The University of Bologna

The University of Bologna – Alma Mater Studiorum (literally “nourishing mother of studies”) is thought to be the oldest university in the world. It was founded in 1088 and focused on the teaching of law. The School of Medicine was founded around the XIV century and was the first to introduce mandatory anatomy learning. 

For more general information on the University of Bologna and the degree programs, check this website. Check this other website for details on the School of Medicine. 

study medicine in italy at the university of bologna

Medicine and Surgery at the University of Bologna

The English course of Medicine and Surgery in Bologna dates back to 2017. In the academic year 2023/24, the available spots were 117, divided as follows: 

  • 97 places for Italian citizens, EU citizens, and non-EU citizens with EU-equivalent status
  • 20 places for non-EU citizens residing abroad

Note that these numbers may vary from year to year. Make sure to check the admission webpage before enrolling. 

Location and Classrooms

Bologna is a small city: it takes around 30 minutes to walk from one side to the other. Moreover, the university has classrooms all around the city. It’s like a big city campus. For this reason, there is no single place where lessons take place. 

Most medicine and surgery classes will take place in Sant’Orsola (the main hospital of the city) or the university area (“zona universitaria” – Via Irnerio/Porta San Donato). 

Here is a list of classrooms where older students have taken lessons: 

  • Aula Murri- Via Massarenti 9 (it’s within Sant’Orsola Hospital) 
  • Aula Magna Patologia Generale – Via San Giacomo 14 
  • Aula Bigari – Via San Vitale 59 (it’s at the School of Dentistry)
  • Aula C Fisiologia – Via di Porta San Donato 2 

You can look at the course timetable to get a rough idea of where classrooms are located this year.  

The easiest way to move across Bologna is by bus as public transport is quite efficient and not pricy at all. University students can buy an annual pass for 154€ only. ​​Click here for more information on transport fees and student discounts.  

Travelling around Bologna by car can be quite challenging, as most of the city centre cannot be accessed unless you have a special permit (which students don’t get). Parking can also give quite a headache. This is generally not an issue for students, as the city is quite small and well connected through other means. 

Another great option is biking. Bologna has a “bike highway” (Tangenziale delle biciclette, in Italian), an 8.4-km-long bike lane that circles the whole city. 

Clinical clerkships start in the 2nd year, and they mainly take place at Sant’Orsola Hospital. However, you might have the chance to chose clerkships at Ospedale Maggiore, Ospedale Bellaria (renowned for its Neurology departments) and Orthopaedics Rizzoli Institute (centre of excellence for orthopaedics).

All of these hospitals are reachable by public transport, with the first two being closer to each other and to the university area, and the last two being a bit farther out of the centre (though no further than a 40 minute journey on public transportation)

For more information about living as a student in Bologna, you can look here.

Course diagram

The course diagram is quite peculiar and different from most English-taught medical schools in Italy. Most courses are integrated, meaning that each exam will cover different modules.

This becomes pretty evident in the second year, when instead of studying Anatomy or Physiology as whole subjects (the traditional way of studying them in Italy), you’ll approach them as single modules of an integrated exam regarding one system or apparatus.

For example, the integrated course of Nervous System and Sensory Organs comprises the study of this system’s Anatomy, Physiology and Semeiotics. This approach is also reflected in the clinical years, in which you’ll study diseases from a clinical and surgical point of view, together with anatomic pathology, diagnostics, and pharmacology.

This way of learning medicine is more similar to the way the subjects are taught in many English-speaking countries, so it’s well-tested, and many students find it to be an easier way to classify the massive amounts of information taught in med school. 

The first year at the University of Bologna

Classes usually start in October, so it is quite common for lessons to continue into January (although the exam session begins in late January). The schedule is quite packed. Most days, you might have classes from 9 AM to 6 PM. Please note that attendance is mandatory and strictly monitored (especially in the first years).

You must attend at least 60% of the lessons for each integrated course. If you fail to do so, you will not be allowed to sit the exam, and you’ll have to retake the classes in the following academic year. Now that you know the lecture structure, you might be asking: what will your first year lectures be?

First semester

  • Cellular Molecular Biology and Genetics (10 CFU): an oral exam with a vast syllabus. If you have a solid basis from your IMAT preparation, it is quite doable. 
  • Chemistry and Biochemistry (9 CFU): this exam is written and consists of both multiple-choice questions and practice exercises. You must practice a lot before the exam if you wish to excel. 
  • Humanities and Scientific Methods (8 CFU): this is quite an exciting course that few universities have in their course diagram. You’ll learn to use Pubmed and the basis of Scientific Research. The exam is multiple-choice questions followed by a voluntary oral exam which can help you increase (or decrease) your final score. 

Second semester

  • Medical Physics (4 CFU): written exam. It used to be quite an easy exam.
  • Morphology and Development (8 CFU): it’s an oral exam. The Lab part is a bit tricky as you are expected to recognised histology slides. 
  • Signaling Pathways in Health and Disease (14 CFU): probably one of the most challenging exams. It’s a 4-hour-long written exam that consists of multiple-choice quizzes that require an explained solution, practice exercises, fill-the-gaps texts etc. 

Note that you cannot sit for the 3rd-year exams if you haven’t passed all the 1st-year exams. You cannot sit 4th-year exams without 2nd-year exams and so on. 

Note that you cannot sit for the 3rd-year exams if you haven’t passed all the 1st-year exams. You cannot sit 4th-year exams without 2nd-year exams and so on. 

In addition, during the first year at the University of Bologna, you’ll attend the Basic Life Support and Defibrillation course in partnership with the Italian Red Cross.

For more information on when semesters start and end, and for the dates of each exam session, you can find the Academic Calendar here. If you want to know more about the clinical clerkships you’ll have to attend, click here.

Pros and Cons of studying medicine at the University of Bologna

Pros

  • More than 50% of students are international, meaning you’ll get to meet people worldwide. 
  • Classes are small as compared to the Italian course or other International Med Schools. You’ll make friends quite quickly, and you’ll be able to interact with professors during lessons. 
  • Clerkships are present from the very beginning. You’ll be learning how to do blood works, sutures and RCP. It’s not much, but it allows you to take a break from books. 
  • UniBo is one of Italy’s few universities with a dissecting room activity as part of its curriculum. 
  • The course administration is very open to discussion. All issues raised by students are listened to, and in most instances, measures are taken to meet the students’ needs.      
  • In Bologna, it’s always a good time to have an aperitivo: you’re sad? Drink on it! Are you happy? Celebrate with a drink! 

Cons 

  • Bologna is quite a small city, and although there are many activities for young people, you’ll not find the hectic lifestyle of a big metropolis. It might be a pro for some people! 
  • Rent is VERY expensive. 
  • Since there isn’t one single place for medical students, we rarely meet with students from other years and don’t get many chances to interact. 
  • Most professors are Italian, and sometimes their English is not exactly as British as Queen Elizabeth’s. 
  • The teaching is not always student-centred. 

Canteen and Lunch 

University canteens are places where you can stop for a full meal both at lunch and dinner. They are open to those studying at the University of Bologna, and by showing your university badge you can enjoy a reduced rate. There are also some “punti ristoro” (refreshment areas) around the city, where you can eat your meal brought from home or purchased. At the refreshment points you’ll find microwaves, tables, chairs and drink dispensers. 

It is possible to receive a lunch voucher to cover lunch expenses when applying for a scholarship. Visit this page for more information and the complete list of canteens and catering services. 

Libraries

Bologna, a university city, is packed with libraries and study rooms. Here is a list of those that belong to the School of Medicine: 

  • Biblioteca Autonoma Clinica “F. B. Bianchi” (pavilion 5, Sant’Orsola Hospital)
  • Biblioteca Biomedica Centrale
  • Sala Studio Clinica Medica (pavilion 11, Sant’Orsola Hospital)
  • Sala Studio Informatica Ginecologia (pavilion 4, Sant’Orsola Hospital)
  • Sala Studio Albertoni (pavillion 3, Sant’Orsola Hospital)
  • Sala Studio Prometeo (self-managed – pavilion 25, Sant’Orsola Hospital)
  • Sala Studio Anatomia Osteologia (Via Irnerio, 53-57)

Here you’ll find further information on UniBo’s network of studying facilities. 

Sports facilities

As a medical student, with the sedentary lifestyle that comes with studying many many hours a day, you might end up craving the freedom and endorphins that come from an evening workout. The University of Bologna has a number of sports facilities available for students around the city:

There is also a University Student’s Sports Association in Bologna, called CUSB, which manages the sports facilities and organises tournaments. For more information on CUSB, you can look on their website.

Studying abroad opportunities at University of Bologna

Medicine and Surgery students have several international exchange opportunities at University of Bologna. One can choose to go abroad to study for a semester or an entire academic year with the Erasmus+ Mobility for Studies program. 

Alternatively, one can decide to do a training period abroad thanks to the Erasmus+ Mobility for Traineeship program. The exciting thing about this project is that one must find their own host institution (meaning you can go wherever you please). Furthermore, the School of Medicine offers study grants for international learning experiences abroad. There are many other opportunities, so check the course website regularly. 

More information: outgoing exchange opportunities

Contacts 

FOR INFORMATION ON: Learning activities, student services.

EMAIL: [email protected]
PHONE NUMBER: +39 051 208 0883
ADDRESS: Polo Murri, 1st floor – Via Massarenti 9 – 40138 Bologna

FOR INFORMATION ON: enrolment, changes and transfers, degree certificates, diploma supplements

EMAIL: [email protected]
PHONE NUMBER: +39 051 2094601
FAX: +39 051 2086018
ADDRESS: Policlinico S. Orsola-Malpighi (Polo Murri) Via Massarenti, 9 | 40138 Bologna

Note that most university offices will ask you to get an appointment (online appointments are usually available). Make sure to visit the contacts page of the course. 

Enrolment at University of Bologna

You will have 4 days to complete the enrolment procedure when you get assigned to Bologna University. 

You must go on Studenti Online and: 

  1. Apply for matriculation
  2. Pay the first instalment of your tuition fees 
  3. Follow these instructions to complete the procedure (find here detailed info for non-EU students and students with foreign qualifications). 

Transferring to University of Bologna

Important note: calls for transfer are published only in case one or more places are left vacant (e.g. if a student enrolled in the program drops out). 

This page clearly explains the difference between Admission (IMAT) and Transfer. Read the transfer requirements to see if you are fit for transfer. Students who transfer to Bologna might get some learning activities validated based on the teaching, but only if taught in English. This is at the discretion of a Transfer Committee that evaluates each individual case. 

Scholarships, study grants, and accommodations 

Students can obtain economic support while studying at the University of Bologna.
Students with low income can apply for reduced university fees or complete exemptions.
Students with a low income and who meet academic requirements are also eligible for scholarships.
Finally, students can apply for part-time jobs and tutor activities for extra money. 

Here is the complete list of study grants and subsidies.
Check out the study grants and exemptions for international students

All economic interventions are managed by ER.GO, which is the Regional Authority for the Right to Higher Education in Emilia Romagna. ER.GO also provides housing services

Important note: the deadline for most of these services is in late August, early September. It is allowed to apply before sitting IMAT (as ridiculous as it sounds). 

Conclusion 

If you love ragù alla Bolognese and wish to attend one of the world’s most prestigious and ancient universities, Bologna University is the choice for you.

Good luck and see you soon!

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