1. Higher education in Switzerland

1.1 Swiss higher education system

A country with four official languages and a federal constitution is always likely to have a diverse higher education landscape and Switzerland is a case in point. While the Swiss Constitution guarantees autonomy to the country's 26 cantons in the area of education, the Federal Government and cantons share responsibilities on higher education.

The Confederation is responsible both for advanced vocational training and for the universities of applied sciences. Additionally, it has authority over the two Federal Institutes of Technology and controls and endorses research through the Swiss National Science Foundation (FNS).

Each of the 10 university cantons has the responsibility for its cantonal university. Cantonal universities receive financial support from the Confederation and from those cantons, which do not have their own university. Furthermore, as in Germany, Austria and most northern European countries, you can find ‘Fachhochschulen’ or Universities of Applied Sciences, which provide more technical education, often including work experience.

Swiss universities are highly international and regularly recruit students and academics from other countries. There is, however, a limit of 25% on the overall number of foreign students that Swiss universities can recruit.

Around 44% of teaching and administration staff are also from abroad, making Swiss universities some of the most international on the planet.

The 12 research-led Swiss Universities are:

As in the United Kingdom most of the Swiss programmes are Bachelor, Master or PHD programmes. The academic year is divided into 2 semester – starting in September and finishing end of June.

1.2 Entry requirements for Swiss universities

Every Swiss university makes its own decisions which qualifications to recognise. As a general prerequisite to enter a bachelor program in Switzerland, you must have completed your A-Levels. At some institution you are asked for entrance exams in particular in fields such as medicine and sports. Public universities require Maths A’ level, even for degrees in non-scientific subjects. Private universities are more flexible with their entry requirements

1.3 Application process for Swiss universities

Switzerland does not have a UCAS System like UK. You need to apply individually for each university of your choice. Deadlines vary across the higher education institutions but for most bachelor programmes it’s the end of April. As previously mentioned, you may be required to take an entrance exam.

1.4 Accreditation and recognition

The Centre of Accreditation and Quality Assurance of the Swiss Universities (OAQ) guarantees and promotes quality in teaching and research in Switzerland's universities. Although the OAQ is a member of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education, the ENQA operates independently, and bases its work on international practices and research findings.

Swiss universities are generally respected as being amongst the world’s best.

Private universities and colleges are not usually accredited by OAQ. As most of these offer education in business, accreditation is often through international organisations such as Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).

2. How much does it cost to stuy in Switzerland?

2.1 Tuition fees for Swiss universities

Tuition fees for public universities and colleges in Switzerland vary from institution to institution. Charges can be from £1000 up to £6000 per year. Private institutions charge much higher fees, up to £25,000 in some cases although sometimes accommodation is included at residential institutions such as hotel management schools. Also keep in mind public and private universities will charge some admissions fees, which are around £200.

2.2 Costs of livings in Switzerland

In most areas of Switzerland, the cost of living is cheaper than London, although some items, such as food, are on average more expensive than elsewhere in Europe. However, that hardly makes Switzerland a cheap destination. The Swiss government estimates monthly expenses for students to be somewhere between 1,500 CHF and 2,500 CHF (£1,000-£1,700).

Living expenses depend very much on the individual student. These figures should therefore be regarded as a guideline only:

Rent incl. heating 690 CHF
Additional expenses (telephone, internet, Billag [TV and radio license fees]) 140 CHF
Meals 450 CHF
Health insurance, insurance 100 CHF
Travel 95 CHF
Clothing, laundry, personal items 100 CHF
Leisure, spending money 150 CHF
Study materials 120 CHF
Total 2,000 CHF (£1390)

(Source: Student financial aid office: http://www.uzh.ch/studies/studentlife/finances_en.html)

3. Student life in Switzerland

3.1 How do I get a visa to study in Switzerland?

You do not need a visa if you are an EU/EEA citizen. However, you need to register with the local authorities (Einwohnerkontrolle, Residents' Registration Office) within 14 days of entering Switzerland.

3.2 Can I work there as a student?

Yes, you can - if you have an EU/EEA passport and have registered with your local authorities.

3.3 On Arrival

You need to register with the local authorities (Einwohnerkontrolle, Residents' Registration Office) within 14 days of entering Switzerland.

The following documents are required:

  • Personal application for residence permit
  • Valid passport or identity card
  • Proof of registration at the university
  • Evidence of sufficient funds (bank certificate or certified document)
  • proof of address at place of residence
  • 2 passport-size photographs

3.4 Accommodation

It is unusual for Swiss universities to be able to provide you with their own housing. In Zurich, for example, none of the universities has their own accommodation for students.

The Housing Office of University / ETH Zurich issues an overview of useful addresses, if you’re looking for reasonably priced accommodation as well as accommodation at short notice.

Many universities also warn that scammers operate in the rental market so pay careful attention when negotiating with rental agents. This is a problem in many countries but it is not often that universities feel the need to mention it on their own pages.

3.5 Healthcare

Switzerland has a compulsory health insurance system that guarantees access to a range of quality medical care services and appropriate medical treatment to all people living in Switzerland. Every person living in Switzerland for more than three months, including international students, must have basic health insurance coverage.

Students from an EU state who are legally insured in their home country can apply for exemption from this obligation by using the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC for up to one year for British nationals) or a provisional certificate issued by the health insurance company in your home country.

Universities in Switzerland

About A Star Future

A Star Future provides information and guidance to British students looking to pursue their undergraduate studies abroad.

Through our presentations in schools and our websites we aim to ensure that British-educated students are well informed about their choices.