Marco Polo Program (officially Marco Polo and Turandot Program) was launched in 2006 by the CRUI, the Conference of Italian University Rectors, in response to an official request by the President of Italy.
The Program was conceived in order to increase the number of Chinese students enrolled in the Italian universities, with its first step being represented by the signing of the agreement protocol Sei Azioni per l’Università, la Ricerca e l’Innovazione between CRUI and the Italian Employers’ Federation Confindustria in 2004. The agreement specifically addressed the reinforcement of the scientific cooperation between Italy and Asia.
The concept of the Program was to create a preparatory course of Italian language and culture for Chinese students willing to enroll in any Italian university, in order to provide them with the knowledge needed to attend classes in L2.
Marco Polo Program in Pavia
Since the first step in 2006 a number of prestigious Italian universities have opened their Marco Polo Program divisions. The University of Pavia started its own Program since the very first year in March 2007, offering a top-level, six-month full immersion teaching program with classes taught entirely in Italian by highly qualified personnel. The teaching program, which has been tested through the years, includes grammar, phonetics and speaking classes, as well as a course on Italian culture and a specific test-training course designed to help students prepare the final exams.
Prospective students are recruited throughout the year, in particular during the recruiting window open from September to January. Students willing to enroll must sign a learning agreement outlining the Marco Polo Program Policies. They are also asked to communicate well in advance the name of the Italian university at which they want to study.
At the end of the six-month program the students are expected to take at least one of two final exams: the first exam is the CILS Certificate, level B1(Certificato di Italiano come Lingua Straniera) which is issued by the Foreigners University of Siena and administered in Pavia by the Marco Polo Program. This exam is mandatory for those students who wish to leave Pavia to get their Bachelor’s Degree or Master’s Degree. The second exam is the Marco Polo Official Exam, level B1, which is mandatory for those students who wish to enroll in Pavia. Students may decide to take both exams at their complete discretion.
The 2014 edition of the Marco Polo Program was the eight edition launched by the University of Pavia. It set the new record for students enrolled, with 191 new prospective students (breaking the 2013 record of 94). Many of the students who successfully took part in the past editions have already completed their studies. In some cases they were able to obtain prestigious posts at major firms. Xu Danyi, for instance, enrolled for the 2007 edition of the Marco Polo Program and now she is about to defend her MA thesis in Psychology. Zhai Dongdong, who graduated in Economics in 2008, is currently employed at a famous company in Milan. Not to mention Song Daren and Wang Xian, who attended our courses in 2007 and graduated in Communication and Economics respectively. These are just a couple of examples of Chinese students who realized their dreams by choosing the Italian language courses offered by the University of Pavia.
The 2015 edition of the Program represents a new beginning for Marco Polo and Turandot, as a new agreement between the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China and the Ministry of Education of Italy has extended the Italian language course to eight months. The University of Pavia currently hosts 243 Chinese students attending classes every day from Monday to Friday, with extra-curricular activities on Saturdays.