The Vita-Salute San Raffaele University was first established in 1996 with the Department of Psychology stemming from the Department of Cognitive Science founded by Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini in 1993. The program follows the general-cognitive and the experimental-clinical lines of thought.
The San Raffaele College and University was fundamentally born as an off-spring of an internationally renowned research hospital structure, where students attend basic research laboratories in many research fields, including neurology, neurosurgery, diabetology, molecular biology, AIDS studies among others. It has expanded since then to include research fields in Cognitive Science and Philosophy. Among the issues that are being studied in this university, beside clinical issues, are: philosophy of science, perception, biolinguistics, generative grammar and vision. San Raffaele University is a private university but all the professors teaching there do have the same status as public university professors and must have undergone a national selection as all other university professors in the country, such as the case of the Università Cattolica or the Bocconi University in Milan.
The Faculty of Medicine and Surgery proposes courses in Medicine and Surgery and in Biotechnology, both with strong scientific connotations, where the students go on ward rounds from their very first year. Moreover, the University Courses in Nursing and in Physiotherapy offer advanced teaching together with intense practical clinical training. In addition to these courses the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University also houses a number of Medical Training Programmes.
From 1999 a new Department has been created: the Department of Philosophy.
A new medical course was commenced alongside the Italian medical course in 2010. The International MD Program at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University has been designed to foster a new kind of doctor. This doctor will possess the necessary human, cultural, and professional values to provide healthcare and share ideas in today’s globalized world. The course is entirely in English and offers an innovative curriculum. Half of the seats are reserved for EU citizens while the other half for Non-EU citizens, making it truly international.
On July 18, 2011, the Italian national newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore published a general ranking of Italian universities. Vita-Salute San Raffaele University was awarded the top placement among Italian private universities.
The University has two student residences on campus; Cascina Melghera and Cassinella.