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Study in Switzerland

Nine universities in Switzerland are featured in the QS World University Rankings 2018, all of which rank in the top 550.  ETH Zurich and EPFL, both within the global top 15, are joined by five more Swiss universities ranked among the world’s top 200. This is even more impressive when you consider that the population of the entire country is just 8.4 million (for comparison, that’s about the same as that of the US state of Virginia).

As well as having a strong presence in the international ranking tables, universities in Switzerland are also very international in terms of their student and academic communities. Four of the eight ranked Swiss universities make the world’s top 100 for their percentage of international students, and the country also performs well when comparing the percentage of international academic staff members to universities in other countries. The following four universities in Switzerland are all ranked in the world’s top 100:

Switzerland’s highest-ranked university, ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) is currently placed 10th in the world and is the only non-UK European university to rank within the global top 10.  The university was founded in 1855, and is well established as a leader in scientific and technical fields, with connections to an impressive 21 Nobel laureates. Today, more than 19,000 students study at ETH Zurich, studying at two campuses – one in the center of Zurich, and one on the outskirts. In the QS World University Rankings by Subject, ETH Zurich is currently ranked fifth in the world for the engineering and technology broad subject area, and sixth for natural sciences. Teaching at undergraduate level is mainly in German, while most master’s courses are English-led.

The second of the two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology, the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) was established slightly earlier than ETH Zurich, in 1853, and follows close behind in the international rankings tables. It’s placed 12th in the world in the QS World University Rankings 2018, and in the QS World University Rankings by Subject comes 12th for engineering and technology and 11th for natural sciences. Since Lausanne is in a French-speaking part of Switzerland, most courses offered are in French, though there are also some programs in English. About half the size of ETH Zurich, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne currently teaches about 10,500 students.

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With around 25,500 students, the University of Zurich is the largest university in Switzerland, and lays claim to the country’s largest selection of study programs. Currently ranked joint 73rd in the world, it conducts teaching and research across a broader subject spectrum than the more specialized ETH Zurich and EPFL, with facilities spread throughout the city of Zurich. With public outreach at the heart of its mission, the University of Zurich runs an impressive selection of museums, public libraries, collections, events and educational programs, including a “Children’s University” and “Senior Citizens’ University”.

Among both the largest and the oldest universities in Switzerland, the University of Geneva was established in 1559.  It stands at joint 98th in the QS World University Rankings 2018, and is located in Geneva, the second-largest Swiss city after Zurich. It offers undergraduate and postgraduate programs across a broad range of subjects. Teaching at bachelor’s level is mainly in French, while many master’s courses are led in English.

Also ranked among the world’s top universities are the University of LausanneUniversity of BaselUniversity of BernUniversity of St Gallen (HSG) and Université de Fribourg; the first three are all within the global top 200, while the University of St Gallen is 372nd and the Université de Fribourg is new in 2018 at 501-550.


Document Checklist for Study Abroad

  • A signed printout of your application form
  • Two passport photos
  • Copy of identity document
  • Official academic transcript(s) from each university you attended
  • High school diploma or Bachelor's diploma
  • Language proficiency certificates (German/French/English)
  • CV
  • Evidence of payment of the application fee (100 – 150 CHF or 400 CHF for late applications)
  • Personal essay/Motivation letter

Entry Requirements: For the pre-Masters courses, typical entry requirements are at least 3 years of higher education and UKVI IELTS 5.5 (minimum of 5.0 in all skills).

If you do not meet the English language entry level but have at let UKVI IELTS 4.5 (minimum 4.0 in all skills) you can do a course that includes extended English and skills (EES).

Intake: Students may be able to start in spring (January – April), summer (May – August) or autumn (September – November).

    Regular application
  • Fall semester: 1 December – 30 April
  • Spring semester: 1 May – 30 November
  • If a visa for Switzerland is required, following deadlines are recommended
  • Fall semester: 1 December – 28 February
  • Spring semester: 1 May – 30 September

    In some cases, application for PhD candidates have different deadlines:
  • For the fall semester: until October 15
  • For the spring semester: until March 31

Universities that will receive your application too late, will sign you up for the next semester.

Language requirements for Swiss university application

Switzerland has three official languages (German, French and Italian) and the language of instruction depends on the university. In addition, most universities also offer a wide range of programmes taught in English. Most international students apply for either English, French or German taught degrees.

    Accepted evidence of proficiency for each language are:
  • German: DSH, TestDaF, OSD, telc and others
  • French: DELF or DALF
  • English: IELTS, TOEFL

Check out all IELTS locations and dates in Switzerland

If you don’t hold a language certificate, you can take a language test at the university and they can decide if your level is sufficient for you to complete your studies. This option is not available within all universities, so first check with the institution.


Tuition Fees and Living Costs in Switzerland Costs

Switzerland is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe and famous for high standard education and ground-breaking research. For this reason, Swiss MBAs and PhD programmes are renowned and appreciated worldwide. As a European business hub, young adults not only dream of studying here, but they also consider pursuing a career in Switzerland after finishing their degree studies.

If you thought about studying abroad in Switzerland or already got accepted to a Swiss university, read below and find out more about tuition fees and living costs.

1. University tuition fees in Switzerland

Tuition fees in public universities

Public Swiss universities receive significant funding which makes tuition fees seem affordable compared to tuition fees charged by universities from the UK or the U.S. Students who come to Switzerland on an exchange programme don’t pay any tuition fee.

Check out Master's programmes in Switzerland

In both public and private universities, fees are the same for EU and non-EU students.

    Average tuition fees:
  • Bachelor and Master programmes: 1,600 EUR per year
  • PhD degrees: 100 – 200 EUR per year.
  • Certain disciplines may have higher fees, such as medicine, where students can be charged up to around 16,000 EUR/year.

Universities from Fribourg, Lucerne, Neuchatel, St. Gallen, Zurich and Lugano charge extra tuition fees for foreign students.

Tuition fees in private universities

Private universities usually have higher tuition fees that range from 1,500 and 16,000 EUR per year.

PhDs are very popular in Switzerland not only due to the world’s famous and acknowledged research work made by the most prestigious institutions, but also because candidates that pursue a PhD in Switzerland are also considered employees, thus, they are paid for their work. Here are some examples of private universities and their tuition fees:


Most affordable Swiss universities


Tuition fees at top-ranked Swiss universities


2. Living costs in Switzerland

Living costs all over Switzerland are expensive, and managing your monthly expenses without making any compromise could be a tough challenge in Switzerland.

You should plan an average budget of around 1,300 and 1,800 EUR/month to pay for: housing, food, transportation, tuition, supplies and a few leisure activities. However, Geneve and Zurich are the most expensive cities that require a budget exceeding 1,700 EUR/month.

    Here is how much you will spend, on average, in these Swiss cities:
  • Geneve – around 1,650-2,500 EUR/month
  • Zurich – between 1,650 and 2,200 EUR/month
  • Bern – around 1,600 EUR/month
  • Basel – between 1,400 and 2,000 EUR/month

Accommodation options and costs

Out of the total monthly expenses of EU students, they usually pay around 33 % on accommodation, 7 % on transportation and around 8 % on tuition fees. Rates for accommodation in Switzerland are above the international range of 300 EUR/month, as the average for any housing option is around 600 EUR/month.

An 8 % of the international students in Switzerland live in student halls of residence, the rest choose other housing options. Around 68 % of students are very satisfied with their accommodation in Switzerland; as the average rate of student satisfaction in Europe is 60 %, this could mean that accommodation options and facilities in Switzerland are very good.

    The most common housing choices among international students in Switzerland:
  • Student halls of residence – between 450 and 800 EUR/month.
  • Rent/share an apartment – average price ranges between 700 and 1,000 EUR/month for a one-bedroom apartment.
  • Food costs in Switzerland

Most students choose to buy their food from the supermarkets and eat out only once in a while. Food bills from the supermarket would be around 300 EUR/month, but they could get higher. Try making most of your shopping after 5 p.m., as many stores add 25–50 percent discounts on perishable items.

Inexpensive restaurants in Switzerland serve meals at prices that range from 11 to 21 EUR per person. Restaurants that serve international cuisine can have lower prices.

Try having a meal in the university dining hall where you would only pay 8-10 EUR or at the snack bars or restaurants located in department stores (like: Migros, Coop or Manor).

Applying for studies in a university in Switzerland is really easy, you just have to remember some essential tips.

1. Choose the right degree subject in Switzerland

    There are plenty of disciplines you can pick from to study in English in Switzerland. Here are just of few of the most popular options to consider:
  • Masters in Human Medicine in Switzerland;
  • Masters in Civil Engineering in Switzerland;v
  • Masters in Computer Science in Switzerland;
  • Masters in Physics in Switzerland;
  • Masters in International Business in Switzerland.

2. Choose the right Swiss university

    Here are some top German universities you should consider for your study abroad adventure:
  • Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne;
  • University of Zurich;
  • University of St. Gallen (HSG);
  • Adolphe Merkle Institute;
  • Geneva Business School.

Check out more universities with English-taught Masters in Switzerland.

3. Prepare to apply

  • Switzerland provides a variety of study options, many of them highly focused on research. Choose your degree after you collect all relevant information.
  • Check the exact entry requirements for each degree programme, as there are often specific admission criteria for Medicine, Dentistry, and Veterinary Medicine degrees.
  • Look for scholarship opportunities in Switzerland.

4. Qualifications not recognized by most Swiss universities

    You should be aware that some qualifications are not recognized by most Swiss universities, such as:
  • Distance education certificates, night school certificates and certificates not attained in a school class
  • Certificates from vocational or part-time high schools and schools offering vocational training as well as general education

If a credential or qualification is not recognized, you will have to pass the full Swiss (or cantonal) maturity examination. This is mainly the Swiss equivalent for international baccalaureate, based on a specific curriculum (seven key subject areas studied by all students), depending on each Swiss canton.

5. Where to apply

  • Complete the online application form from the website of the university.
  • Pay the application fee.
  • Upload all the supporting documents before the deadline.

6. Required application documents

  • A signed printout of your application form
  • Two passport photos
  • Copy of identity document
  • Official academic transcript(s) from each university you attended
  • High school diploma or Bachelor's diploma
  • Language proficiency certificates (German/French/English)
  • CV
  • Evidence of payment of the application fee (100 – 150 CHF or 400 CHF for late applications)
  • Personal essay/Motivation letter

7. Additional documents for students who apply to a doctoral programme

  • A letter from an instructor of the faculty who is approved to direct doctoral dissertations, and who agrees to overlook your research
  • If you are in your final year at secondary school and have not yet received your diploma, you may apply based on your grades over the year, but you have to send copies of your final exam results as soon as you have them
  • All certificates and transcripts that are not in English, French, German or Italian must be translated into English or French by a certified translator. Along with the translation, some universities will demand an official document from the school or university that you attended, with an explanation of the grading and assessment system.

8. University application deadlines for Switzerland

Deadline for application at Swiss universities is variable, depending on each university and sometimes it also depends on your qualifications or if you need to apply for a student visa. Students are usually advised to submit their application in the spring semester for studies beginning the following academic year.

9. Final steps after receiving your acceptance letter

  • 1. If you need a student visa, apply for one as soon as possible as it usually takes around a month to get a response from the embassy/consulate.
  • 2. All foreigners intending to study in Zurich require a residence permit, which you can obtain from the local migration office, within 14 days after your arrival to Switzerland.
  • 3. Make arrangements for the health insurance policy. EU students automatically qualify for basic medical care in Switzerland with a European Health Insurance Card. EU and non-EU students can either pay for a health insurance policy from their home country before they come to Switzerland or can purchase one as soon as possible after their arrival.

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Non-EU students must apply for the Switzerland visa

Here is detailed information about the student visa application process for students coming from a non-EU country

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