Survey on foreign PhDs in Italy

Survey on foreign PhDs in Italy

fRDB Research Project

18 June 2009

The survey was carried out by the Fondazione Ing. Rodolfo Debenedetti between April and May 2009. The survey involved 41 Italian universities, accounting for about 91% of PhD students in Italy. We received 451 responses, roughly 18% of the total number of foreign PhDs in Italy.

A second group of questionnaires was also administered to foreign BIEM students at Università Bocconi (the BIEM is an undergraduate degree taught in English with an high percentage of foreign students compared to other Bocconi’s programs).

The questionnaire included questions concerning:

  • Demographic information on foreign PhD/BIEM students
  • Motivation for studying in Italy
  • Compliance with immigration rules and bureaucracy: costs, time invested, problems faced
  • Interactions with the university system


A first draft of the results on foreign PhD students in Italy was presented at the annual European Conference of the Fondazione Ing. Rodolfo Debenedetti, “Brain Drain and Brain Gain”, on May 23th in Pisa.

Here we attach:

Our suggestions

Our suggestions on how to attract foreign “talents” in Italy:

  • The permit of stay should lasts as long as the study programme
  • Selective immigration policy (point system)
  • Foreign students with an Italian degree will gain more “points”…
  • Universities should be free to choose their foreign students based on cv and qualifications (why should administrative authories be better?)

The dataset

The dataset (with the codebook of the variables) and the questionnaire are now available for the researchers in this web page.

Data are password protected: in order to obtain free access to this database, users are kindly required to ask for them by writing to (specifying the research purposes).