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Borromeo College

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Borromeo College

Coordinates: 45°10′49″N 9°9′40.7″E / 45.18028°N 9.161306°E / 45.18028; 9.161306

Almo Collegio Borromeo
Latin: Almum Collegium Borromaeum
Motto Humilitas
Motto in English Humility
Established 1561
Type Institution for High Cultural Qualification
Rector Don Paolo Pelosi
Students 140 (2011)
Location Pavia, Italy
Affiliations CCULR

L'Almo Collegio Borromeo, recognized by the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research as a "highly qualified Cultural Institute", is the oldest such institution remaining in operation in Italy. Together with Collegio Ghislieri, with which there is goliardic rivalry, it is one of two historic colleges in Pavia that stand out as prestigious institutions of the Lombardy-Veneto area. The building that houses the college was designed by Pellegrino Tibaldi, and overlooks the Ticino, surrounded by landscaped gardens and the Borromeo Gardens. Vasari described it as a "palace of knowledge" ("palazzo per la Sapienza").[1]

The college selects students of the University of Pavia through a rigorous public competition based on tests taken annually.

Collegio Borromeo was founded in 1561 by the estate of St. Charles Borromeo which aimed, through the benefaction, to create an institution capable of accommodating young promising students experiencing economic hardship, which is still the aim of the Fondazione Collegio Borromeo. On May 10, 2009, the Women's Section was opened in the presence of Minister Mariastella Gelmini and Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi; it is intended to accommodate approximately fifty of the most deserving female students from the University of Pavia.

The services offered by the college are not limited to food and housing, but rather are focused on providing training in parallel and integrated with the university: for example, chair in theology, and offering countless moments of reflection, in addition to the ever-rich artistic and musical seasons in the life of the college.


The student rooms are divided according to the sides of the building: "Piazza" ("Square") on the western side, facing Piazza Borromeo, "Giardino" ("Garden") on the south side, "Vicolo" ("Lane") on the north side, looking onto Via Cardinal Tosi. The east side is called "Richini", as it is situated on a seventeenth-century garden designed by Francesco Maria Richini, and houses two auditorium-style rooms ("White Room" and "Mural Room") with private upstairs rooms for guests. The rooms are also divided into several levels: "Mezzanino" (mezzanine), "Nobile" (piano nobile), "Paradiso" (second mezzanine) and "Iperuranio" (attic). Also on the south side are "Sangiovannino alto" and "basso" ("Upper" and "Lower"), saved from the Church of San Giovanni in Borgo before demolition in the nineteenth century.


The admission follows an open, meritocratic competition divided into a variety of assessments; only those who have obtained a minimum score of 80 in their graduation exam may apply for the admissions competition. This competition is now run in conjunction with the Scuola Superiore Studi Pavia IUSS, the School for Advanced Studies, of which the Almo Collegio Borromeo is a founding member and, indeed, the admission test is valid for access to IUSS courses to the extent of space reserved for the College. Nevertheless, it is important to note that the gaining a place at Borromeo does not automatically secure a place in IUSS: although it is not the norm, there are students of Borromeo who are not students of IUSS, as the rankings of the IUSS competition and the Borromeo competition are separate and follow different criteria (distinguishing different classes and thresholds).

The first part of the competition includes a written test administered by the IUSS, divided into the following disciplines: Italian, Latin, History, Philosophy, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry problems were recently introduced. One can choose the track and the exercises regardless of the degree course chosen and can obtain a maximum score of 20 points from this written test. Those obtaining a minimum score of 12 points in the written test are invited to two oral examinations. In these, candidates are tested on the content of their last three years of high school in two subjects of their choice, however relevant to their degree course. The test begins from a topic chosen by the student and listed in the schedule ("tesario"; containing the list of topics to prepare for each discipline). The oral exam can provide up to 60 points, 30 for each interview. Additionally, as part of these tests, the candidate is interviewed by the appropriate college Rector and, in order to gauge the strength of compatible cultural background, he or she has a test of general knowledge and an aptitude interview with a psychologist seeking to determine eligibility for collegiate life. The latter tests have no value for the IUSS competition but contribute 20 points overall towards Borromeo entry. To be eligible, a candidate must achieve the minimum score of 65 points.


To retain their place at the college, students are required to have a university average of at least 27/30, with no scores below 24, and to pass all the exams required by the formal closing of the academic year. The ability to speak at least two foreign languages is required, demonstrated through specific, internationally-recognized certificates. Students must also attend additional courses required by IUSS or, alternatively, take at least two internal courses per academic year.

Recognized internal courses

  • Applied ethics
  • Basic ethics
  • Data mining
  • Dynamic programming, optimal control and applications
  • Environmental ethics
  • Ethics and economics
  • Game theory
  • Music and...
  • Neuroscience
  • New topics in general surgery
  • Pregnancy, diabetes and dialysis
  • Renewable energies
  • Systemic autoimmunity
  • Topics in human physiology
  • Topics in neurophysiology
  • Transportation theory
  • Updates in cellular physiology

Literature and popular culture

Giorgio Vasari, Alessandro Manzoni and Cesare Angelini have given descriptions of the College and the building was used as a film set for Le cinque giornate by Dario Argento and for Liberi, armati e pericolosi by Romolo Guerrieri. It also appeared in the satirical program Laureato by Piero Chiambretti.

Famous alumni

The college has a long list of distinguished alumni across all fields of knowledge. Amongst them are:

In addition, the college hosted the Russian poet Vyacheslav Ivanovich Ivanov between 1926 and 1936, and its Rectors include Cesare Angelini, a leading interpreter of Alessandro Manzoni and Leopoldo Riboldi, Rector perpetuus who, with the donation of 4,200 volumes to the college library, contributed to the establishing of a Faculty of Political Sciences in Pavia, the first in Italy.

Currently, a substantial part of the academic staff at Pavia (around 250 professors, researchers and graduate students) come from the Almo Collegio Borromeo. The current Rector of the University of Pavia and Professor of Physics, Angiolino Stella is a former student of the college.

See also

External links

  • Website
  • Alumni association website


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