Study in Switzerland – Admissions, Scholarships, and Visa

Switzerland is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe. It is famous for high standard education and ground-breaking research. For these reasons, Swiss MBAs and PhD programmes are renowned and appreciated worldwide. As a European business hub, young adults not only dream of studying here, but they also consider pursuing a career in Switzerland after finishing their studies.

Many Swiss universities received awards of international student satisfaction, confirming that studying in Switzerland could be one of the best choices you have ever made. Switzerland has three widely spoken official languages (French, German and Italian), meaning you will have the opportunity to experience a complete European atmosphere and culture in one relatively small country and enrich your language skills as well.

Applying for studies at a university in Switzerland is really easy, you just have to remember some essential tips:

1. University tuition fees in Switzerland

In most European countries, tuition fees for non-EU/EEA citizens are higher than those for EU/EEA students. Switzerland is an exception; here, tuition at most public universities is the same for all international students, regardless of their nationality. However, there are some exceptions:

  • Université de Fribourg
  • University of Lucerne
  • University of Neuchâtel
  • University of St. Gallen
  • University of Lugano
  • University of Zurich

At these universities, you can encounter two situations:

  • Tuition fees are higher for non-EU/EEA citizens
  • Tuition fees are higher for all international students when compared to fees for national (Swiss) students

Tuition fees in public universities

Public Swiss universities receive significant funding from the government. That’s why tuition fees are more affordable when compared to fees charged by universities from the UK or the US. International students who come to Switzerland on an exchange programme don’t pay any tuition fee.

Average tuition fees at Swiss public universities:

  • Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes: 400 – 3,700 EUR/year
  • PhD degrees: 100 – 900 EUR/year

Tuition fees in private universities

Swiss Private universities usually have higher tuition fees that can reach 43,000 EUR per year. Some universities offer a discount if students pay the full amount when they begin the study programme. For some degrees, tuition is calculated based on the total number of courses or credits.

Most affordable Swiss universities

These are some of the most affordable higher education institutions in Switzerland:

  • University of Geneva – average tuition fees: 900 EUR/year
  • University of Bern – average tuition fees: 1,700 EUR/year
  • University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland FHNW – average tuition fees: 1,260 EUR/year
  • University of Lausanne – average tuition fees: 1,040 EUR/year

Tuition fees at top-ranked Swiss universities

Here is a list of average tuition fees at the top-ranked Swiss universities:

  • ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich – average tuition fees: 1,200 EUR/year
  • Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne – average tuition fees: 1,150 EUR/year
  • University of Basel – average tuition fees: 1,550 EUR/year
  • University of Zurich – average tuition fees: 1,300 EUR/year

Related:
List of University in Switzerland

Scholarships for students in Switzerland

International students can get scholarships offered by the Swiss government, based on partnerships established with several countries. Most of these scholarships are granted to postgraduate candidates and researchers. Other funding opportunities are offered by individual universities and other organizations.

  • You should check if you are entitled to receive a scholarship by contacting the Swiss embassy or consulate in your home country.
  • Other scholarships are offered by some of the Swiss universities; you can benefit from grants ranging from 9,200 EUR to 13,700 EUR, available only for one year, with the possibility of extension, provided you will be academically successful at the end of your first semester of studies. Here are some scholarships offered by the University of Geneva.
  • Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships for Foreign Scholars and Artists – scholarships awarded by the Federal Commission to foreign artists with a Bachelor’s degree or young researchers with a Master’s or PhD degree.
  • You can explore many other scholarship programmes on Studyinswitzerland.plus.
  • In some universities, you can apply for an interest-free loan of up to 11,000 EUR per year, which covers up to 40 % of fees and living costs. In Zurich, you can also opt for the solidarity fund for foreign students.

2. Prepare to apply

  • Switzerland provides a variety of study options, many of them highly focused on research. Choose your degree after you collect all relevant information.
  • Check the exact entry requirements for each degree programme, as there are often specific admission criteria for Medicine, Dentistry, and Veterinary Medicine degrees.
  • Look for scholarship opportunities in Switzerland. You can also check out the Studyportals Scholarship to get some help on financing your studies abroad.

3. Qualifications not recognized by most Swiss universities

You should be aware that some qualifications are not recognized by most Swiss universities, such as:

  • Distance education certificates, night school certificates and certificates not attained in a school class
  • Certificates from vocational or part-time high schools and schools offering vocational training as well as general education

If a credential or qualification is not recognized, you will have to pass the full Swiss (or cantonal) maturity examination. This is mainly the Swiss equivalent for international baccalaureate, based on a specific curriculum (seven key subject areas studied by all students), depending on each Swiss canton.

4. How to apply

  • Complete the online application form from the website of the university.
  • Pay the application fee.
  • Upload all the supporting documents before the deadline.

5. Language requirements for Swiss university application

Switzerland has three official languages (German, French and Italian) and the language of instruction depends on the university. In addition, most universities also offer a wide range of programmes taught in English. Most international students apply for either English, French or German taught degrees.

Accepted evidence of proficiency for each language are:

  • German: DSH, TestDaF, OSD, telc and others
  • French: DELF or DALF
  • English: IELTS, TOEFL

If you don’t hold a language certificate, you can take a language test at the university and they can decide if your level is sufficient for you to complete your studies. This option is not available within all universities, so first check with the institution.

6. Required application documents

  • A signed printout of your application form
  • Two passport photos
  • Copy of identity document
  • Official academic transcript(s) from each university you attended
  • High school diploma or Bachelor’s diploma
  • Language proficiency certificates (German/French/English)
  • CV
  • Evidence of payment of the application fee (100 – 150 CHF or 400 CHF for late applications)
  • Personal essay/Motivation letter

7. Additional documents for students who apply to a doctoral programme

  • A letter from an instructor of the faculty who is approved to direct doctoral dissertations, and who agrees to overlook your research.
  • If you are in your final year at secondary school and have not yet received your diploma, you may apply based on your grades over the year, but you have to send copies of your final exam results as soon as you have them.
  • All certificates and transcripts that are not in English, French, German or Italian must be translated into English or French by a certified translator. Along with the translation, some universities will demand an official document from the school or university that you attended, with an explanation of the grading and assessment system.

8. University application deadlines for Switzerland

Deadline for application at Swiss universities is variable, depending on each university and sometimes it also depends on your qualifications or if you need to apply for a student visa. Students are usually advised to submit their application in the spring semester for studies beginning the following academic year.

Regular application

  • Fall semester: start of December – end of April
  • Spring semester: start of May – end of November
  • If a visa for Switzerland is required, the following deadlines are recommended: start of December – end of February for the Fall semester and start of May – end of  September for the Spring semester.

In some cases, applications for PhD candidates have different deadlines:

  • For the fall semester: until mid-October
  • For the spring semester: until end of March

Universities that will receive your application too late, will sign you up for the next semester.

9. Final steps after receiving your acceptance letter

  • If you need a student visa, apply for one as soon as possible as it usually takes around a month to get a response from the embassy/consulate.
  • All foreigners intending to study in Zurich require a residence permit, which you can obtain from the local migration office, within 14 days after your arrival to Switzerland.
  • Make arrangements for the health insurance policy. EU students automatically qualify for basic medical care in Switzerland with a European Health Insurance Card. EU and non-EU students can either pay for a health insurance policy from their home country before they come to Switzerland or can purchase one as soon as possible after their arrival.

10. Non-EU/EEA students must apply for the Swiss student visa

Here is detailed information about the student visa application process for students coming from a non-Eu country:

11. Living costs in Switzerland for international students

Living in Switzerland is expensive and managing your monthly budget without making any compromise could be a tough challenge.

You should have an average budget of 1,300 – 1,700 EUR/month to pay for accommodation, food, transportation, supplies and leisure activities. Geneva and Zurich are the most expensive cities, and you might need a budget exceeding 1,700 EUR/month.

Here is how much you will spend, on average, in these Swiss cities:

  • Geneva – between 1,650 – 2,500 EUR/month
  • Zurich – between 1,650 – 2,200 EUR/month
  • Bern – around 1,600 EUR/month
  • Basel – between 1,400 – 2,000 EUR/month

Related:
Cost of Living in Switzerland

Student accommodation costs and options

Rates for accommodation in Switzerland are around 600 – 700 EUR/month, well above the international average of 300 EUR/month.

The most common housing choices among international students in Switzerland are:

  • Student halls of residence – between 450 and 800 EUR/month. The number of places is limited.
  • Rent/share an apartment – average prices range between 700 and 1,200 EUR/month. It’s one of the most popular accommodation options among students. You can reduce your costs by sharing the apartment with other students.

Food costs in Switzerland

Most students choose to buy food from supermarkets and eat out only once in a while. You can expect to pay between 400 – 550 EUR/month for food. Try making most of your shopping after 5 p.m. when many stores offer 25 – 50% discounts on perishable items.

Inexpensive restaurants in Switzerland serve meals at prices that range from 16 to 27 EUR per person. Restaurants that serve international cuisine can have lower prices.

A good option is the university dining hall, where you would only pay 8 – 10 EUR, or the snack bars or restaurants located in department stores (like Migros, Coop or Manor).

Transportation costs

Around 11% of students choose to get around by foot, 10% use the bicycle, and another 10% use public transport. A monthly pass for public transportation is around 55 EUR.

In major Swiss cities like Zurich, Basel, Bern, Geneva, Lausanne and Neuchâtel, any public transportation ticket is valid on trains, tramways, buses and even ships.

Extra costs for students

  • Monthly health insurance: between 250 and 330 EUR. You might be exempt from paying this fee if you meet certain requirements.
  • Books and supplies: 100 EUR/month
  • With a student ID card, museum tickets should only cost around 6 – 7 EUR.
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