What makes Florence unique in the world is its artistic and cultural heritage.
The University of Florence, illustrious for its origins and history, still keeps this tradition alive today
The University of Florence has its origins in the Studium Generale that the Florentine republic decided to establish in 1321. The disciplines taught at the time were civil and canon law, literature and medicine. Many famous names were called upon as lecturers: Giovanni Boccaccio was commissioned to give lectures on the Divina Commedia.
The importance of the Studium was sanctioned by a Papal Bull issued by Pope Clement VI, which recognised and validated the qualifications it awarded, extended the privilegia maxima already granted to the Universities of Bologna and Paris, and established the Faculty of Theology. In 1364 with Emperor Charles IV, the Florentine Studium became an imperial university. When they came to rule in Tuscany, the Medici moved it to Pisa in 1472. From that year on, transfers became frequent, depending on changes of government. Charles VIII brought it back to Florence from 1497 to 1515 when, with the return of the Medici, the Studium was again moved to Pisa. Many teaching departments remained in Florence even after this date, whereas research was well supported in the numerous Academies that had flourished in the meantime, such as the Crusca and the Cimento.
It was not until 1859, when the Grand Duke was ousted from the government of the region, that all these scattered teaching departments regained the dignity of having their own organisation and structure. Thus the “Istituto Superiore di Studi Pratici e di Perfezionamento” was born, which, in the unified Italian state, would gain recognised university status. It was not until 1924, however, that a special decree officially gave the Institute the name of University. The subsequent organisation of studies at the University was divided between 1924 and 1938 into the Faculties of Agriculture, Architecture, Economics, Pharmacy, Law, Humanities, Teacher Training, Medicine and Surgery, Mathematics, Physics and Natural Sciences and Political Science. To these ten faculties, the Faculty of Engineering was added in 1970, whose first two-year course, however, had already been operating since the 1924-25 academic year. Then, in July 2002, the Faculty of Psychology was established.
Since 1 January 2013, following the reform introduced by Law 240/2010, the Faculties have been abolished; the task of coordinating teaching activities and managing the related services is carried out by the Schools.
Today, it is one of the largest research and higher education organisations in Italy, with 1,800 structured lecturers and researchers, around 1,600 technical and administrative staff, and over 1,600 doctoral and post-doctoral students.
One hundred and forty-six degree courses (first and second level and single-cycle) of which 15 are in English, organised into 10 Schools, a total population of around fifty-one thousand enrolled, a quarter of whom come from outside the region.
The University of Florence is a large university, with a very wide range of courses spanning all subject areas.
There are over nine thousand graduates every year in Florence. Moreover, the percentage of Florentine graduates in work one year after graduating is above the national average, according to Almalaurea data.
The University of Florence represents one of the largest and most productive systems of public research in Italy, in terms of the number and scientific-disciplinary diversification of its tenured and fixed-term researchers and of the many junior scientists in training, the intense participation in research programmes of major national and international interest, the scientific results achieved and the funding that supports research and transfer activities from outside. This combination of factors, which qualifies Florence’s university as a modern “research university”, is what determines its excellent positions in national and international assessments.
Researchers at the University of Florence belong to 21 departments and use around 40 research facilities including inter-departmental and inter-university centres, as well as research, transfer and higher education centres. In recent years, the University of Florence has strongly consolidated its transfer activities: from the filing of patents to the establishment of joint laboratories with companies to participation in spin-off companies. It has also developed a number of instruments promoting research-based innovation by strengthening the relationship between its own research facilities and external organisations. The transfer activity is coordinated by the University Service Centre for Research Enhancement and University Incubator Management (CsaVRI).
Read more on the Strategic Plan (in Italian)
The University of Florence has always paid special attention to the development of collaborative relations with foreign universities and to the internationalisation process, which has become a strategic and dominant aspect of the university's life in research, teaching, organisation of studies, and the mobility of lecturers, researchers and students. It currently has over 500 collaboration agreements with universities in some 95 countries. In 1999, the University of Florence was recognised as a “Jean Monnet European Centre of Excellence” with the aim of coordinating, in cooperation with other university institutions, all activities relating to European integration and disseminating information on these activities in order to promote their development and increase their effectiveness. Study courses leading to double or joint degrees with other universities have also been in place for some time.
The international dimension of the University of Florence can also be felt through the over three thousand foreign students enrolled. More than a thousand European students also spend time in Florence throughout the academic year as part of the Erasmus project. In 2011, the University of Florence received an award from the National Lifelong Learning Programme Agency for its commitment to international mobility through the Erasmus project, in particular with regard to the reception of foreign students.
In the scientific field, the University of Florence plays a leading role among public research institutions, thanks to the activity of its researchers employed in a wide range of disciplinary and scientific fields, as well as its intense participation in research programmes of national and international relevance and the significant scientific results achieved.
The five area libraries (Biomedical, Science, Social Sciences, Technology and Humanities) that make up the University Library System provide users with a bibliographic heritage of over 3,541,000 documents consisting of modern and ancient material, on paper (books, periodicals, maps, etc.) and on other media (microforms, audiovisuals, information resources on CD, DVD, etc.).
In addition to the bibliographic treasury located in the library premises, a digital collection is accessible on the web, which can be consulted by all registered users even from PCs outside the university area, represented by different types of material: 88.163 electronic periodicals, 156,968 ebooks, 320 databases, 6,169 documents deposited by the academic community in the university's official repository FLORE.
Students can also access all services provided by the libraries in the Prato University Pole Library; access to catalogues and online resources is guaranteed in the evening (Monday to Friday, 7-11pm) in a classroom with computer stations in Via Alfani in Florence.
There are orientation courses for the use of resources and bibliographic research are dedicated to all users.
The digital publishing service is offered by Florence University Press.
The University of Florence owns the most important natural museum in Italy and one of the most important and oldest in the world: the Natural History Museum. It was founded in 1775 by Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo, but the nucleus of the Botanical Garden dates back as far as 1545. Today it is part of the University Museum System and houses, in locations throughout the city centre, 8 million specimens, including exhibits of extraordinary scientific and naturalistic value: from 16th-century herbaria to precious 18th-century waxes, from fossil skeletons of elephants to collections of multicoloured butterflies, from large tourmaline crystals to Aztec artefacts, from imposing wooden sculptures to the largest flower in the world. A context that admirably combines nature, history, science and art.
The university has sites in various locations throughout the city and even beyond the urban area with the science hub in Sesto Fiorentino and the Empoli and Calenzano sites. Teaching activities are decentralised in Prato and Pistoia.
Since the 2015-2016 academic year, the University of Florence has adopted as its anthem the final part of Johannes Brahms' Academic Festival Overture Op. 80 (listen on YouTube).