Study in Switzerland: A guide for students

Study in Switzerland: A guide for students

by Laura Jones

Updated August 3, 2023

Want to study in Switzerland? This gorgeous country is more than just a pretty face when it comes to educational institutions. Switzerland is home to many world-renowned universities where international students can study in English. And who wouldn’t want to study in a country that’s an economic powerhouse with breathtaking scenery, a high standard of living and diverse communities? 

Let’s explore some of the different universities in Switzerland that welcome foreign students. We’ll also cover the cost of living and the benefits of studying in this lovely country. 

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Universities in Switzerland

Switzerland boasts a diverse range of educational institutions. These are classified into three types

  • Universities (UNIs) 
  • Universities of Applied Sciences and Arts (UASAs)
  • Universities of Teacher Education (UTEs)

Universities (UNIs)

There are twelve traditional universities located across the Swiss cantons in German-, French- and Italian-speaking areas. These institutions typically offer degrees in the humanities, sciences and engineering. 

Famous Swiss universities include ETH Zurich (the top-ranked university in Switzerland in 2023) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, which ranked second in Switzerland in 2023. 

Universities of Applied Sciences and Arts (UASAs)

UASAs focus on the practical application of knowledge, aligning their curriculum with the needs of industries. There are nine of these institutions across Switzerland, and certain degrees are only available at UASAs, such as degrees in health sciences or theater. 

Schools like Bern University of Applied Sciences are perfect for those who wish to directly enter the professional world after graduation.

Universities of Teacher Education (UTEs)

UTEs are for those who wish to enter the field of education. While classes at these institutions are usually given in one of Switzerland’s four official languages, there are some courses designed for international students. 

Can you study in Switzerland in English?

That brings us to one of the main questions for international students investigating study options in Switzerland: Is it possible to study in Switzerland in English? 

The answer is a resounding yes. Switzerland is a diverse nation, and this is reflected in its educational institutions. Renowned universities such as those in Bern, Geneva, Lausanne and Zurich all offer courses in English. However, it’s always a good idea to learn the local language — French or German in the case of these universities — so you can better integrate into your new life. 

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The cost of studying in Switzerland

We’re not going to sugarcoat it: Studying in Switzerland can be quite expensive. But the excellent quality of education and the potential return on investment can make it worthwhile despite the cost. 

Tuition fees on their own are not the burden you may imagine when studying in Switzerland. They vary between universities and programs but are relatively low in comparison to fees at many US universities. At ETH Zurich, both Swiss and non-Swiss students pay CHF 730 per semester, while at the University of Basel, tuition fees are CHF 830 per semester. Over at the University of Geneva, fees amount to CHF 500 per semester. 

However, studying in Switzerland means living in a country with one of the highest costs of living in the world. Many universities have a breakdown of expected living costs on their websites; see the University of Bern’s list here, where average living costs amount to CHF 2,100 per month. 

Scholarships to study in Switzerland

There are certain scholarships available for those who wish to study in Switzerland. The Swiss government and the universities themselves all offer scholarship opportunities. When looking for universities and programs, check whether you might be eligible. 

Visas for international students

To study in Switzerland, international students from outside the European Union or European Free Trade Association must obtain a student visa. The first step is to apply for your program of study and get a letter of acceptance from the university. If you need a visa, you can then contact the Swiss consulate or embassy in your home country to apply. 

The benefits of studying in Switzerland

Switzerland is a top-notch global classroom that’s as diverse as it is scenic. There is a large international community — 26% of the population was born outside of Switzerland — and many international companies and organizations are based in Switzerland. This means that fitting in and then finding a job in Switzerland after graduating is definitely possible, even if it may present a few challenges.

The quality of life is a huge selling point of Switzerland. In 2023, both Zurich and Geneva made it into the top ten of the world’s most liveable cities index. The country is safe and stable and has excellent public transportation. To offset the high cost of living, students are permitted to work part-time, and thankfully, jobs in the country tend to pay well

Language can be a challenge, especially outside the classroom where German, French, Italian and Romansh are predominantly spoken. However, many Swiss people speak English, and universities offer language courses to help international students adapt. But again, learning the local language will help you enjoy your time in the country all the more. 

Ready to study in Switzerland?

Studying in Switzerland is a rewarding experience that combines high-quality education with a rich cultural experience. The opportunity to study in English and the relatively low tuition fees make it a viable option for many international students. From Bern to Basel, from Lausanne to Lugano, Switzerland’s many fantastic universities are waiting to welcome you! 

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Laura Jones

Laura is a freelance writer and was an ESL teacher for eight years. She was born in the UK and has lived in Australia and Poland, where she writes blogs for Lingoda about everything from grammar to dating English speakers. She’s definitely better at the first one. She loves travelling and that’s the other major topic that she writes on. Laura likes pilates and cycling, but when she’s feeling lazy she can be found curled up watching Netflix. She’s currently learning Polish, and her battle with that mystifying language has given her huge empathy for anyone struggling to learn English. Find out more about her work in her portfolio.

Laura Jones
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