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The proposal for a female university college to match Pavias illustrious historical colleges was put forward in the 1950s by Pope Paul VI, then Archbishop of Milan, and was accomplished in 1973 on the initiative of the Diocese of Pavia. It was turned into a Foundation in 1991 and placed under the supervision of the Ministry of Education. From the outset, the college has worked towards promoting social understanding and cultural skills, offering students the opportunity to train and develop academic and personal skills both within and outside of their university curriculums, in an atmosphere of cooperation and participation which remain important features of the college community.
The College is one of the founder members of Pavias University School of Advanced Studies (I.U.S.S.) together with the University of Pavia, the University Colleges and the Ministry of Education, University and Research. College students may choose to apply for advanced courses at the Senior University School organized by the I.U.S.S. The College also cooperates with the University and the I.U.S.S. in organizing new, experimental postgraduate programmes. It holds courses from the Advanced School of Integrated Formation (S.A.F.I.) for postgraduates at the University of Pavia as well as lectures in the international Masters in Cooperation and Development.
In addition to interdisciplinary cultural and academic initiatives, which are also open to the public, in 2002/2003 the College launched a university course in Human Progress and Sustainable Development, recognized by all of the Universitys departments and open to all students; during the current academic year (2003/2004) a new course in Comparative Literature and Literary Translation has been launched, accredited by the Universitys Arts and Philosophy Faculty. St. Caterinas college occupies a modern building set in spacious gardens in the historical town centre and is close to the University itself and other university colleges. St. Caterina welcomes Italian and foreign students registered in any of the Universitys faculties and also houses graduates following further study programmes.
It has 85 places (10 of which are reserved for female graduates, scholarship holders, and other postgraduates at the University) awarded on the basis of an entrance exam (one written and two oral tests, depending on the faculty) which is assessed by university lecturers.
To retain a place at the college, students are required to pass the exams for the current year with an average of at least 27/30. Each year the College distributes grants for study trips abroad and plays host to foreign students visiting Pavia on University exchange schemes. Students from low-income backgrounds benefit from reduced fees or are exempt from payment.
Residential services: accommodation in single study rooms with en-suite bathrooms, daily breakfast, lunch and dinner, room cleaning.
Resources and facilities for study and leisure activities: library, computer room, state-of-the-art conference room, spacious garden, newspaper reading room, TV lounge.
Cultural and formative activities: conferences, seminars, internal foreign language and computer courses, tutoring, internal courses and courses accredited by the University of Pavia.