Call for 76 places for postgraduate courses (PhD) at the Scuola Normale Superiore for the academic year 2020-2021 (36th cycle).


Excerpt of the Deputy Director Decree no. 6/2020

1. Number of scholarships, subject areas, educational objectives

1.1. The Scuola Normale Superiore (SNS) announces a call for the academic year 2020-2021, based on qualifications and exams, for a total of 76 places for Ph.D. courses in the following subjects and locations:


Philosophy5 places
Italian studies and modern philology6 places
Classics5 places
History5 places
Art History5 places
Physics6 places
Mathematics6 places
Computational methods and mathematical models for sciences and finance7 places
Methods and models for molecular sciences4 places
Nanosciences5 places1 of which with a specific topic and site in collaboration with the Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1 (UCBL)
Neuroscience5 places
Astrochemistry (joint course with the Università degli studi di Napoli Federico II)4 places


Political Science and Sociology9 places
Transnational Governance (joint course with the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna of Pisa)4 places

1. 2.  Additional places in collaboration with external institutions may be made available for this call before the deadline for submission of applications.
1. 3.  All successful candidates will be awarded scholarships and additional resources for their study and research activities as specified in article 6 below; enrolment and attendance on the courses are free of charge.
  • 1.4  The Ph.D. scholarships envisaged in this call may have as their object the development of specific research topics, for which particular skills are required which will be assessed by the selection commissions according to the provisions of subsequent article 4. These scholarships specify that a significant part of the research activity be carried out at the funding institution. The particular modalities of the course, the topics and the conditions of the scholarships, which the candidates must respect, are published on the following page least one postgraduate scholarship will be awarded with reference to the research areas on the topics of the 2030 UN Sustainability Agenda.
  • 1.5  For each Ph.D. course, one place is reserved for candidates who have obtained a qualification valid for admission to the call at non-Italian universities. Reserved places not assigned owing to a lack of suitable candidates can be made available with the sliding of the relevant classification.
  • 1.6  Further admissions to the courses are possible based on specific agreements funded by international institutions; these admissions are managed in excess of the present call and are governed by the provisions of each agreement.
  • 1.7  The Ph.D. courses have a duration of four years. All courses will start on 1 November 2020.
  • 1.8  The teaching activities of the courses are in English; the courses in “Philosophy”, “Science of antiquity”, “Italian Studies and modern philology”, “History” and “Art History” are held in Italian and English.
  • 1.9  The call is aimed at assessing, through evaluation of qualifications and of a research project and with an oral examination, the candidate’s preparation, talent, motivations and aptitude for scientific research.
  • 1.10  Candidates’ admission to the oral examination is based on evaluation of qualifications and of a research project written in Italian or English (maximum limit about 20,000 characters, including spaces). The research project must enable the assessment of the candidate’s scientific interests and their adherence to the scientific lines promoted by the SNS, but does not influence the subsequent choice of the thesis topic. The project must demonstrate the candidate’s full knowledge of the state of the art in the particular sector, as well as mastery of the research methodologies within the subject; it must also include an adequate bibliography.
  • 1.11  The courses are divided into lectures, seminars and research activities: the teaching programmes, geared to the individual student, are intended to broaden the students’ cultural base and to prepare them for research activity with the aim of achieving a particularly high specialization in the scientific field. The students of the courses carry out their studies according to plans approved annually and may be authorized, possibly with a specific financial contribution, to spend periods of study and research in other highly qualified Italian and non-Italian university and scientific institutions. At the end of the course, with the fulfilment of the required obligations, the student obtains the title of Philosophiæ Doctor (Ph.D.).
  • 1.12  In accordance with D.M. No. 45 of 8 February 2013, Ph.D. courses can be activated only after accreditation, or if the accreditation requirements are deemed valid by the Ministry of Education, University and Research and by the ANVUR. Therefore, after the publication of the merit ranking, the SNS will be able to enroll the successful candidates only if the accreditation for the 36th cycle has been received.

2. Admission requirements

  1. 2.1  The Scuola particularly welcomes applications for admission from young candidates who are highly motivated towards research.
  2. 2.2  The application can be submitted by students with any citizenship and by those who have a master’s degree or an equivalent non-Italian qualification. Applicants who plan to obtain the

qualification required for admission by October 31, 2020 can also apply: if the application is successful, failure to obtain the qualification by that date will invalidate admission. The eligibility of the foreign qualification is ascertained, for the sole purpose of selection, by the call commission in compliance with the regulations in force in Italy and in the country where the qualification was issued and with the international treaties or agreements regarding the recognition of qualifications for the continuation of studies.2.3  The essential requirements for admission to the call are the following: a) to have been born after 31 October 1988;b) to have no convictions that have been res judicata for a term of imprisonment of more than three years;c) not to have been subject to “expulsion”, a disciplinary sanction provided for in the educational regulations of the SNS;d) not to be in possession of a Ph.D. qualification issued by an Italian university, and in any case not to have benefited from a scholarship to attend a Ph.D. programme in Italy.

2.4  Admission tests may be taken in Italian or English; the admission test to the courses in “Methods and models for molecular sciences”, in “Political science and sociology” and in “Transnational Governance” can be taken only in English; the candidate’s level of knowledge of the Italian language and of the English language must be stated in the application by referring to the EUROPASS table ( cefr).

3. Participation in the selections

  1. 3.1  Selections will take place in two sessions: in spring and in autumn. The application must be registered online through the electronic procedure that is activated in the section dedicated to the call on the SNS website at by:
    •   11:59 pm (CET) of Thursday, 27 February, 2020, for the spring session;
    •   11:59 pm (CEST) of Thursday, 27 August, 2020, for the autumn session.Applications registered by the system after the aforementioned deadlines will not be taken into consideration, regardless of the cause of the delay.We recommend you check you have received the notification via e-mail regarding the completion of the application; the SNS is not responsible for any online application not properly completed by candidates.The SNS is not responsible for any malfunctions due to technical problems and / or overload of the communication line and / or of the application systems; candidates are therefore invited not to wait until the last days before the deadline for submission of applications.The SNS is not responsible for any loss of mail due to incorrect information relating to the candidate’s address or due to delayed communication of change of address in the application, nor for any errors attributable to third parties, accidents or force majeure.
  2. 3.2  In the application candidates must indicate the course – or the courses – for which they intend to apply, in addition to general information, addresses and phone numbers, and the possession of the requirements.
  3. 3.3  Candidates interested in one or more of the scholarships with specific research topics and sites referred to in Article 1.4 above must state their option during the application phase, but are also candidates for the other scholarships of the course.
  1. 3.4  The candidate must also state the name and email address of at least two scholars, to whom the SNS will request a reference letter to support the application. The absence of reference letters does not constitute a reason for exclusion from the application procedure.
  2. 3.5  Candidates must attach the following documents in PDF format to the application:
    1. a)  a copy of a valid identity document (for citizens of countries not belonging to the European Union it is preferable to attach a copy of their passport, with reference to the pages with photograph, personal details, number, place and date of issue);
    2. b)  a curriculum vitae et studiorum written in the Europass-CV format, available at the following web site: instructions
    3. c)  the master’s degree thesis, including an abstract written in English (maximum limit about 15,000 characters, including spaces); candidates who have not completed their master’s degree by the application deadline are required to submit an extended abstract in Italian or English (maximum limit about 25,000 characters, including spaces); the extended abstract is also mandatory if the thesis is written in a language other than Italian or English;
    4. d)  the diploma supplement or other equivalent documentation relating to the exams taken and the degree results obtained; citizens of countries not belonging to the European Union and who are not regularly residing in Italy must attach a certification attesting to the possession of the qualification, the date on which the latter was obtained, the university that issued it and the final results; candidates who have obtained their qualification in countries not belonging to the European Union must attach a certificate relating to their qualification translated into English if the original is in a different language;
    5. e)  a copy of any publications;
    6. f)  the research project as described in article 1.10 of this call (maximum limit about 20,000 characters, including spaces) including an abstract in English (maximum limit about 3,000 characters, including spaces).
      A separate research project must be submitted for each course for which you intend to apply; candidates who choose the option for one or more specific scholarships with specific research topics referred to in Article 1.4 may, in addition, produce separate research projects for each of them.
    The attachments must be written in English or Italian; if attachments are submitted in a different language, they must include, under the responsibility of the candidate, a translation into Italian or English.
  3. 3.6  Candidates applying in the spring session who, after a positive evaluation of the qualifications, have not passed the oral examination may submit an application to repeat this test in the autumn session. All candidates not selected in the spring session may submit a new application with additional qualifications for assessment in the autumn session
  4. 3.7  Candidates are admitted with reserve and exclusion from the call due to lack of requirements can be arranged by the person in charge of the application procedure, at any time during the procedure. Exclusion from the call and the reasons for the exclusion will be communicated to the candidate in question.

4. Evaluation of qualifications and tests

admitted to the oral examination. In order to pass the oral exam candidates must obtain at least thirty points. Candidates must pass the oral exam in order to enroll in the postgraduate course.

  1. 4.2  In the evaluation of qualifications, the latter are considered as a whole.
  2. 4.3  The tests take place at the SNS according to the following schedule:
    •   spring session: the oral tests are held from Monday, March 23, 2020;
    •   autumn session: the oral tests are held from Monday, September 21, 2020.
  3. 4.4  The outcome of the evaluation of qualifications and admission to the oral test for the spring session are announced by Friday, March 13, 2020. The outcome of the evaluation of qualifications and the admission to the oral test for the autumn session are announced by Monday, September 14, 2020.
  4. 4.5  The commissions must complete their task by Thursday, April 23, 2020 for the spring session and by Wednesday, September 30, 2020 for the autumn session.
  5. 4.6  Candidates must attend the oral examination with a valid identification document. Failure to take the test, whatever the reason, means exclusion from the competition.
  6. 4.7  Candidates who are not resident in Italy, or who have residency or domicile abroad for documented reasons of work, study or research, can take the test online, with procedures that guarantee the identification of the candidates and the public nature of the test. The selection commission will decide whether or not other candidates who request it can take the test online. The test can be held in Italian or English; the tests for the courses in “Methods and models for molecular sciences”, “Transnational Governance”, and in “Political science and sociology” take place exclusively in English.
  7. 4.8  For admission to the humanities courses the commissions will verify during the examination that the candidates’ level of Italian language is adequate to enable a successful participation in the study and research activities envisaged by the course. For the non-Italian students admitted, Italian language courses at different levels will be available.
  8. 4.9  The list of candidates admitted to the oral examination and the results of the evaluation of the qualifications will be published, together with the date and time of the tests, on the SNS website and on the SNS official online register. Inclusion in the list of admitted candidates means that the interested parties should attend the test on the day and time indicated without further notice.
  9. 4.10  The admissions commission, on the basis of the evaluation of the qualifications, the research programme and the results of the oral examination, declares the suitability of the candidates and arranges them in descending order of ranking.
  10. 4.11  In the courses that envisage scholarships with specific research topics and sites, after assessing the qualifications and the oral exam the commissions will create distinct lists, one for each of the scholarships with specific research topics and one for all the others. For the assigning of the places reserved in accordance with art. 1.5 of the call herein, specific-theme scholarship classifications are not drawn upon.
  11. 4.12  In the event that two or more candidates obtain the same results at the end of the exam, the youngest candidate is placed first in the ranking. The results will be published on the SNS website and on the SNS official online register; this publication fulfils the obligation to publicize the documents.
  12. 4.13  Candidates who (after positive evaluation of their qualifications) take the tests, will be reimbursed for documented travel expenses for an amount higher than 50 euros and up to a maximum of 350 euros for candidates resident in Italy and 700 euros for candidates residing abroad. For the calculation of the reimbursement, the place of departure/ return is considered to be the place of residence or, if this is less costly for the Scuola, the place of actual departure. The request for reimbursement, together with the original travel documentation, including

boarding passes, must be submitted by 15 November 2020. Only travel expenses by rail (2nd class) will be reimbursed, as well as by scheduled bus, ferry or plane (in economy class and if the distance between Pisa and the place of residence is more than 600 km), subject to the application of the 50 euro excess. For applicants residing in Sardinia, reimbursement of air travel expenses is always allowed.

5. Nomination of successful candidates, loss of eligibility and renouncement

  1. 5.1  The Director of the SNS approves the final merit rankings created by the commissions and nominates the successful candidates in accordance with the number of places available.
  2. 5.2  Successful candidates lose their eligibility if they do not accept their place by the deadline set by the SNS.
  3. 5.3  Successful candidates who do not obtain their master’s degree or their non-Italian qualification suitable for admission by October 31, 2020 will lose their eligibility.
  4. 5.4  Successful candidates must submit to the SNS, by the given deadline, the following documentation:
    1. a)  adeclarationofacceptanceoftheregulationsoftheStatuteandoftheregulationsoftheSNS, with exemption from any responsibility of the SNS for the consequences deriving from their non-compliance;
    2. b)  a digital passport-size photo;
    3. c)  certification regarding the details declared in the application, in cases specified by Italian legislation.
    Successful candidates must also provide an email address which can be used by the SNS for activities dedicated to students at the end of their academic career.
  5. 5.5  PhD candidates with a non-Italian qualification who are admitted must produce, at the time of enrolment, the Declaration of Value issued by the relevant Italian diplomatic authorities ( As an alternative, those with a qualification from a country in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) can present the Diploma Supplement.
  6. 5.6  The SNS, in accordance with article 71 of the President of the Republic’s decree No. 445 of 28 December 2000 (Consolidated text of the legislative and regulatory provisions on administrative documentation) and subsequent amendments, reserves the right to verify the veracity of the details declared in the application. Should the latter details be declared not valid, the candidates in question will lose their place.
  7. 5.7  The successful candidates, for social security purposes and in accordance with article 2, paragraph 26 of Law No. 335 of 8 August 1995 and subsequent amendments and additions, will also have to contribute to the “Gestione Separata ” managed by the INPS.
  8. 5.8  The successful candidates are required to submit, at the time of enrolment, a receipt of payment of the regional tax for the Diritto allo Studio Universitario (DSU) or a receipt of the request for exemption from payment from the Azienda Regionale per il Diritto allo Studio Universitario della Toscana. For more information on the regional tax, please visit the website For the academic year 2020-2021 a total refund of the aforementioned tax is payable if actually due and paid; to obtain the reimbursement, the students must fulfil the procedures for exemption as specified by the Azienda Regionale per il Diritto allo Studio Universitario della Toscana, or submit to the SNS the documentation attesting to their economic status (the ISEE certificate) that proves the non-existence of the requirements to obtain exemption.
  9. 5.9  Successful candidates from non-EU countries are required to comply with national and EU

immigration rules and to regularize their position; for this purpose they will be able to refer to the relevant offices of the SNS, who will promptly communicate the details to them.

  1. 5.10  The successful candidates must be present at the SNS for the beginning of the course starting from the date indicated in the nomination notice. Otherwise, in the absence of a request to the SNS for valid reasons, they will be considered as having forfeited their place.
  2. 5.11  In the case of renunciation or forfeiture of a successful candidate, the SNS has the right to proceed with a new assignment of the place within the limit of thirty days from the beginning of the course, following the order of the final ranking of the candidates, as well as the specific lists prepared for the assignment of scholarships with a specific research topic.

6. Ph.D. scholarship and grant

  1. 6.1  The scholarship is paid in twelve deferred monthly instalments of the same amount; the payment is in any case subject to the fulfilment of the student’s study obligations.
  2. 6.2  For the academic year 2020-2021 the scholarship amounts to € 17,000.00 inclusive of a lodging allowance. Students are also entitled to free board at the SNS facilities or affiliated facilities, for the entire duration of the course with the exclusion of academic vacation periods.
  3. 6.3  In place of the scholarship as specified in the preceding paragraph, the successful candidates of the places with a specific topic and site may be given research contracts in the form of research grants or of collaborazione coordinata e continuativa as detailed in the http page:
  4. 6.4  The successful candidates can request to use the lodging allowance, within the limits of availability of the facilities, in the residences of the SNS.
  5. 6.5  In addition to the scholarship, the SNS covers the expenses incurred by course students for formally authorized study and research activities, in Italy and abroad.
  6. 6.6  Non-European Union successful candidates are reimbursed for travel expenses incurred for the start of the course, up to a maximum limit of € 1,000 and upon submission of original and valid travel documents, including boarding passes. They can also submit a motivated request for early payment of the first instalment of the scholarship.
  7. 6.7  Non-European Union students can request, within one year from the conclusion of the course, the reimbursement of expenses incurred for returning to their country of origin, up to a maximum limit of 1,000 euros and upon submission of original and valid travel documents, including boarding passes. This request can also be made by those who do not complete the course due to loss of place, provided that at least one year has elapsed since the beginning of the course.

7. Obligations and rights of students, incompatibilities

  1. 7.1  The status of the students, their obligations and their rights are governed by the Statute and by the regulations of the SNS, in particular by the regulations of the Ph.D. courses.
  2. 7.2  As set out in Article 11 of the Ph.D. courses regulations of the SNS, admission to the course implies an exclusive full-time commitment and is not compatible with employment or self-employment, nor with the exercise of professional activities. However, with the permission of the Ph.D. Board that assesses compatibility with study and research commitments, the following activities and their due compensation are allowed: a) collaboration with newspapers, magazines, encyclopaedias and similar; b) the economic use by the author or inventor of intellectual works and industrial inventions; c) participation in conferences and seminars. On the proposal of the Ph.D. Board, Ph.D. students may be authorized to carry out paid activities limited to those relating to the acquisition of skills related to their field of study.
  1. 7.3  The applicable law on leave or special leave applies to public employees who win a place at the SNS.
  2. 7.4  Attendance on SNS postgraduate courses is incompatible with simultaneous enrolment in degree courses, specialization courses, postgraduate courses and master courses or other doctorate courses in Italy or abroad except in cases of specific international agreements. Upon nomination, the successful candidates who are enrolled in one of the aforementioned courses must, within fifteen days, regularize their position under penalty of forfeiture.

8. Processing of personal data

  1. 8.1  The EU Regulation 2016/679 on General Data Protection Regulation (hereinafter GDPR) is applicable to the candidates’ personal data processing.
  2. 8.2  The Data Controller of the personal data provided by the interested parties is the Scuola Normale Superiore, a public university institute, located in Piazza dei Cavalieri, 7 Pisa – 56126, in the person of the Director and pro tempore legal representative.
  3. 8.3  Personal data will be collected by the Scuola as part of the selection/admission procedure of candidates and processed for the completion of the latter as well as, for the successful candidates, the subsequent management of the students’ career and for all related activities.
  4. 8.4  Personal data are processed to perform tasks of public interest within the institutional activities of the Scuola, including the purposes of archiving, historical research and analysis for statistical purposes. Personal data will be processed, also with automated tools (software and databases administered by the Scuola and hosted by the contracting entities SERSE and CINECA), in compliance with the principles of accountability, lawfulness, correctness, minimization, transparency, integrity, accuracy, confidentiality and proportionality.
  5. 8.5  The collected personal data will be communicated or transferred to third parties (public and / or private parties) in the context of institutional relations, for the fulfilment of legal obligations or regulations or of contracts, within the services required by the Scuola (placements, tutoring, access to facilities, etc.).
  6. 8.6  The collected personal data may be communicated or transferred to established parties in third countries, only if suitable data protection guarantees and conditions have been ascertained.
  7. 8.7  The collected personal data will be published on the official online register and on the Scuola’s institutional website if specified by the law and other regulations of the Scuola.
  8. 8.8  The collected personal data will be processed and stored for the time strictly necessary to achieve the purposes for which they have been collected, with the application of the regulations concerning documentation storage by public institutions.
  9. 8.9  The data subject may at all times exercise the following rights:
    • –  access to personal data, in the cases and in the ways referred to in art. 15 of the GDPR;
    • –  the rectification, erasure or restriction of the processing of personal data, in the cases and ways referred to in Articles 16-18 of the Regulations; erasure is not permitted for the data included in the documents that must be kept by the Scuola;
    • –  the portability of data, in the cases and in the ways referred to in art. 20 of the GDPR;
    • –  to object to the processing, under article 21 of the GDPR;
    • –  the right to submit a complaint to the Italian Data Protection Authority.The aforementioned rights may be exercised by sending a request by email to [email protected] or via certified e-mail (PEC) at [email protected] For any further information, please contact the Data Protection Officer (DPO), email: [email protected]

9. Final provisions and referral, information

9.1.The Head of the Teaching and students Service of the SNS is also responsible for the administrative procedure of the call.

9.2. For anything not specified in this call, the provisions of the Statute and of the regulations of the SNS are valid, and are available on the institutional website

9.3. This call will be published on the website, on the European Euraxess website and on the MIUR website.

9.4.For information, interested parties can consult the web page, or contact:

  • –  for the Ph.D. courses based in Pisa, the staff of the Student Office: [email protected], Mario Landucci, +39 050 509237, Silvia Zappulla, +39 050 509685.
  • –  for the Ph.D. courses based in Florence, the Academic activities Service of the Polo Fiorentino:[email protected], Serenella Bertocci 055 2673317, Michela Cappellini 055 2673319, Rossella Mondani 055 2673318.


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