Switzerland

The beautiful country of Switzerland sits at the heart of western Europe and is bordered by France, Italy, Austria, Germany, and the Principality of Liechtenstein. Although small, with only a surface area of 41,285 square kilometers, it is big on attractions. One of its claims to fame is the majestic snowy mountain range of the Alps. The Alps region covers more than half of the country, but only 11% of the population live there.

Switzerland

The beautiful country of Switzerland sits at the heart of western Europe and is bordered by France, Italy, Austria, Germany, and the Principality of Liechtenstein. Although small, with only a surface area of 41,285 square kilometers, it is big on attractions. One of its claims to fame is the majestic snowy mountain range of the Alps. The Alps region covers more than half of the country, but only 11% of the population live there.

Switzerland is also famous for its banking system, renowned the world over, as well as for cheese and chocolate production!

  • Capital City: Bern, unofficial but de facto
  • Area Size: 41,285 square kilometres
  • Official Languages: French, German, Italian, and Romansh
  • Type of Government: Federal State with two legislative houses
  • Currency: Swiss Franc (CHF)
  • Population: 8,647,000 (2020 estimate)

Why Study in Switzerland?

During Switzerland’s 2019-2020 academic year, 25.7 per cent of its 258,076 student population was made up of international students. That’s not a particularly high number. Acceptance to Swiss higher education institutions is rather competitive, but that doesn’t deter students from applying.

Read on to find out why Switzerland is one of the most sought after study destinations in the world.

Cultural Diversity

Foreigners make up one-fifth of Switzerland’s entire population, making it one of the most diverse countries in the world. The country is used to welcoming expats, international students, and other visitors.

Its location in the heart of Europe also makes it a strategic choice for headquarters for many multinational companies and organizations. In fact, many United Nations offices call this gorgeous country home.

Diversity in Switzerland is also reflected in its four official languages. Aside from those four, a tenth of its population also speaks other languages including Croatian, Serbian, Portuguese, Spanish, etc. It’s not uncommon to hear several different accents and languages when out in public.

Safety and Security

Switzerland consistently ranks high for safety, security and stability in studies and surveys conducted by many different organizations.

  • 10th Safest Country in the World in 2020 (Global Peace Index)
  • Safest Country for Travelers in 2020 (Insurly’s Ranking of the World’s Safest Countries)
  • The Safest Country in the World in 2020 (Best Countries Report)
  • 2nd Safest Country in the World in 2019 (Global Finance Magazine)

Politically speaking, the country has famously maintained a position of neutrality since 1815. Its citizens have enjoyed uninterrupted stability longer than most in the world, which informs its peace-loving culture.

World-Class Education

Switzerland’s education system is simply one of the best in the world. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any other study abroad destination that can match Switzerland’s reputation for quality education, excellence in research, and teaching quality.

One indicator of Switzerland’s pursuit for excellence that shapes its students is the number of Nobel Prize winners that the country produces. Many Nobel Prize winners are the product of Swiss education.

Also, Swiss educational institutions consistently place high in different global rankings for schools.

  • 11 out of its 12 public universities ranked in the 2021 Times Higher Education World Rankings.
  • 10 of its universities ranked in the 2021 QS World University Rankings.
  • 9 of Switzerland’s educational institutions ranked in the 2020 Shanghai Rankings.

A Swiss Education as a Golden Ticket to Success

The advantages of a Swiss education are manifold. In addition to Switzerland’s reputation for academic excellence, living there also opens up a world of opportunity for international students and, if played right, it can have a huge impact on their future career.

They will gain access to a prestigious and well-connected network spanning many different industries and different countries. It will increase their desirability and visibility in the global labour market. In fact, apart from their chosen school’s academic credentials, this is one of the reasons why Switzerland remains a top pick for international students.

High Quality of Life

Switzerland’s quality of life is one of the highest in the world. When it comes to salary, health care, level of education, housing, and many other quality of life indicators, Swiss cities tick the boxes on all of them. It’s no wonder many people dream of working or migrating to Switzerland.

  • Ranked 6th in the Better Life Index in the 2020 OECD
  • Ranked 1st in the Country Average Monthly Net Salary in Numbeo
  • Three of its cities, Zurich, Geneva, and Basel, are ranked in the top 10 of Mercer’s Quality of Living for cities

Fast Facts

Below are some fast facts about Switzerland’s educational institutions and opportunities:

Swiss Institutions Included in the 2021 QS World University Rankings
  1. ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
  2. Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)
  3. University of Zurich
  4. University of Geneva
  5. University of Bern
  6. University of Basel
  7. University of Lausanne
  8. USI – Università della Svizzera italiana
  9. University of St. Gallen (HSG)
  10. Université de Fribourg
Top Postgraduate Programs in Switzerland
  1. Food Science
  2. Social Psychology
  3. International Law
  4. Mathematics
  5. Architecture and Sciences of the City
  6. Business Administration
  7. Finance
  8. Computational Science and Engineering
  9. Neuroscience
  10. Economics
  11. Physics
Switzerland’s Top Industries
  1. Services Industry
  2. Manufacturing industry
  3. Tourism Industry
  4. Agriculture Industry
  5. Banking Industry
In-Demand Jobs in Switzerland
  1. Engineer
  2. Technicians
  3. Fiduciary Jobs
  4. IT
  5. Medicine and Pharmaceutical
  6. Technical Specialists
  7. Legal Positions
  8. Technical Drafting Positions
  9. Chemical and Plastics Processing Jobs
  10. Metalworks and Mechanical Engineers
Top-Paying Professions in Switzerland
  1. Surgeons and Doctors
  2. Judges
  3. Lawyers
  4. Bank Managers
  5. Chief Executive Officers
  6. Chief Financial Officers
  7. Orthodontists
  8. College Professors
  9. Pilots
  10. Marketing Directors

Unique Student Experience

Working Part-Time

One of the best things about studying in Switzerland is the opportunity to work while studying. Not all host countries allow this. However, some criteria and conditions differ between the European Union (EU) and (European Free Trade Association (EFTA) students and non-EU/EFTA students.

EU/EFTA students Non-EU/EFTA students
Work Hours Can work 15 hours a week and full time during the semester holidays Can work 15 hours a week and full time during the semester holidays
Work Authorisation Can start working as soon as they arrive in Switzerland Can only start working six months after arriving in Switzerland

Students who are planning to work while studying will need to inform their schools and apply for the necessary paperwork.

Internship Opportunities

International students seeking internship opportunities may check job portals or ask their school for referrals. Interns are protected by Swiss law and enjoy the same rights as permanent employees.

Leisure and Recreation

One of the best ways to assimilate quickly into Swiss life is to take full advantage of the pleasures the country has to offer. This includes sports, especially outdoor sports.

Sports are an essential part of Swiss life. There is football, mountaineering, soccer, tennis, basketball, swimming, sailing, ice hockey, and fishing. Cycling, running, and trekking are also popular outdoor activities.

But the sport which Switzerland is most known for is skiing! The country is home to the world’s most beautiful slopes and ski resorts.

If you’re not into sports, you can still enjoy Switzerland’s beautiful outdoors at a more leisurely pace. It has the most scenic lakes and parks in the whole world.

Application Process

Students planning to study in Switzerland should directly apply to the institution of their choice as the country does not offer a centralised admission system. Requirements and visa processes also differ between EU/EFTA students and non-EU/EFTA students. However, at the minimum, students should have the following depending on the degree level they are applying to:

  • For a bachelor’s degree programme – a certificate equivalent to a matura (Swiss school-leaving certificate)
  • For a master’s degree programme – bachelor’s degree diploma
  • For a PhD – master’s degree diploma
  • For all programmes – a language certificate as proof the student has adequate knowledge of the medium of instruction in the institution they are applying to.

Visa Application and Residence Permit

To legally stay and study in Switzerland, students need to apply for either a visa or a residence permit. The need depends on the student’s country of origin, or if they’re from an EU/EFTA country or not. EU/EFTA citizens only need to apply for a residence permit, while non-EU/EFTA need to apply for a visa.

Below are the criteria and requirements needed to apply for a visa or a residence permit:

Residence permit for EU/EFTA students:

  • Proof of adequate financial resources
  • Health insurance policy
  • Confirmation of admission from a recognised educational institution
  • 2 passport photographs
  • Proof of residence
  • Personal application for a residence permit
  • Valid passport or ID

Visa for non-EU/EFTA students. They may apply at the Swiss embassy or consulate in their home country.

  • Proof of adequate financial resources
  • Health insurance policy
  • Study plan including your purpose study
  • Confirmation of admission from a recognised educational institution
  • Proof of completion of educational requirements needed
  • Motivation letter, CV and information sheet that includes your language skills
  • Proof of accommodation
  • Confirmation you will leave Switzerland after the end of your studies
  • Passport
  • Scholarship/loan proof if applicable
  • Proof of payment of school registration and tuition fees
  • Four passport-size photographs
  • Application for a long-stay visa (visa D) or a short-stay visa (visa C)

Additional Information

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees in Switzerland are surprisingly relatively lower compared with most European countries. The fees vary depending on the institution and the programme, but in most universities, students will only have to pay between CHF 500 to CHF 2,000 per semester. This is mainly because of the Swiss’ belief that education should be accessible to anyone if they choose to pursue it.

Other Expenses

Switzerland ranks as one of the countries with the highest standards of living worldwide, thus it is not surprising that the cost of living there is higher than in other countries. International students can save money by using the International Student Identity Card.

To better prepare for living in Switzerland, especially when it comes to budgeting, below are the average monthly costs per necessity.

Type of Expense Average Cost for International Students
Accommodation CHF 700
Food CHF 600
Communication (phone and internet) CHF 150

Scholarships and Funding

Switzerland offers numerous financial assistance for international students who dream of studying in the country. Students can apply for scholarships or other funding assistance through the Swiss government and non-governmental organisations, as well as from the educational institution of their choice.

Most Swiss scholarships are part of the bilateral agreements between Switzerland and other governments, or are specific to educational institutions.

Some of the more prominent scholarships offered by Switzerland are the following:

  • Swiss excellence scholarships for foreign students
  • Swiss National Science Foundation
  • Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships for Foreign Scholars and Artists
  • Alfred Werner Master’s Student Scholarships
  • Women in Economics Scholarship by European Central Bank

As mentioned, Switzerland’s schools and education system is among the best in the world. The government actively promotes international education and is generous when it comes to awarding scholarships to deserving students.