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Study in Switzerland

Country flag: Switzerland

With 60% of the country dominated by the Alps mountain range, one thing Switzerland doesn't lack is scenery. However, it's not all about the landscape; the country is also home to a renowned higher education system

The Swiss education system

There are two types of higher education institutions in Switzerland:

  • The ten cantonal universities - the word canton derives from the French word for district, and there are 26 different cantons in Switzerland. Each canton has its own laws, courts and governments.
  • Federal institutes of technology - of which there are two: Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zurich and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).

Switzerland has three universities in the top 100 of The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2011-2012:

  • 15 - ETH Zurich.
  • 46 - EPFL.
  • 61 - University of Zurich.

Entry requirements

When applying for a Masters programme, you will need to present your undergraduate degree. Entry requirements vary for each university, so make sure you contact institutions directly to ensure your application is correct.

As Switzerland is a multilingual country, the languages spoken at universities will differ. The majority of the country speaks German, but French is used in the West of the country, Italian in some areas in the South and Romansh is also spoken by a small minority.

However, at Masters level an increasing number of study programmes are in English.

The Swiss University - Interactive Map  will help explain which languages are spoken where.

Course fees

European Union (EU) citizens are entitled to attend a university in Switzerland, even though it is not currently a member of the EU.

However, in Switzerland, 5 out of the 12 higher education institutes require non-Swiss students to pay additional fees. For example, the Università della Svizzera Italiana requires foreign students to pay double that of Swiss nationals.

To see an up-to-date list of all the current university fees, go to Swiss University - Grants, Scholarships and Fees at Swiss Universities

Funding to study in Switzerland

The Swiss government does not offer scholarships to students who are from the UK.

If you are from another country, then you may be eligible for a government scholarship. Check to see if your country of origin is eligible by visiting State Secretariat for Education and Research (SER) - Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships

Swiss exchanges and placements

Students attending UK universities can take part in the EU's education, training and youth support programme Erasmus+ . The scheme replaces its predecessor 'Erasmus' and offers study, training, work experience and voluntary placements to millions of young people, students and adults. 

Financial support is available through the Erasmus+ initiative to any UK public, private or not-for-profit organisation actively involved in education and training.

Your university must have a formal agreement with a partner university Switzerland. Check that your university is involved in the programme and offers the Erasmus+ scheme in your subject.

It isn't always necessary to speak the language of your host university but it is, of course, very useful. Speak to the Erasmus+ coordinator at your university about available opportunities.

Student visas

Students from the EU must register with the Residents' Registration Office of the relevant local authority within 14 days of arrival in Switzerland and apply for a residents' permit. Students will then need to produce:

  • a valid passport;
  • proof of university registration;
  • a bank statement to provide evidence of funds;
  • proof of address;
  • passport photographs.

Health insurance is mandatory for everyone living in Switzerland. If you intend to live in Switzerland for longer than three months then you must purchase your own health insurance. For more information, visit Swiss University - Immigration and Visa .

Written by Editor, Graduate Prospects
July 2012

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