One of the top Italian research centre for applied physics, the Area Science Park located in Trieste, just elected its new president.

The president's CV can be found here: https://ginko.unipg.it/ws/sitopersonale/cv.php?humanid=caterina.petrillo&tipo=EV

By reading it, I discovered she got her Physics degree in 1984, starting in 1985 a post-doc bursary at an Italian institution.

Is it still possible to apply for post-doc bursaries&fundings in Italy without having completed a PhD?

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    You ask two questions in the title, and a third, different question in the body of your post. In which one are you really interested?
    – user116675
    Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 12:38
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    I suspect that, worldwide, there are a lot of top research institutions in which the top person is an effective administrator, not a scientist/researcher. And, conversely, lots of top researchers wouldn't want such a position and might not be very effective in the main task: keeping the lights on.
    – Buffy
    Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 13:08
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    PhD, post-doc etc are just (more or less correct) translation of Anglo titles, which themselves can vary a lot even now even in Anglo-Saxon countries. Most probably she translated a non-tenured research position/fellowship as post-doc equivalent, due to lack of better term.
    – Greg
    Commented Mar 31, 2021 at 5:00
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    academia.stackexchange.com/help/closed-questions "Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once." You have three distinct questions. Commented Mar 31, 2021 at 12:23
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    @EarlGrey I explained what you have to do in the above: edit this post so that it contains just one question, possibly aligned with Federico's answer, so that we can salvage one of the answers. Then, edit one of the other posts (just one) so that it contains the other question. At that point, I'll reopen that one. Commented Apr 6, 2021 at 12:08

2 Answers 2


The doctorate in Italy (dottorato di ricerca) was officially instituted in 1982, and the first courses started in 1983, so it was definitely not a common thing in the 1980s. People even got full professor positions without having one (since it did not exist).

Post-secondary education was not standardized across nations then like it is today; Italian scientists did their first research experiences with other research contracts, 'assistantships' (assistente) and other early-career positions that just weren't formally a PhD and did not end with discussing a thesis.

Regarding that CV, the most likely explanation is that "post-doctoral fellowship" is a liberal translation of the name of the Italian position she held. Note, though, that another non-standard practice of Italian academia is that people can legally be called dottore as soon as they get any university degree, even a 3-year bachelor. (although in the 1980s university degrees came after a single 4- to 6-year course, which was roughly equivalent to a BSc+MSc course with today's standards). So maybe in the eyes of the translator that position was "post-doctoral" because she was already a dottore (although not a dottore di ricerca).

As for your last question, it depends on the exact kind of position, but for instance I think you can still apply for a RTD-A (non-tenure-track assistant professorship) without a PhD [EDIT: not anymore since 2017; thanks @MassimoOrtolano for the correction].

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    It is somewhat noteworthy that one single special-statute institution, the Scuola Normale Superiore, started their equivalent tertiary course, perfezionamento, much earlier than that (I don't know exactly when, but surely as early as 1930). This course is now officially equivalent to a dottorato, since 1989. Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 12:57
  • About your last paragraph: afaik, it is mandatory by law to have the PhD also for RTD-A positions. Probably, the only position where you can apply without a PhD is the assegno di ricerca of type B. Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 14:53
  • @MassimoOrtolano You are right, I have double-checked, and it seems that the PhD requirement has been added in 2017. It used to be possible, though. Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 16:56

About your last question, let me add something to Federico's answer. Unless you are a lawyer, and I'm not one, in Italy it is frequently difficult to properly navigate and understand the constraints imposed by the law but, as far as I understand, both the RTD-A and RTD-B positions1 require a PhD or equivalent title2. These are the current entry points if you want to aim at a tenured position.

Probably the only position that in Italy does not require a PhD is the assegno di ricerca di tipo B (the tipo A, instead, is a post-doc position), which is the typical way used to hire someone who has finished the standard three-year PhD period but hasn't yet defended the title. But if you don't have a PhD, you cannot go beyond this, and this position cannot be turned into a permanent one. Without a PhD you're also quite at risk of not being selected if someone with a PhD applies too.

1See this answer and this one for a more detailed description of these positions.

2If you open a bando (the application rules), you will likely find that the first 1-2 pages just list the relevant laws, decrees and university regulations on which the bando is based, and it's a daunting task to trace back the origin of a certain constraint.

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