From the breath-taking Alpine peaks to the historical medieval streets, Switzerland has all the ingredients needed to seduce any aspiring international student. Ideally situated in the heart of Western Europe, this dynamic country consistently ranks among the world’s leaders in terms of quality of life, and it is home to one of the most prestigious education systems in the Old Continent. With four official languages, a prosperous economic environment, and a population made up of over 20 percent international students, Switzerland is the place to earn a degree abroad at any level for students who want to shape a truly multicultural identity.
Switzerland is a rugged country split between the Jura Mountains in the north and the Alps in the south. Due to its steep relief, the major cities have developed in the central midlands, well-delimited into four geographic and linguistic areas. The following are some of the most popular places to earn a degree in Switzerland, but you can choose to earn a degree from basically any Swiss university throughout the country.
Zurich is best known for being one of the world’s most strategic financial centers. With its excellent public transportation, mixture of historic and modern architecture, and location at the foot of some of the world’s most majestic mountains, it is no wonder that the city ranks among the best cities to live in, in the entire world. The University of Zurich hosts a selection of more than a hundred degree programs, and offers great on-campus facilities for international students. The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology is located in Zurich, and is one of the leading institutions in engineering and the natural sciences.
Bern is the federal capital of Switzerland and its old City Center is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Offering plenty of hiking opportunities in the surrounding mountains, a vibrant nightlife, and a wide range of galleries to explore, Bern is the perfect place to experience the Swiss way of life. International students who choose to earn a degree at the University of Bern will have a broad selection of courses spread across eight renowned faculties.
Geneva is widely known for being the home of the United Nations and one of the world’s largest diplomatic centers. Located on the shores of Lake Geneva, this city of multicultural traditions is Switzerland’s most international metropolis, with nearly 40 percent of its residents being foreign. Considered one of the greenest cities in all of Europe, Geneva is an especially attractive location to earn a degree in Switzerland because of its rich heritage and cultural scene. Established in 1559, the University of Geneva is the oldest university in Switzerland and offers numerous high-quality degree programs in nearly all fields of study.
With its medieval city center and easy access to many ski resorts, Lausanne is another top city for degrees abroad in Switzerland. The city hosts the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Museum. Students can choose to earn a degree at The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology or the University of Lausanne, as well as a handful of other smaller institutions.
Degree Programs in Switzerland
Ten cantonal (state) universities and two Federal Institutes of Technology offer degrees in Switzerland at the bachelor, master, and doctorate level in four different languages, including English, German, French, and Italian.
Generally, undergraduate courses are taught in the official language spoken in the particular city or region of the county, while most graduate degree programs in Switzerland are taught in English. Bachelor’s degrees in Switzerland require three to four years of full-time study and are open to students with a valid high school diploma. Master’s degree programs in Switzerland, on the other hand, are open to bachelor degree holders only and last three to four semesters.
The Swiss academic year runs from September to June, with a break in January. Enrollment and course registration usually opens in the spring for programs beginning in autumn. Note that some universities will only accept international students who have successfully passed an entrance exam or language test.
Some of the most popular degree programs in Switzerland include economics, finance, politics, international relations, engineering, and environmental studies.
Students interested in economics or finance degrees in Switzerland will find plenty of unique and industry-relevant opportunities at a number of Swiss colleges and universities. Internationally recognized as one of the most efficient finance centers in the world, Switzerland hosts some of the most renowned faculties and instructors, providing international students with the finest education in either field.
Prospective students of politics or international relations can choose from a wide breadth of bachelor’s degree programs as well as top ranked masters and doctoral degree programs in foreign affairs, law, anthropology, and development studies (just to name a few). Remaining faithful to its traditional vocation as a home base for foreign institutions and diplomacy, Switzerland is a great place to gain strong academic skills and benefit from multiple experiential training and internship opportunities.
As top-ranked country in the fields of ecology and sustainability, Switzerland is a paradise for degree seeking students interested in bioengineering, biotechnology, and environmental sciences. With a long tradition of excellence in the field of biology, along with several Nobel prizes, degree programs in Switzerland offer high-quality courses and research opportunities in all areas of specialization within the field.
Scholarships & Costs
Swiss universities are supported by the national government, so tuition fees are kept relatively low for both local and international students. Tuition fees usually vary from $1500 to $2500 per year, depending on the institution and course load; some of the most expensive universities can add up to closer to $4000 per semester, however.
Scholarships are available for international students from individual universities as well as from the Swiss government; however, government grants are only available for PhD and postdoctoral students. All students who want to earn a degree abroad in Switzerland should check out GoAbroad’s Scholarship Directory for financial aid opportunities available for international students.
Students intending to apply to degree programs in Switzerland should keep in mind that Switzerland is as famous for its high cost of living as it is for its chocolates. A student’s budget, considering housing, food, daily transportation, educational materials, and miscellaneous expenses, can easily add up to $1500 to $2500 monthly. Due to the high cost of living, most schools and universities will request proof of financial capacity from international students upon enrollment.
Accommodation & Visas
Swiss universities usually have limited spaces in on-campus housing facilities, so it is most common for international students to rent a room in a house or an apartment. Rental costs may vary by the city and type of accommodation, but usually range somewhere between $500 and $1100 per month. Each academic institution will have a housing office that can advise international students on accommodation options.
Only students from outside the European Union or EFTA will need a visa to earn a degree in Switzerland. For more information on visa requirements, you can consult a Swiss Embassy in your home country. All international students are required to apply for a residence permit at the local Resident’s Registration Office within 14 days of arrival. Regardless of the specific visa regulations for your nationality, your degree abroad program provider or host university will help guide you through the required process.
Benefits & Challenges
Quality Standards. Earning your degree abroad in Switzerland is a challenging (but worthy) way to gain excellence in your academic pursuits as well as your future career. Swiss institutions offer top-quality degree programs and research opportunities that are highly-regarded around the world. Graduating with a Swiss degree will thus open doors to countless job opportunities, both in country and in some of the most competitive economies in Europe!
Culture. The Swiss mentality is firmly rooted in Western European values, so earning a degree in Switzerland will allow you to immerse yourself in a society of historically strong civic and social ethics. Degree programs in Switzerland are also great opportunities to experience a rich social life filled with individuals from all over the world.