The University Colleges of Merit are legally recognized private institutions with purposes of public interest. From a legislative point of view the history of the Colleges starts on August the 31st 1933 with the Royal Decree n. 1592 (Consolidated Law on Higher Education), which established in the art. 191 that "entities and foundations whose aim is the promotion of higher education and the assistance in various forms to study in universities and higher education institutes, are under the supervision of the Ministry of Education." This article was the legal basis for the recognition of the existence of some institutions, including private bodies, which, by statute, had the purpose to widen the access to higher education and to assist students during their university studies. Because of these purposes, these institutions were under the supervision of the Ministry of Education.
The University Reform Law (Law 240/2010), states in art. 5 the objective of supporting the Colleges of Merit, through the definition of a specific regulation, which is the final step of a process that defines the institutional, juridical and administrative role of the Colleges as a tool to improve the quality of the Italian university and to promote merit.
Legislative decree N. 68/2012 defines the University Colleges of Merit as residential structures open to Italian and international students, with a high quality educational offer, pursuing the promotion of merit and interdisciplinary education, ensuring each student a personal development path made of training services, guidance and enrichment of university activities. The decree N. 68/12 defines two kinds of University Colleges: the 'recognized' University College of Merit and 'accredited' the University College of Merit.
The Ministerial decrees 672/16 and 673/13, respectively present process and criteria to be fulfilled to get the status of 'University College of Merit' and than to be recognized and accredited. By decree, the Ministry shall grant recognition to the University Colleges upon request.