room here for differences in curriculum? Yes, I have been told, but not much. If you have completed 95% of the curriculum, you might be admitted in Italy under a stipulation that you cover the other 5% of the material. There is no exact rule about this. A commission evaluates each transfer application, and ultimately, it is up to this commission to decide. One difficulty in recent years has involved the evaluation of students in English-language programs from med schools in Eastern Europe. Many of these programs do not have what are known as integrated curricula — which is what we have here at IMS — and so their students have not covered the material in the same way, with the same conceptual connections, that we have done it in Italy. So, basically, those applications would be unsuccessful.

As a result of all this, it is generally easier to transfer into the 2nd or 3rd year than upper years. The 3rd through 6th years are clinical, and it is generally unlikely that a medical school will have the same order of clinical rotations and coursework as the Italian one you might wish to transfer into. The progression of clinical skills is important; if you do not know how to perform procedure X, you cannot be admitted into a later year that requires knowledge of X in a clinical setting. (E.g., if you do not know how to recognize a scalpel, you cannot be scrubbing into open heart surgery.) Because of their uniquely close relationship in clinical work and shared history, IMS and Humanitas (a private med school in Rozzano, near Milan) have been able to achieve upper-year transfers.

How do you transfer? You submit to the university a document available online, which is currently only in Italian, to which you attach your transcripts from your current university, as well as detailed a description of your course of study as your university makes public. Transfer decisions are not decided by evaluation of a resume. Two things count: the credits you have earned, and your marks. A mathematical formula is used to determine your transfer score:

“n” is the total number of exams you have taken, “i” is any given exam, “voto” is your mark, and “CFU” is the number of credits. Note that if you are transferring from another country, you may have to have the Italian university first officially recognize the equivalent value of your credits, as well as marks on the 30-point Italian scale. (This formula, by the way, comes from Milan’s Regulations for Evaluating Requests for Transfer.)

Students get priority for open seats in order of their transfer score. In the event of an exact tie — which is rare — the younger student gets priority. (What if they have the same birth-date? I have no idea. Perhaps it is the one who was born earlier in the day. What if they are twins? Is it the one who was born first?)

What is the takeaway from all this? Well, one thing that I have often heard said by applicants is something to the effect of, I will apply to an easier school to get into, and then simply transfer into [insert dream school here]. In general, it does not seem like that is a particularly sound way of going about things. Each year, many transfer applications are submitted — Milan has seen dozens — and, at least here, very few places have been available. My typical advice, to non-Italian applicants in particular, is just to apply, in your first year, to your Italian dream school. If you do not think you are academically capable of getting in, then you are best off strengthening your English-language and scientific skills for a year, waiting to apply the following year, and doing better on the IMAT . What are my detailed reasons for giving this advice? That is really a topic for another blog post. I have also addressed it multiple times in the “Questions” section of this website. And note: it is my typical advice; it may not apply to every individual applicant.