Studying in Switzerland

Studying in Switzerland

Higher education in Switzerland is made up of:

  • 12 doctoral/research universities – 10 cantonal universities and 2 federal institutes of technology
  • 8 universities of applied sciences and arts (including 1 private, state-recognised institution)
  • 20 universities of teacher education – including 14 independent institutions, as well as several integrated into universities of applied sciences, cantonal universities and affiliated institutions, and several other state-funded university institutions.

Courses are offered at the following levels:

  • bachelor degree (generally three years of full-time study)
  • masters degree (one-and-a-half to two years of full-time study)
  • PhD or doctorate (typically three to five years to complete).

For more information and details of all universities in Switzerland, see swissuniversities.

What courses can you study?

The doctoral/research universities offer courses in a wide range of disciplines, including all humanities degrees, many science degrees and some engineering degrees. PhDs or doctorates can only be awarded by doctoral/research universities.

The universities of applied sciences typically provide scientific and professional education, conduct applied research and liaise with industry. They offer courses in areas such as landscape architecture, health sciences, music, theatre, film, art and design. 

The universities of teacher education train future teachers to teach within the Swiss education system.

Masters courses are being increasingly taught in English, although it’s useful to speak the language of the university you’re studying at. If you want to study in French, German or Italian, you'll need to be able to demonstrate a good knowledge of the language and may have to sit language tests.

For a list of courses, see swissuniversities – study programmes.

How do you apply for postgraduate study?

There are generally two semesters at Swiss universities (autumn and spring). Applications are made direct to your chosen institution. You’ll need to complete an online application form, giving details of the programme of study you want to follow. You’ll then be asked to submit a range of supporting documents and the application fee.

Application deadlines, costs and procedures vary depending on the type of higher education institution and the course you want to study, so contact the universities that you would like to apply to well in advance.

Fees and scholarships

Fees at public universities typically range from CHF 500 to CHF 2,000 (roughly £382 to £1,527) per semester, according to swissuniversities. Some universities will charge higher tuition fees for international students, so check when applying. Private universities charge higher fees. 

The cost of study for one academic year can be in the region of CHF 20,000 to CHF 30,000 (roughly £15,227 to £22,922) depending on your course, type of institution, location and personal expenditure (including accommodation, food, transport, books and health insurance). Health insurance is compulsory for everyone living in Switzerland for more than three months.

The Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships for Foreign Scholars and Artists awards a number of scholarships each year to young researchers from abroad. Check whether there are any scholarships available for your country.

Also, contact individual universities to find out whether they offer scholarships to foreign students.

Are there any exchange programmes?

Switzerland has limited participation, as a partner country, in Erasmus+, the EU programme for education, training, youth and sport for 2014-2020 which covers student exchange, work experience and volunteering opportunities.

Will your qualifications be recognised in the UK?

Following the Bologna Process and the creation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), a postgraduate course from Switzerland is directly comparable to the UK equivalent.

Do you need a visa to study in Switzerland?

Students from EU and European Free Trade Area (EFTA) countries must register with the appropriate local or cantonal authorities within 14 days of arriving in Switzerland and apply for a residence permit. You need to have:

  • your application for a residence permit
  • a valid passport or identity card
  • proof of registration at the university you will be attending
  • evidence of sufficient funds (for example, a bank certificate)
  • proof of your address
  • two passport-size photographs.

If you're from a non-EU country, contact the Swiss embassy in the country where you are currently residing to find about visas for studying. If you're living in the UK, contact the Embassy of Switzerland in the UK. Applications for a visa generally take several months to process.

AGCAS editors, November 2017