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Before the pandemic forced our universities to work almost exclusively online, Testpoint had been commissioned to carry out the interesting research we want to tell you about today. It involved interviewing foreign students who attend our universities to understand what prompted them to complete part of their studies in Italy and what criteria they followed in choosing the university.

Foreign students and Italian Universities

We all know that the presence of foreign students in Italy has significantly increased in recent years, and we are not talking about second generation foreigners who attended Italian schools from kindergarten to high school diploma, and who therefore perfectly know our language and our school background.


No, we are referring exactly to foreign students who come to Italy to complete their studies, for a three-year degree, for an Erasmus course of a few months, for a master’s degree or for a doctorate.


What drives them to come to one of our universities? And with what criteria do they choose a city rather than another or a university rather than another?


To find it out, Testpoint interviewed 100 foreign students, 50 in Milan and 50 in Rome, upon leaving different university institutes. These were short personal interviews, lasting about ten minutes, administered in English by bilingual interviewers, because foreign students do not always already speak our language. The interviewers carried out their work on the street, near the universities, with the help of their smartphone in order to be able to access the online questionnaire, simply by connecting to a link.

How the interview was carried out

Let’s hear from two students how the interviews took place. They are Pedro, a 24-year-old Spanish student who is in Rome for his master’s degree in History of Art, and Kathrin, 22, a student of Mathematics, from Estonia who is in Milan to complete her studies with some exams that will allow her to validate her qualification at European level.


“Coming to study in Italy – says Pedro – was my desire from the first year of university. I think that nowhere else I could have deepened my studies as I am doing in Rome. I already speak Italian quite well and I entered the university context. It seemed very interesting to me to be able to participate in this research about the reasons for the choices of foreign students. I was approached by a nice and very kind interviewer after leaving the University: she asked me to dedicate only ten minutes to her. The interview was carried out using a smartphone. She asked me the questions and then simply clicked on the answer that I indicated from time to time “.


“I’m sorry I still don’t speak Italian well – says Kathrin – but I’ve only been in Milan for a few months. The reason that prompted me to undertake a part of my university career here in Milan is that in this way my degree will have a European validity and this will one day open up more job opportunities for me. I was interviewed by an interviewer who spoke English well and this was a great help for me. She asked me about my academic career, why I had chosen Italy and in particular Milan to complete my studies. The interview was carried out with a smartphone from which, through a link, a questionnaire was accessed. The whole thing lasted about ten minutes. I think it can be very useful to know the reasons for the choices of foreign students: this can help to better understand their needs “.