BackgroundIn the last decade academic stress and its mental health implications amongst university students has become a global topic. The use of valid and theoretically-grounded measures of academic stress in university settings is crucial. The aim of this study was to examine the factorial structure, reliability and measurement invariance of the short student version of the effort-reward imbalance questionnaire (ERI-SQ).MethodsA total of 6448 Italian university students participated in an online cross-sectional survey. The factorial structure was investigated using exploratory factor analysis and confirmatory factor analysis. Finally, the measurement invariance of the ERI-SQ was investigated.ResultsResults from explorative and confirmatory factor analyses showed acceptable fits for the Italian version of the ERI-SQ. A modified version of 12 items showed the best fit to the data confirming the 3-factor model. Moreover, multigroup analyses showed metric invariance across gender and university course (health vs other courses).ConclusionsIn sum, our results suggest that the ERI-SQ is a valid, reliable and robust instrument for the measurement of stress among Italian university students.