Switzerland offers 37 higher education institutions (HEIs) across the country, 12 of which are the main and traditional Swiss universities, two of which are federally sponsored and specialized (EPFL and ETH Zürich), as well as several specialized pedagogical universities and the Universities of Applied Sciences. The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich (ETH Zürich) was ranked 10th overall worldwide in 2018 and the Federal Polytechnic University of Lausanne (EPFL) was 12th . Most of Switzerland’s universities are public, though a few of the specialized universities are private. For more information about individual universities, please visit the official government brochure https://www.swissuniversities.ch/fileadmin/swissuniversities/Dokumente/Kammern/Kammer_FH/Publikationen/higher_education-e.pdf.
The Swiss body of higher education is very diverse, wherein a fifth of the population is made up of foreign students. 17% of students in Bachelor’s degrees are international, so are 29% of Master’s students, and 54% of doctoral students. Moreover, Switzerland takes part in the Erasmus program as well as being a part of the Bologna Declaration which aims to improve the mobility of students between various countries, as well as offering multiple grants, in particular for postgraduate programs.
There are two main types of universities in Switzerland. The traditional ones are centered on basic research and offer a range of degrees in most subjects from Bachelor’s to PhD’s. The other type of universities are the Universities of Applied Science and Art which focus on applied research and offer scientific degrees, informational technology degrees, architecture as well as arts and sports degrees mainly. All universities in Switzerland offer postgraduate courses as well as undergraduate.
Swiss Higher Education systems follow the same path as most European universities, from a Bachelor’s to a Masters then a PhD. A Bachelor’s normally lasts 3 years long and requires a valid upper-secondary school diploma such as the Swiss Maturity or an equivalent foreign degree, as well as specific course requirements, and a proof of language proficiency. Other degrees such as A levels, French Baccalaureate and the International Baccalaureate are recognized. However, sports science in the IB is not accepted as a valid science subject. Moreover, the Universities of Applied Sciences require the applicant to take part in an aptitude test specific to each university. For medicine and dentistry, universities have a high standard, requiring the applicants to pass additional exams as there are very limited spaces for these courses.
There is no centralized administration for application so the candidate must apply directly to the university via their online application, whether a foreign national or not. As Switzerland has 4 national languages (French, German, Italian, Romansch), the language that the courses are taught in depend on what region the university is located in. Nevertheless, most universities offer many courses in English as well. Prices for degrees vary from 1000 to 2000 francs per year, except for the Italian University of Switzerland which costs up to 4000 per year, as well as some specialized private institutions which can reach 6500 francs per year for a Bachelor’s. International students pay an additional 150 to 200 francs per year. However, PhD’s are more subsidized and cost only 200 francs per year. However, the cost of living in Switzerland is expensive, which many university websites point out, explaining what kind of a budget one would need for rent, food, transport etc. Geneva and Zürich are the most expensive cities, requiring a budget of 1900 francs per month whereas the others require about 1650 francs per month. In addition, health insurance is compulsory in order to study in Switzerland, which is an additional 150 to 300 francs per month.
Information for International Students
The visa process differs for EU/EFTA nationals and non-EU/EFTA nationals. EU/EFTA nationals do not need a visa but will be given a residence permit. But upon arrival in Switzerland, EU/EFTA nationals must register with local cantonal authority for a residence permit as a student. Proof of enrolment, health insurance and proof of financial ability is required. As for non-EU/EFTA nationals, a student visa must be applied at local Swiss embassy or consulate after confirmation of admission. This process of visa application my take up to 10 weeks. Some of the documents required are filled application forms, four passport-size photographs, a valid passport, acceptance letter by institution, proof of financial coverage, CV, a letter of motivation and others. International students can work up to 15 hours a week during term time and a work permit is not required.