Why should I study in Switzerland?

The country of beautiful mountains, cheese, and chocolate...

How to Study in Switzerland

Switzerland is located in Europe and landlocked by 5 countries. There are 4 language communities in Switzerland, German, French, Italian and Rhaeto-Romanic is the first language in some smaller parts of the country.

The Swiss Higher Education System

In Switzerland, there are 10 state universities, 2 federal universities, 8 universities of applied sciences and 17 universities of teachers’ education. While all these types award Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, only universities are entitled to award doctorates.

As usual in the European Higher Education Area, the degree structure is three-tiered for the overwhelming part of subjects/programmes: Bachelor’s, Master’s and doctoral degrees.

Switzerland’s Higher Education System in International Comparison

As shown in the table below, Swiss Higher Education Institutions clearly score above average in 4 out of 5 U-Multirank dimensions, i.e.  Research, International Orientation, Knowledge Transfer and Regional Engagement .

National performance: Switzerland

Percent of all Universities 100% 80% 60% 40% < below Average above > 40% 60% 80% 100% Teaching & Learning 23% 37% Research 18% 71% Knowledge Transfer 29% 62% International Orientation 19% 72% Regional Engagement 26% 54%

How much does it cost to study in Switzerland?

Tuition fees in Switzerland may vary between 400 and 10,000 CHF per and depend on the university, canton and whether you are an EU citizen or not. Some universities charge slightly higher tuition fees for international students. For practically all universities, you may pay between CHF 500 and CHF 2,000 per semester. Note that there can be smaller additional fees: registration fee; examination fee; semester fee; fee for social and cultural institutions, university sports, use of library; fee for students association, etc.

Addition of information on fees and financial support

Source: Eurydice 
Reference year(s): 2020/2021

Fees

In this section we highlight the fees for studying in Switzerland. The fees are shown in the national currency and address all fee types: tuition, enrolment (part- or full-time, etc.), certification, or other administrative costs. Students that are exempt from fees are also described, as well as information on international student fees if they differ.

  • In principle, all students (first- and second-cycle) pay fees. Higher education institutions define their own fees. Fees usually comprise fees for administration (admission, registration and certification) and tuition. There may be additional contributions for examinations, libraries, sport facilities, and social and cultural institutions.
  • International students: some higher education institutions charge higher fees for students from EU and beyond.

Source: Eurydice - National Student Fees and Support Systems in European Higher Education – 2020/21.

Financial Support

In this section we highlight the financial support system implemented in Switzerland. The types of support covered in this section include: grants, loans, tax benefits for students' parents (or students themselves) and family allowances.  How these terms are defined, are outlined below:

  • Grants are provided in the national currency and are differentiated between merit-based and need-based (or universal, where applicable). All main public financial support that does not need to be paid back is included, with the exception of grants for study abroad (i.e. mobility grants). Information is also presented on the proportion of students (in the short, first and second cycle) who receive grants.
  • Loans: information focuses on the existence of a student publicly-subsidised loan system and the percentage of students that take out a loan. Information on the interest rate and modalities for the repayment of loans may also be provided.
  • Tax benefit is any tax relief that is granted to parents whose child is a higher education student or to students themselves. The information aims to cover the amount of the tax relief, how it can be claimed and who is eligible to apply.
  • Family allowances for students' parents: this part provides information on their amount and the eligible population.
  • Each canton has its own regulations for the provision of grants and loans to students resident in Switzerland (decentralised system). In all cantons, the amount granted depends on the financial situation of the applicant and his/her family.
  • In addition to cantonal legislation, the Intercantonal Grant and Loan Agreement defines common principles and minimum standards (e.g. criteria for eligibility, minimum amount for a full grant) for the cantonal provision of student support.
  • Support in the form of need-based grants or loans or a combination of both is provided. The age limit may not be lower than 35 years of age at the beginning of the programme (minimum national standard, cantons may set higher age limits). The majority of beneficiaries only receive grants. In 2019/20, 6.7% of first-cycle and 1.5% of second-cycle students received a grant, and 0.8% and 0.4% of students in the two cycles respectively received a loan. During the same year, the most common loan was CHF 7,100, while the most common grant was CHF 8,900.
  • Some higher education institutions have their own funds for supplementary support of students. Students can only apply if they already have applied for cantonal grants/loans.
  • Parents who financially support their student-child can deduct CHF 6 500 from their taxable income at federal level. At the cantonal level, eligibility and amounts of tax benefits for students’ parents vary.
  • A family allowance of at least CHF 250 per month for families of 16-25 year-olds in education is disbursed. The cantons may grant family allowances that are higher than this legal minimum.

What are the entry requirements for Swiss Universities?

To study in Switzerland on a Bachelor’s programme you need a secondary school certificate that qualifies you for higher education (Maturität). In order to study at Master’s degree level, you are required to hold a Bachelor’s degree. Medical programmes and programmes with limited capacities are regulated more restrictively. All universities are autonomous in terms of admission. Most of them require that you sit a screening test.

In French-speaking parts of Switzerland you need a proof of your knowledge of the French language.

You are an EU-28 / EFTA national without gainful employment stays up to 90 days within a six-month period do not require authorisation. For longer stays, you have to register with the competent CANTONAL AUTHORITY and apply for a residence permit for non-working persons (they might charge a fee). The registration has to be done 14 days after arrival at the latest. The corresponding residence permit will remain valid for the duration of your studies, or for one year, and you may apply for annual renewals until you have completed your studies, providing the requirements are fulfilled. Don’t forget to apply for an extension of your permit at the latest two weeks before expiry of the authorization. … a non-EU 28 / EFTA national without gainful employment. Before entering Switzerland, you must apply for a visa with the Swiss diplomatic/consular mission in your country of residence. Please note that it takes at least 8 weeks for a visa to be issued (cost: 60 Euro). You cannot study in Switzerland on a tourist visa.

How to get a Scholarship in Switzerland?

No matter the reason, paying high tuition fees can be a source of stress for many. However, there are many options for financing your studies, including the use of scholarships. There are various scholarship opportunities available for international students looking to study in Switzerland. Depending on your country of origin and the level of studies, there are different options for funding. To explore what scholarship options are available, check this scholarship database.

Do I need a Student Visa for Switzerland?

EU/EEA/Swiss citizens are not required to obtain a visa, but need to register with the local immigration authorities (Fremdenpolizei) within a week of their arrival. These authorities will provide you with a student residence permit.

Generally, all non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens must first acquire a certificate of enrolment at a higher education institution in Switzerland. After that, you need to apply for a student residence permit (long-term national D visa). If you are planning to work in Switzerland you may work 15 hours per week during term-time or full-time in holidays. However, this is only possible after you have lived in the country for at least 6 months.

Top Student Cities in Switzerland

 

How do Swiss Universities fare in U-Multirank?

  1. In total, the 2020 edition of U-Multirank includes 14 institutions from Switzerland – an almost full coverage of Swiss public universities, presenting data on 11 out of 13 public universities.
  2. In a global perspective, Swiss higher education institutions perform very strongly in U-Multirank’s Research, Knowledge Transfer and International Orientation dimensions. In all three dimensions two thirds or more of all indicator scores are scored better than average (groups ‘A’ (very good, or ‘B’ (good)).
  3. 10 Universities are ranked into the top group of their research impact (measured by research rate and the percentage of top cited publications). A high number of top scores for Joint-Publications with Industrial Partners (10) and Publications Cited in Patents (9) indicates a strong impact of knowledge transfer of Swiss universities as well.
  4. Eight (8) Swiss universities reached 10 or more top group positions (’A’ scores); the highest numbers being achieved by ETH Zurich (19), EPFL Lausanne (17), the University of Zurich (15), the University of Bern (14), the University St. Gallen (12), the University of Lausanne (12), the University of Basel (11), and University of Fribourg (10).
  5. The ETH Zurich is – as one of nine European universities - listed amongst the global ‘Top 25 Performers’ in Top Cited Publications; the University St. Gallen in Income from Continuous Professional Development.
Switzerland's Higher Education Performance in U-Multirank

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