by Greg Kotkowski

The university of Padova is one of the oldest universities in Europe and I’m proud to be its member. It was established in 1222 and the heritage of this almost 800 year long history is visible everywhere. However in the nearby region there are universities in Bologna, Parma or Modena with even longer history.

I was curious how the education system in Italy was developing over the time. Certainly I could visit the Department Historical Sciences in Padova and ask the professors but it is much more fun for me to download the real data and put my own hands on it.

I found the appropriate dataset listing all the Italian universities with the approximate year of establishment, headquarter city and recent number of students. If none of the universities was omitted in the data, there exist 91 school across the country.

For first let me draw a plot of number of schools among the years (under strong assumption that all established academias survived till now). The result is presented on a figure 1. I was surprised by the exponential growth of new institutions in the 20th century. Certainly it was an answer for the growing demand on higher education and the change from the agricultural to industrial economy.


I also wanted to present the appearances of new institutions on the map across the time. For this purpose I used ggmap package in R and Google Maps. I produced in a loop single pictures of all the universities that existed in the given year and consequently all the maps were chained to produce a gif. I hope it shows properly the reach part of history of Italian higher education.


For details how to produce similar graphics in R I recommend this blog article  and simple converter to produce gifs from pngs images . Please leave your comment and suggestions about this simple analysis.