The University of Pavia

The University of Pavia is one of the world’s oldest academic institutions, with its foundations as early as the 9th Century. It was the Longobard capital from 568-774, and its fascination remains intact with the center’s maze of narrow streets, ancient churches, and elegant buildings, all bordered by the River Ticino.

It boasts an impressive number of famous alumni, including Christopher Columbus, Gerolamo Cardano, Lazzaro Spallanzani, Alessandro Volta, Antonio Scarpa, Ugo Foscolo, Camillo Golgi, Giulio Natta and many others.

The University has a strong tradition of international student and teacher exchanges. Indeed, 23500 Italian and 1800 international students are currently subscribed to courses held at the University of Pavia. 

studying medicine in pavia

Harvey Medicine and Surgery Course

Founded on October 1st 2009, the Harvey Medicine and Surgery Course (named after William Harvey, a seventeenth-century British physician) is the first medicine course entirely taught in English in Italy.

The curriculum combines the long-established Italian teaching methods with the modern paradigms of interactive learning. Harvey trainees evolve into well-rounded doctors through a new, wide-ranging program of study and extensive practical training in the renowned Pavia clinics and their research laboratories. This includes a rigorous and practical seminar program provided by Harvey’s carefully selected local and international lecturers consisting of top-of-the-line clinicians, professors, and scientists.

The course was taught to teach the medical profession and build a solid scientific basis for continued training that will be vital for the reception and understanding of future medicine.

The Harvey medical course offers:

  • 103 places for foreign and non-foreign students
  • 40 for international students living abroad

These numbers may change in the following years.

For the full course overview on the University’s website, look here.

Position

For many years, the main structures of the Harvey course were located in Taramelli-Forlanini Street (with all the other scientific degree courses) and Adolfo Ferrata Street (in a structure called ‘Nave’ due to its shape similar to that of a vast ship).

However, in September 2023, a brand new medical campus was inaugurated in Viale Golgi, inside the former clinic of the San Matteo Hospital. This new facility, named “Campus della Salute” (meaning “health campus”) is equipped with 16 lecture halls (36 to 240 seats, a total of 2100 seats), 12 study rooms (260 seats in total on the two floors), 4 computerised classrooms, a 200,000-volume library, 3 simulated teaching laboratories with brand new equipment that will enable students to carry out highly innovative practical exercises.

Starting from the 2023/2024 academic year, the newly built health campus is officially home to the medicine and surgery students and faculty.

university of pavia medical campus

This new campus is very close to the old one, and also easily reachable from the city centre in a short time through the ‘Autoguidovie’ bus lines 3, 7 and others, or through a 15 minute walk (from the train station). All students in Pavia pay only 20 euros per year for a full public transport subscription, the offer is called UNIPASS! (Generally speaking, everything in Pavia is quite easily reachable on foot, as the city is not that big)

In terms of practical medical training (which starts in the third academic year), the central locations are:

In terms of practical medical training (that starts in the third academic year), the central locations are:

  • Maugeri hospital (Salvatore Maugeri street, 10)

  • D.E.A. (left), a highly advanced, massive, and modern hospital inaugurated in 2013 and located in Strada Privata Campeggi 40 street (again, right next to Taramelli-Forlanini Street)

  • San Matteo Hospital (right), in Camillo Golgi Street n.19, right before Taramelli-Forlanini Street
  • Neurological Institute of Mondino’s Foundation (Mondino Street n.2 and Adolfo Ferrata Street)

The structures provide huge, free parking spaces close by.

Harvey Medicine and Surgery Educational Plan

Almost every academic year is divided into the first and second semesters. Exceptions are:

  • The first year, during which a ‘’preterm’’ course, happening before the first semester, refines the student’s knowledge in basic science subjects like chemistry, physics and maths
  • The sixth year, in which the second semester is uniquely dedicated to writing a thesis and attending practical activities, rather than to theoretical lectures and exams  

The educational plan is organised into courses made up of modules that enter the course’s semantic scientific field. An example: The course “Structure of the Body”, in the second semester of the first academic year, comprises modules of histology, cytology, embryology and anatomy. The course will also lay the foundation for the courses “Functions of the Body” (year 2) and “Systemic Pathology” (year 3).

Attendance to lectures is mandatory, as declared in the regulations, and is managed differently by every professor. Practical clinical activities begin in the third year.

Practical laboratory and clinical activities, tutoring activities, seminars, and eminent cultural meetings are organised by the university and many colleges (or other societies) in Pavia. Additional cultural initiatives are among the most important advantages of studying at the University of Pavia. This is especially true due to the unique so-called “Pavia System”, characterised by 20 colleges and residences where thousands of students can live, study, play sports and join different activities. The various colleges are highly active in promoting cultural initiatives and giving the medical student a critical additional cultural yield. Generally, these activities are also available for students outside the college’s community. Other than these opportunities, students could choose a few elective courses within the university during their career.

To ensure that students don’t fall behind, the Harvey Medical School has some strict rules about preparatory exams and number of CFUs (university credits, earned with each exam passed): 

  • Passage from the first to the second year will occur if the student has earned 42 CFUs within a set deadline (September 30th, but the date could change).
  • Students can enrol in the third year if they have acquired all CFUs from the first and second year within a set deadline (September 30th, but the date could change).
  • To register for the fourth year, students must have passed all exams from year 3.

The HTC (Harvey Teaching Committee) will evaluate defaulting students case by case.

Harvey students must know at least a basic level of Italian by year 3, when they start their clinical traineeships since Italian hospital staff and patients rarely speak English.

The Italian Language Centre of the University of Pavia usually organises Italian language classes throughout the academic year, from October to January, then from February to June.

The first year

The first year starts in October with a warm welcome talk, followed by a first month dedicated to refreshing and extending the knowledge on basic science subjects (mathematics, physics, chemistry) and providing instructions in academic writing required for examinations.

The year is structured in this way:

Preterm

  • Basic sciences (10 CFU), a pre-term course lasting 4 weeks and characterized by the modules of:
      • Chemistry (5 CFU): Exam made of MCQs + open questions about drawing or recognizing formulae
      • Medical physics (5 CFU): 25 MCQs exam.
  • Essay writing techniques (1 CFU): it will teach basic writing techniques covering format, style, grammar, syntax and referencing. In addition, the course will discuss the use of reference managers, information databases and other resources that will become an integral part of studying. The most crucial aim of the course is to make the students understand what examiners, review committees, or funding bodies want from them. You will only need to send a well-written essay on a scientific topic of your choice to the Professor.
  • Mathematics (1 CFU): it consists of a quick review of some topics typically covered in high-school Math courses, such as vectors, trigonometry, logarithms and exponentials, derivatives and integrals. The final test is integrated into the Medical Physics exam. The evaluation consists of a pass/fail outcome without grades.

First semester

  • Living Molecules (19 CFU):
      • Biochemistry (Cellular + General A + General B) (11 CFU): An exam made of 24 questions worth 1 point each + 3 open questions worth 2 points each + extra open questions for the Laude.  
      • Biology (General + Molecular) (4 CFU): 30 MCQs.
      • Genetics (Human + Molecular + Laboratory) (4 CFU): 30 MCQs.
  • Scientific Foundations of Medicine (6 CFU)
      • Epidemiology (1 CFU): Included in the medical statistics exam.
      • Medical Statistics (Laboratory + Statistics A + Statistics B) (4 CFU): Exam of 11 short open questions.
      • History of Medicine (1 CFU): 31 MCQs.

Second semester

  • Structure of the Body (20 CFU):
      •  Cytology (2 CFU)
      •  Embryology (1 CFU): Makes one exam of 30 MCQs with Cytology.
      • Histology (histology + laboratory) (1 CFU)
      • Human Anatomy (part A + part B + laboratory) (16 CFU)

The Professors generally divide the examination of Human Anatomy into two blocks and inform students about the opportunity to set anticipated dates, giving them more chances to plan their exams. The first partial examination consists of 30 MCQs concerning the musculoskeletal system and neuroanatomy. If you get 27 or more, you could take an oral examination to increase the mark. The second block is about the remaining organ systems.

  • Social Roots of Health (8CFU) (Community medicine + Health Economics): This is supposed to be an MCQ exam with few open questions.
  • The Disabled Person (Elective course that you could choose to take or not, 2 CFU)
  • Ultrasound Laboratory (Elective practical course that you could choose to take or not, 1 CFU)

The schedule can vary drastically. It is not rare to have days from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm, with an hour lunch break, but there are also less challenging days, going from 8.30 to either 1.30 or 3.30 pm. For further information, the timetable for all years is available here. And if you are in need, here are the yearly exam lists.

Pros and cons

Pros of Studying Medicine in Pavia

  • The English language is pivotal in international medical and scientific research. What better way is there to familiarise yourself with such a world if not through the English medical program?
  • The high tendency of Harvey students to approach international mobility could bring the students closer to research and clinical experiences abroad. More than 400 International partnerships and 700 Erasmus exchange agreements are already available.
  • The international traits of the course allow entering into contact with different cultures, and traditions.  
  • Being part of a smaller class is more common than the Italian course, slowing for an easier approach to professors.
  • Cooperation between the different years classes provides the students with information concerning exam modalities, resources for study, examination dates, etc.
  • Colleges and medical societies (like Harvey MedSoc or SISM Pavia) offer, during every academic year, free-access cultural initiatives that will significantly enrich your medical knowledge from both a theoretical and practical view
  • University and college events promote contact between different years of medical students. Colleges also organise huge annual parties as they compete with each other. You should not miss even one of them!
  • Besides being available even without an appointment, the secretary’s online chat provides prompt responses and help
  • The English degree is equivalent to the Italian one; they are equally recognized in Italy and the EU. For non-EU countries, it is necessary to check individual regulations. After graduation, you can register for the Postgraduate test in Italy.
  • Pavia is small and easily reachable in its full extension through different vehicles
  • Public transport’s frequent routes toward Milan will help you quickly move out and then get back to Pavia in case of need (it takes 20 to 30 minutes to reach Milan from Pavia, and the ticket price costs only 4 euros!)
  • The Ticino river is full of green forests, fields and beaches. Campfires, trips and relaxing moments are at your hand!
  • Pavia is a place for students to call home. It has a series of sports centres, including those run by CUS (Centre for University Sports) and many cultural attractions. There are 19 museums and collections, two multi-use cultural centres, many libraries, four cinemas and theatres, ten sociocultural meeting places, a music conservatory, and two civic schools of music and arts.

Cons of Studying Medicine in Pavia

  • Not every professor speaks English perfectly, so sometimes, especially international students, could find it hard to get used to different accents
  • The city per se is not so proactive towards nightlife events or social activities
  • Due to the Ticino river’s passage, Pavia gets infested by mosquitos by the beginning of summer (nevertheless, a repellent spray is more than enough!) 

Lunch and Libraries

Most of Pavia’s libraries are stunningly ancient and beautiful. A complete list can be found hereAs each library has different opening hours and rules, it is best to consult their specific webpage. The main medical libraries are:

  • The medical area library in Adolfo Ferrata street (‘Botta 2’ library)
  • Study rooms and libraries sparse in the San Matteo hospital complex (Camillo Golgi street n. 19)

As far as canteens are concerned, the price to eat depends on your economic situation; you could pay from €3.50 to €7 for a complete meal. If you are awarded an EDiSU scholarship, you will have a free meal per day. Microwaves are provided in the case in which you would like to heat your meal. Free water distributors are available too! There are five canteens located around the city:

  • Mensa Centrale (in Corso Carlo Alberto)
  • Mensa Collegio Fraccaro (in Leonardo Da Vinci square)
  • Mensa Collegio Castiglioni (San Martino street 18/20)
  • Mensa Cravino (Bassi street)
  • There is also a cafe in the scientific pole (‘Nave’): La Buvette Dell’Ingegnere, located in Ferrata street, 1.

Here’s the list of the canteens. On the same website, you can find access requirements for the cost facilitations based on family income. 

Studying Abroad

The University offers more than 400 International partnerships, and 700 Erasmus exchange agreements are already available! It is one of the most internationally connected universities in italy, part of both the Erasmus + program, the Overseas program, and the novel Ec2U program, an alliance between 7 historic university towns around Europe. 

  • The Erasmus + program includes two main branches, one dedicated to studying abroad (Erasmus Study+) and the other dedicated to a clerkship period abroad (Erasmus Traineeship). During the Erasmus period, you can attend courses, take exams, and carry out research activities in preparation for your thesis, or carry out an internship/placement, in any European institution that adheres to the program.
  • The Overseas Exchange Programme allows you to spend a semester studying abroad as part of bilateral agreements with universities around the world.
  • The “European Campus of City-Universities-EC2U” is an alliance for students’ and professors’ mobility among 7 universities located in historic towns around Europe, one of which is obviously Pavia. The project aim to create a “pan-european campus” of shared knowledge and quality education, and the partner universities are:
    • University of Coimbra (Portugal)
    • “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iasi (Romania)
    • Friedrich Schiller University of Jena (Germany)
    • Johannes Kepler University of Linz (Austria)
    • University of Salamanca (Spain)
    • University of Turku (Finland)

The addition of a 9th European Partner University is planned for the next two years.

Everything you need to know about international mobility at the University of Pavia can be found here!

Bureaucracy and Secretary’s office

  • Medicine and Surgery main Secretary: Ferrata street n.5, Tel. (Informastudenti) 0382/989898. A direct secretary contact: [email protected]
  • The Welcome Office, Admissions Office, International mobility office and more can be contacted through this page
  • To book an in-person appointment with a specific service: Prenotazione appuntamenti

Enrolment to the University of Pavia

First of all, if you are an international student, check this guide about pre-enrolment for getting every step needed before the official enrollment. Then, after you’re admitted, check this page about what EU students need to do, and this page about the EXTRA-EU student’s steps to be done after admission to the degree course. 

As an international student, it’s important that you have all required documents for enrolment in Pavia, so make sure you can provide all the documents listed here. You might have to get some of these in advance, so don’t wait till the last minute 🙂 

You can register for the Harvey course right after you are assigned according to the ranking list. Then, you can click on this link, follow the instructions and proceed to the enrollment. 

There is a fee to pay in two different deadlines and amounts; the first one is equal for all students. The second one depends on your ISEE for Italian students, while for international ones, it’s diversified depending on your home country. You can also apply for a tuition waiver, usually due to merit, income, disabilities or other specific requirements.

requisites for international enrolment

Transferring to the University of Pavia

Transferring can happen from Italian or foreign universities, but only for programmes taught in English. You cannot move from Italian medicine to the Harvey course without passing IMAT. Transferring also depends on the number of places available, which vary according to the number of withdrawals from studies (and therefore are usually few).

There is also a discreet chance to obtain an exam validation even from Italian Universities; the main requirements are the number of CFUs, which cannot be less than the one given by IMS, and the topics that need to be similar, but this depends on the professor and especially on the Council responsible of evaluating such requests. 

The procedure of exam validation could take such a long time (generally 3 to 6 months!) that you could even regret it and choose to just re-do the exams, giving up the validation process. Our tip? Ask students who went through these processes about their personal experiences and opinions!

For further information about transfer: 

Scholarships

Each year, the government agency EDiSU publishes scholarship announcements. Recipients are selected based on academic regularity, merit, and financial situation. The scholarship consists of monetary contributions and services, including a free meal/day at the canteens, exemption from paying the 3rd fee installment, and free accommodation in an EDiSU college. The grant amount depends on the students’ economic condition and geographical origin.

If the beneficiary is a student with disabilities, an amount of the scholarship can be converted into specialized equipment and teaching materials, etc.

The main website for more information: EDISU

Accommodations

Pavia’s collegiate system, unique in Italy, consists of 20 residences, hosting approximately 2000 students. There are three types of student residences in Pavia:

  • Collegi managed by EDiSU (Ente per il Diritto allo Studio Universitario);
  • “Merit-based” college;
  • Privately owned college.

All of them can be defined as ‘Integrated Service Systems’ and can be considered the ideal solution to meet the education requirements right at the university level. Besides accommodation services, they offer facilities and tools for teaching, leisure, and education purposes by arranging cultural activities that enhance students’ educational experience. Living in a collegio offers the opportunity to belong to a community where academic achievement, traditional events, parties, and sporting rivalries all play key roles.

All information about the colleges, links to each “house” (very Harry Potter!) and info about how to apply to live in these residencies can be found here.

Conclusion

And to sum up the main message, Pavia is the perfect and harmonious balance of science, knowledge, beauty, nature and everyday life, in which every single aspect mentioned concentrates in the hand of the student approaching this virtuous city.

If you have more questions, here’s the University’s FAQ page. I hope that you have found this guide at least slightly helpful! And as we say here in Pavia:

PAR INGENIO VIRTUS, «la virtù sia pari all’ingegno».

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