A Guide to University Study in Switzerland

This is a guest post in collaboration with Study in Switzerland

The world is in a flux, but that’s no reason not to plan for a better future. For any students planning their university study, Switzerland is a great choice.

Of course, the fondue is amazing, and the Swiss are known to abide by rules religiously. However, that’s not all there is to Switzerland. Here is a guide to getting your degree in the Confoederatio Helvetica.

university study

Swiss culture

Yes, the Swiss tend to follow a rather regulated lifestyle. It’s perhaps no surprise that an outstanding education system prevails.

The roots of higher education in Switzerland go as back as far as 1460. This long history of study, along with its scenic alpine mountains and efficient public transport service, make Swiss education seem like a dream come true.

Although the Swiss education system is similar to the European, there are some crucial differences.

Switzerland offers an abundance of top universities. The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and Lausanne, as well as the universities of Zurich, Basel and Bern rank especially high in world league tables.

Finding an institution to align with students’ interests is straightforward. Nevertheless, in addition to academic criteria, it’s worth bearing in mind the language, cost and visa requirements, too.

University of Zurich

What are the requirements to study in Switzerland? 

Finding your passion and pairing it with a university in Switzerland is only the first step. Students can apply by simply submitting an online application form and then sending in the necessary documents. These include proof of a maturité or the equivalent in your country.

A maturité is obtained after 12 years of school, following the successful completion of a Gymnasium (high school). For students completing their school education outside Switzerland, the equivalent would be a US High School Diploma, British A- levels, the International Baccalaureate (IB), or the European Baccalaureate.

The level of paperwork necessary when applying to a Swiss university is dependent largely on nationality, and whether the student is from an EU/EFTA country or not.

In general, Europeans only require a residence permit and proof that they are residing in Switzerland in order to study. Meanwhile, non-EU/EFTA residents need a visa. The first step is for the student to visit their local Swiss embassy or consulate.

They will need to take essential documents, including:

  • A certificate from the university in Switzerland
  • Proof that the education fees have been paid up to date and that the student has financial means of support throughout the duration of the program
  • A written guarantee that the student will leave the country after completing their studies
  • Their CV

The documents must be presented in French, German or Italian. If this isn’t possible, then a certified translation is required. From here, Swiss authorities may follow up with a language test to ensure the student is able to follow their studies adequately.

student lifestyle

Switzerland boasts four official languages – French, German, Italian and Romansch, with each language spoken to varying degrees depending on the canton (district).

Language requirements vary from university to university. Some universities require fluency in the local cantonal language. If a student is applying to a university with an English program, they need not worry if multilingualism isn’t their thing. However, students may still need to provide evidence of language proficiency such as the IELTS or TOEFL in English.

In any case, language skills are always a plus – universities will offer classes in the official language alongside English.

No, but students are still in for a pleasant surprise. While life in Switzerland is on the pricey side, education is at the other end of the spectrum. The Swiss take social equality very seriously and while university education is not cheap, it is affordable.

Students can expect a complete bachelor’s program to cost from CHF 5,000 (approx. 4,000 GBP/ $5,100 USD) to CHF 24,000 (£19,000 GBP / $24,600 USD) depending on the university.

A master’s program can cost anything from CHF 3,000 (approx. £2,400 GBP / $3,100 USD) to CHF 13,000 (approx. £10,300 GBP / $13,300 USD), depending not only on the university, but also the course.

Apart from the tuition fees, it’s worth noting additional costs:

  • Application fee – CHF 50 to 250 (approx. £40 – 200 GBP / $50 – $255 USD)
  • Examination fee – CHF 100 to 800 (approx. £80 – 635 GBP / $100 – 820 USD)
  • Language test fee – CHF 170 to 250 (approx. £135 – 200 GBP / $175 -255 USD)

Working while studying can be a useful means of getting by financially. Depending on the job, it can also offer a career boost for the long term.

There are laws designed to protect the student which must be respected, however. Swiss law stipulates that students may only work professionally up to 15 hours per week. For non-EU/EEA/EFTA residents, a work permit is necessary, and getting hold of this can take up to six months.

What about scholarships for international students? 

Even though Swiss tuition fees are on the lower scale compared to top universities in other countries, for many the fees can still prove an impossible burden. With this in mind, there are a variety of scholarships on offer. As well as ensuring a more equal society, it is also a way of awarding exemplary students.

The two main kinds of scholarships on offer are:

Governmental – these scholarships are usually granted to postgraduates and researchers. They include tuition fees, health insurance, a monthly living allowance, travel costs, and housing allowance.

Non-governmental – these scholarships are granted by universities, with offer grants of up to CHF 60,000 (approx. £47,700 / $61,500 USD).

Both types of scholarships are offered to exceptional students who have demonstrated outstanding academic merit.

Student life

Tell me about the student lifestyle

Swiss culture is more than delicious chocolate and luxury watches. To understand the Swiss mentality, it’s important to consider views on respect and diversity.

The Swiss will apologize for being two minutes late and will always refrain from making a person feel bad about themselves. Although they’re very polite, they’re also very private and appreciate keeping personal things personal.

Swiss people also lead very healthy lifestyles. Switzerland often ranks top in world quality of life indexes. Life at a Swiss university is far from boring and there are plenty of extracurricular activities on offer.

Swiss universities look not only at grades, but also focus on personal wellbeing. If a student is feeling any doubt about their future, advisors are available for individual support. Advisors guide students via workshops and work plans. Meanwhile qualified psychological staff are on hand for students experiencing more personal issues.

Switzerland night

More than a degree

Studying in Switzerland is a unique experience which builds character as well as a CV. Swiss universities are world-acclaimed, and a Swiss degree can open doors internationally.

Students can learn a new language, experience nature at its best and begin to build a lifelong relationship with the country.

For students considering which university to go to, a Swiss university might just change your life in more ways than you first thought possible.

A guide to university study in Switzerland

Studying in Switzerland is a website with information and advice on studying in Switzerland including culture, scholarships, living costs and more. studyinginswitzerland.com


    • Nina
      April 1, 2020 / 8:47 pm

      Thank you! If you’re considering studying in Switzerland, their website is really useful!

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