Italy has the second lowest percentage of university graduates in the European Union, as Eurostat statistics showed.
Just over one in four Italians (26.2 %) aged between 30 and 34 has completed a university degree, a figure only outdone in Romania, where it was 25.6 %.
However, the figure for Italy had almost doubled since 2002, when it stood at 13.1 %.
Across the European Union as a whole, the %age of people with university-level education stood at 39.1 %, up from 23.6 % in 2002. Lithuania topped the table, with 58.7 %, followed by Luxembourg (54.6 %) and Cyprus (53.4 %).
In line with an EU-wide trend, women in Italy are significantly more likely to complete a university degree than their male counterparts, with 32.5 % doing so compared to 19.9 % of men.
Italy also saw a high rate of early school leavers, with only four countries performing worse. With 14 % of Italians not having reached a secondary level of education, Italy had reached its country target for 2016, but remains a long way off the EU average of 10.7 %.
EU countries are aiming for 40 % of 30-34-year-olds to have university degrees by 2020, by which time they also hope that more than 90 % will have completed secondary education.