image of one of the buildings of the university of pavia

UniGuide: University of Pavia – Harvey Medical Course

The University of Pavia is one of the world’s oldest academic institutions, with its foundations existing as early as the 9th Century. It was the Longobard capital from 568-774, and its fascination remains intact with the centre’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 students and 1800 international students are currently subscribed to courses held at the University of Pavia. 

Here’s the exact position of the scientific area’s structures.

International Medical School

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 programme of study and extensive practical training in the renowned Pavia clinics and their research laboratories. This includes a rigorous and practical seminar programme provided by Harvey’s carefully selected local and international lecturers consisting of top-of-the-line clinicians, professors and scientists.

The course was thought not just to teach the medical profession, but also to 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 foreign students living abroad

These numbers may change in the following years.



The main structures of the Harvey course are located in Taramelli-Forlanini street (various departments are found there) and Adolfo Ferrata street (the structure is called ‘Nave’ due to its shape similar to that of a huge ship, and it will host the first year’s lectures in the dedicated Harvey Hall), easily reachable from the city centre in a short time through the ‘Autoguidovie’ bus lines 3, 7 and others (all students in Pavia pay only 20 euros per year for a full public transport subscription, the offer is called UNIPASS!).

In the picture, you can see the structure called ‘Nave’, found in Adolfo Ferrata Street, where the first year’s lectures will be held. Link for its exact location. The two locations mentioned appear as centres for many other faculties other than medicine.

In terms of practical medical training (that starts in the third academic year), the main 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 closeby.


Educational Plan

Almost each of the six academic years is divided into the first and second semester. 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 thesis and practical activity rather than to theoretical exams  

The educational plan is organised in 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 of “Functions of the Body” (year 2) and “Systemic Pathology” (year 3).

Attendance to lectures is mandatory, as declared in the regulations, and is managed in different ways 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 by the multitude of colleges (or other societies) existing in Pavia. Additional cultural initiatives are also 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 give an important additional cultural yield to the medical student. Generally, these activities are available also for the student that lives out of the college’s community.  

Other than these opportunities, few elective courses could be chosen by the student during the career.

  • 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 in the fourth year, students must have passed all exams from year 3.

Defaulting students will be evaluated case by case by the HTC (Harvey Teaching Committee).

Harvey students are required to know at least a basic level of Italian language by year 3, in which they will 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, starting from October to January, then from February to June.

Here the official complete Harvey course regulations!


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 first year’s lectures will be held at the Harvey Hall.

The year structures in this way:


  • Basic sciences (10 CFU), a pre-term course lasting 4 weeks and characterised by the modules of:
      • Chemistry (5 CFU): Exam made of MCQs + open questions about drawing or recognising formulae
      • Medical physics (5 CFU): 25 MCQs exam.
  • Essay writing techniques (1 CFU): it will teach basic writing techniques covering topics such as 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 question 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): Basically included in the exam of medical statistics.
      • Medical Statistics (Laboratory + Statistics A + Statistics B) (4 CFU): Exam made 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 musculoskeletal system and neuroanatomy. If you get 27 or more, you could choose to 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): Supposed to be an MCQs 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 may be in need, here the exam lists by year.


Pros and cons


  • The English language is the pivot of international medical and scientific research. Which better way 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 student 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 in contact with different cultures, traditions  
  • It is more common than the Italian course to be part of a smaller class small allowing for an easier approach to professors
  • Cooperation between the different years classes provides the student with every information for what concerns exam modalities, resources for study, examination dates etc.
  • University and colleges events promote contacts between different years medical students
  • In the first year, the secretary office is close to the classroom where lectures will be held (Adolfo Ferrata street 5). Except that being available even without an appointment, the secretary online chat provides prompt responses and help
  • The English degree is equivalent to the Italian one; they are equally recognised both in Italy and in 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
  • The yearly urban bus transport costs only 20 Euros for Pavia’s students. It is a very efficient transport system! (UNIPASS)
  • 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 tickets price cost only 4 euros!)
  • The Ticino river is full of green forests, fields and beaches. Campfires, trips and relaxing moments are at your hand!
  • Colleges and medical societies (like Harvey MedSoc or Gruppo KOS) offer, during every academic year, free-access cultural initiatives that will significantly enrich your medical knowledge from both a theoretical and practical view
  • Entering a college would not only enrich your curriculum, given the prestige of some of them, but will also ensure to be in continuous contact with new students and (who knows) maybe to build strong relationships!
  • Colleges organise yearly huge parties as they compete between them. You should not miss even one of them!
  • 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.


  • 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 canteens map!


Studying Abroad

The University offers more than 400 International partnerships, and 700 Erasmus exchange agreements are already available!

All of the possibilities could be consulted right here!


Bureaucracy and Secretary’s office

  • Medicine and Surgery main Secretary: Ferrata street n.5, Tel. (Informastudenti) 0382/989898, for email contact and appointments:

A direct secretary contact:



First of all, if you are an international student, check this guide about pre-enrolment for getting every step needed before the official enrollment, and this page about the EXTRA-EU student’s steps to be done before taking the IMAT test.

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 instruction and proceed to the enrollment. There is an additional procedure for international students, which must personally deliver different documents, depending on their diploma, to the International Students Office. For further information: International students enrolling in single courses.

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.

requirements for permit of stay requisites for international enrolment



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 having passed IMAT. Transferring also depends on the number of places available, which vary according to the number of withdrawal 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 from 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 exams 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 that went through these processes about their personal experiences and opinions!

For further information about transfer: Transfer to the Harvey Course.



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 contribution and services, including a free meal/day at the canteens, exemption from paying the 3rd fee instalment, and free accommodation in an EDiSU college. The grant amount depends on students’ economic condition and geographical origin.

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

Main website for more information: EDISU



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

For more information: Accommodations



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.

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».