Switzerland is a fascinating country for international students, particularly if you plan to stay and pursue a career after graduation. It has a great economy with low unemployment rates and high salaries.
This compilation of the best universities in Switzerland for international students is to basically guide you choose the best university. One that suits your budget amongst other educational needs you may have as an international student.
So, this article will give you insight into why you should study in Switzerland; how much it may cost you and good English universities in Switzerland you should apply to.
Interestingly, this article will also provide information on how to study in Switzerland as a distance student; you will find the official link to online schools in Switzerland. So, you may start your application immediately you find the perfect program for you.
Located between Germany, France, and Italy, Switzerland is a magnificent place to explore Europe from. It contains two of the highest-rated universities in the world.
Consistently, Switzerland rates among the best places to live in the world. Well, before we proceed let’s discover what makes Switzerland one of the best places to live in.
Switzerland is a mountainous Central European country, home to numerous lakes, villages, and the high peaks of the Alps. Its cities contain medieval quarters, with landmarks like the capital Bern’s Zytglogge clock tower and Lucerne’s wooden chapel bridge.
The country is also known for its ski resorts and hiking trails. Banking and finance are key industries, and Swiss watches and chocolate are world-renowned.
Why Should I Study in Switzerland?
Switzerland has some of the most renowned universities in the world. Its top two institutions (EPFL and ETH Zurich) constantly make it to the top 30 of The Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings.
In recent rankings, Switzerland had a whopping seven universities in the top 150, a very impressive return for a country that has a population of 8.3 million, which is less than that of London.
Students are consistently happy with the high-quality facilities throughout the country’s institutions and are normally pleased with the level of teaching on their courses.
Petr Jiskra, Marketing Manager and Alumni from the Hotel and Tourism Management Institute (HTMi) in Switzerland, says attending a Swiss university will leave you in a good position when looking for graduate employment.
“In general, Swiss universities have a good reputation for their quality. So, whether you are a Swiss national, or an international student that has studied at a Swiss school, you should be received well among employers.”
How many universities are in Switzerland?
There are generally 12 universities in Switzerland (10 cantonal universities and 2 federal institutes of technology) and a number of public Swiss Universities of Applied Sciences and other education institutions, as higher education institutions.
The Swiss law on publicly financed universities, the Swiss University Conference, and its accreditation body the CRUS-OAQ is responsible for their recognition according to the Federal Higher Education Act, HEdA.
How much does it cost to study in Switzerland?
The cost of study in Switzerland is quite low as the education system here is mostly public-funded. Basically, when compared to other European Countries, the cost of education in Switzerland is less expensive.
On average, fees per year can range from 15,000 Swiss Francs to 40,000 Swiss Francs. However, some universities are still way cheaper than others. Here is a list of the cheapest universities in Switzerland.
Are There English Universities in Switzerland?
Switzerland has three official languages (German, French and Italian) and the language of instruction depends on the university.
While not all universities offer their courses in English, some of them have a number of them in English and offer support in German, French, or Italian for the rest of the courses. While some might look at this as a disadvantage, it is actually a blessing in disguise. At these universities, you get to study at a world-class institution and perfect your knowledge in a foreign language.
Also, most universities offer a wide range of programs taught in English. So, as an international student, you may apply for either English, French or German-taught degrees.
Although the bachelor’s program in these universities is not completely in English, most of their masters and doctoral degrees are. This is why these universities are so well known internationally for their masters and doctorates.
Here are some of the English universities; the University of Geneva, University of Bern, University of Basel, University of Lausanne, University of Zurich
There are other universities in Switzerland that offer a few programs in English – the University of Fribourg with two study programs in English, universities that offer a few courses in the English-the University of St. Gallen, or universities that offer their programs in several different languages-University of the Arts Bern.
Read: How to Secure Admission in Switzerland and Cost of Housing.
Are There Online Universities in Switzerland?
Online learning is a mode of study that allows students to study most or all of a course without attending a campus-based institution. The distance can refer to both material and interaction. Online learning provides access to learning when the source of information and the learners are separated by time and distance, or both.
During this type of education, students communicate with the faculty and other students via e-mail, electronic forums, videoconferencing, chat rooms, bulletin boards, instant messaging, and other forms of computer-based interaction.
However, so many universities in Switzerland offer online education, these universities include;
Best Universities in Switzerland for International Students
These Swiss universities have been numerically ranked based on their positions in the overall Best Global Universities rankings.
Each school was evaluated based on its research performance and its ratings by members of the academic community around the world and within Europe. These universities are the best universities in Switzerland.
#1. Eth Zurich
Founded in 1855 as the Federal Polytechnic School. A century and a half later ETH Zurich are now regarded among some of the world’s most prestigious universities in science and technology.
The institute has produced over 20 Nobel Prize Laureates. Including the father of new physics and the inventor of the general theory of relativity Albert Einstein.
The university, commonly known as the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich or Poly for short, has based its success on Swiss traditions of cherishing fundamental principles of freedom, personal responsibility, entrepreneurial spirit, and open-minded access to education. It remains a European research pioneer, which tries to give practical solutions, which address worldwide challenges.
With 16 departments that direct solid academic interdisciplinary research in subjects ranging from architecture and biology to chemistry and physics. The university makes a notable contribution to the global science and technology industry.
To achieve this, ETH Zurich heavily relies on its strong ties with researchers, foreign partners, and key stakeholders who also support its cutting-edge research.
Located in Zurich, Switzerland’s biggest city. ETH Zurich is largely based on a modern main campus built on the outskirts of the town, with a significant endowment.
Students who follow an intensive course of academic study, have the chance to attend regular exhibitions and concerts. In addition to benefiting from the numerous academic events held on campus, acting as a meeting point for some of the best scientists in Europe.
Since the 1880s, university students have had the opportunity to hit the dancefloor at the classic ball event Polyball, enjoying the performance of a live orchestra and famous national singers.
#2. École Polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne
École Polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), or the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, is a public research university in Lausanne, Switzerland. Unusually for a Swiss university, it is managed by the federal government.
The university started from the École special de Lausanne, a school with just 11 students. In 1869 it became the technical department of the public Académie de Lausanne. After the academy became the University of Lausanne, the école authenticated itself as a federal institute in its own right: EPFL.
EPFL is extremely noted for its research and teaching in engineering. More recently, the university has branched out into the life sciences. It earned the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research in 2008. The university belongs to the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology Domain, a union of research institutes and universities which also includes ETH Zürich.
Like other Swiss universities, EPFL is not selective in its undergraduate admissions. Selection is based on the results of first-year exams, in which approximately half of the students fail. EPFL has a highly international student population, with about half of the students coming to study at the university from abroad.
EPFL has organized ambitious international research projects, including the Blue Brain Project and the Human Brain Project, attempting to reconstruct mammalian and human brains digitally. The institute is home to a nuclear reactor, a fusion reactor, and a Blue Gene/Q supercomputer.
The EPFL campus in Écublens is located beside Lake Geneva and is powered completely by electricity produced from hydropower. EPFL has many satellite campuses and facilities in Switzerland. The main campus hosts music festivals regularly and has two museums: the Musée Bolo and Archizoom.
Alumni of EPFL include Jacques Dubochet, winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and chess grandmaster Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.
#3. University of Zurich
Established in 1833, the University of Zurich (UZH) was the first university in Europe to be built by a democratic government rather than a monarch or the church.
Now the biggest university in Switzerland, it is home to 26,000 students and comprises seven faculties offering over 100-degree programs at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
UZH is a member of the League of European Research Universities, putting it among Europe’s most prestigious research institutions, with a particularly strong reputation in the fields of medicine, immunology, biology, genetics, neuroscience, and economics.
Although its undergraduate degrees are essentially taught in Swiss Standard German, Masters’ courses are all taught in English.
The university sustains active links with the community and possesses an ethos that states all knowledge and research should be shared with the public. Consequently, the general public is granted access to its twelve museums and numerous libraries, and many of the university’s research findings are made accessible in the form of public lectures and panel discussions.
UZH also has close collaborations with other universities in Switzerland, including the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, and across Europe.
The institution has a long tradition of forward-thinking and progressive policies. It was an early pioneer for women’s rights in education, for instance, and was the first university in the German-speaking world to award a doctorate to a female student.
It also boasts associations with 12 Nobel Laureates, including Albert Einstein and Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, who first detected X-rays.
Zurich is a major city for business and finance, as well as culture – home to myriad museums, art galleries, theatres, and orchestras. In 2015, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Ranking placed Zürich among the top ten most liveable cities in the world.
#4. University of Basel
The University of Basel was established in 1460 and is the oldest university in Switzerland. As a comprehensive university offering a broad range of high-quality educational opportunities, the University of Basel attracts students from Switzerland and the entire world, offering them outstanding studying conditions as they work towards their bachelor’s, master’s, or Ph.D. degrees.
The University of Basel has seven faculties covering a broad spectrum of academic disciplines. At the same time, the university has positioned itself amidst the international competition in the form of five strategic focal areas: life sciences, visual studies, nanosciences, sustainability, energy research, and European and global studies.
#5. University of Bern
The University of Bern is based in the Swiss capital. It was officially founded in 1834 – although it can trace its roots back to the 16th century when it became mandatory for monks to be educated in a higher education institution.
It was in the 1800s, however, that the university was officially established, growing in size throughout the 19th and 20th centuries in line with the city of Bern’s own booming fortunes.
The university performed a key role in the evolution of women’s studies. Even in 1870, the institution had a female student -Catharina Gontscharoff – registered. In 1899, the institution’s Female Students’ Society was founded, representing women’s interests. Its motto was: “Same Rights, Same Duties”.
The university has some prestigious former faculty members. Albert Einstein taught theoretical physics at Bern in 1908, and the following year the Russian philosopher Anna Tumarkin became a professor (and the first European lecturer to accept Ph.D. students).
The University of Bern is not located on a single, main campus. Instead, its faculties and schools are based in the Länggasse area – a district next to the city center known as the academic part of the town.
The institution has also acquired and repurposed other buildings in the area. Its Faculty of Theology (along with some other faculties), for instance, is based in a former chocolate factory. Another former factory known as the vonRoll site is also to be turned into a university building and will house the Department of Social Sciences.
Famous alumni of the university include philosopher Walter Benjamin, Nobel Prizewinner for chemistry Kurt Wüthrich, and the writer John le Carré.
#6. University of Geneva
With a group of over 16,500 students from 150 different nationalities, the University of Geneva (UNIGE) is Switzerland’s second-largest university.
It was originally founded as a theological seminary in 1559 by leading French theologian and pastor, Jean Calvin. It was granted university status in 1873 when it also abandoned its religious affiliations and became a secular institution.
UNIGE gives almost 300 degrees programs. Although its undergraduate courses are taught primarily in French, the university also offers a number of master’s programs in English.
It is also a leading research university and a member of the League of European Research Universities, along with other notable research-led institutions such as the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and Imperial College London. UNIGE claims associations with 10 Nobel Prize winners.
UNIGE bluffs strong links with international organizations such as the World Health Organisation and the United Nations, as well as partnerships with several global universities including Princeton University in the US, Yonsei University in South Korea, and the University of Sydney in Australia, with which student exchanges take place.
The university lays a strong emphasis on physical health and its Bureau des Sports provides students with free sports classes on a daily basis. Competitive sport is also encouraged with UNIGE teams regularly competing in the Swiss university championships in skiing, basketball, and ice hockey.
Geneva itself is considered one of the leading cities in the world for its quality of life. Situated on the shores of the biggest lake in Western Europe, and only a short distance from the Alps, its natural surroundings make it an ideal location for hiking, skiing, and water sports.
#7. University of Lausanne
The University of Lausanne is a public institution on the shores of Lake Geneva, with about 14,300 students and 3,000 researchers. The university can trace its roots back to a French-language Protestant theological academy established in 1537.
further, the number of faculties grew over the years until, in 1890, the institution became a university. In 1970, it relocated from the old city of Lausanne to its current site at Dorigny. The campus is connected by public transport to Lausanne. UNIL has seven faculties, with the Faculty of Biology and Medicine and the Faculty of Geosciences and Environment the latest additions in 2003.
Approximately one-fifth of students and one-third of the teaching staff come from abroad. The Cantonal and University Library of Lausanne (BCUL) has over two million documents, housed in buildings overlooking Lake Geneva. The institution lays emphasis on an interdisciplinary approach, ensuring close cooperation between staff and students.
Also, it boasts state-of-the-art laboratories for researchers, along with well-equipped lecture theatres for staff and students. The institution also offers a broad range of continuing education and interdisciplinary courses. And there are many sporting and cultural activities on offer on campus, including underwater diving at the sports center and theatre at the Grange de Dorigny.
Moreso, in terms of research and teaching, UNIL has more than 140 units working in diverse fields including aesthetics of cinema, genomics, and environmental law.
Towards the end of the 20th century, the university was part of a project aimed at increasing cooperation between Switzerland’s French-speaking universities of Lausanne, Geneva, Neuchâtel, and the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne.
#8. University of Fribourg
As the only bilingual university in Switzerland, the University of Fribourg is unique in offering taught courses in both French and German. The university offers international students a number of masters’ courses in English. It also believes that language is not just a study option at the university, but an essential aspect of its identity.
With origins that date back to the 16th century, the University of Fribourg was formally founded in 1889 and comprises five faculties in Law, Theology, Economics, Social Sciences, and Arts and Science.
Research at the university is connected with academic teaching, and interdisciplinary studies are encouraged among its group of 10,000 students enrolled in bachelor, master’s and Ph.D. programs.
Home to several centers of scientific excellence. Fribourg’s aims are to extend the limits of scientific knowledge and find solutions to pressing global challenges. The university is bound to explore new fields of study and its research extends into areas such as Nanomaterials and Multilingualism.
Furthermore, Fribourg prides itself on the strength of its student community with students making up a quarter of the city’s total population. It’s also a famous place to study owing to its low cost of living in comparison to other regions of the country.
The city’s beautiful surroundings, which join a medieval city center with close proximity to the Alps and Lake Morat, make it an ideal location for sporting activities and outdoor pursuits.
In addition, Fribourg also hosts a number of cultural festivals each year including an international film festival, a music festival known as ‘Les Georges’, and Belluard Bollwerk International, which celebrates all creative art forms.
#9. Università della Svizzera Italiana
The University of Lugano or the Università Della Svizzera Italiana is a public university located in Switzerland.
It was founded in 1995 with campuses in Lugano, Mendrisio, and Bellinzona. It is the only university in Switzerland where the official language is Italian.
There are four faculties on the Lugano campus: communication sciences; economics; informatics and biomedical sciences. The Academy of Architecture is on the Mendrisio campus. On the Bellinzona campus, you can find the Institute for Research in Biomedicine and the Institute of Oncology Research.
The university has six bachelor’s programs, 22 master’s programs, 11 executive programs, and 10 Ph.D. programs. The teacher-student ratio is 1:8.
There are several research areas that the university is actively involved in including architecture, communication sciences, computational science, data science, economics, health studies, humanities, informatics, medicine, and biomedicine.
There are about 20 student associations and other student clubs based around economics and informatics. There is also a student newspaper called L’universo.
It hosts 120 public events on a wide range of topics incorporating public lectures delivered by Nobel Prize winners, foreign heads of state, internationally acclaimed scientists, architects, writers, artists, actors, journalists, and leading figures in business.
Furthermore, the university also supports entrepreneurship among students with the Start-up Training Programme of Innosuisse. The Start-Up Promotion Centre has contributed to the creation of 59 companies and has created about 150 jobs. It has also supported 84 start-ups in total.
Finally, the Italian Institute of Studies works to promote Italian culture, literature, and language. It showcases Italian artworks and collections for the general public.
#10. University of St Gallen
Founded more than a century ago as a “business academy”, the University of St. Gallen is centered on management, humanities, law, finance, and political and social science, with a focus on practical education.
In addition to five schools, the university has 29 affiliated research institutes, which although managed by academics, are run independently as businesses. This is where St. Gallen tutors many of its junior research staff, allowing them to understand the professional world and be well placed to start spin-off companies.
The city of St. Gallen itself sits between the Swiss Alps and Lake Constance has around 80,000 inhabitants and brags one of the highest proportions of young people in Switzerland.
The university’s campus has a view of the city and is just a 15-minute walk to the center. Works of art from a number of popular artists adorn the buildings, while there is also a sports hall and two crèches.
However, when it comes to studying, the university offers a wide curriculum, and students must attend lectures in additional subjects such as history, sociology, psychology, business ethics, and philosophy.
The purpose is to get students thinking critically, as well as give them the skills to deal with social and cultural challenges they encounter during their lives and careers.
Furthermore, St. Gallen also runs a ‘children’s university, intended for youngsters from primary school to the sixth form, where they are taught issues that they might not learn about at school – particularly in the university’s key areas of business, economics, and law.
#11. University of Neuchâtel
The picturesque town of Neuchatel, located on the shores of the lake with which it shares its name, is home to the University of Neuchâtel (UniNE).
Founded as the Academy of Neuchatel in 1838, many faculties were added over the following years and in 1909 it took on the name it still has today. The following year saw doctorate courses founded in all UniNE faculties as well as the creation of a business school.
Today the university, which is situated in the French-speaking region of Switzerland, follows a similar higher education structure to French universities.
There are four faculties: The Faculty of Humanities, the Faculty of Science, the Faculty of Law, and the Faculty of Economics and Business, all of which offer classes in both French and English.
Until 2015 there was also a Faculty of Theology, but it has been closed and relocated to the University of Lausanne and the University of Geneva.
Moreso, UniNE is one of Switzerland’s most international universities, and its Institut de langue et civilization françaises is a center designed to teach the French language to non-native speakers.
The university is part of a three-way partnership with De Montfort University in the UK and the SDA Bocconi School of Management in Italy, and between them, they offer a one-year FIFA Master in Management, Law & Humanities of Sport degree.
Further, this degree is held by several high-ranking officials in the world of football, including Hicham El Amrani, general secretary of the Confederation of African Football, and Arnaud Le Mintier, head of the broadcaster servicing at FIFA.
#12. Universität Zürich
Founded in 1833, Universität Zürich (University of Zurich) is a non-profit public higher education institution located in the urban setting of the small city of Zürich (population range of 250,000-499,999 inhabitants), Zurich.
Officially accredited and/or recognized by the Staatssekretariat für Bildung, Forschung und Innovation, Schweiz (State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation, Switzerland), Universität Zürich (UZH) is a large (uniRank enrollment range: 20,000-24,999 students) coeducational higher education institution.
Universität Zürich (UZH) offers courses and programs leading to officially recognized higher education degrees in several areas of study. See the uniRank degree levels and areas of study matrix below for further details.
This 186-year-old higher-education institution has a selective admission policy based on entrance examinations and students’ past academic records and grades. International applicants are eligible to apply for enrollment.
#13. Hochschule Luzern
Established in 1997, Hochschule Luzern (Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts) is a non-profit public higher education institution located in the urban setting of the large town of Luzern (population range of 50,000-249,999 inhabitants), Lucerne.
Further, this institution has also branch campuses in the following location(s): Zug. Officially accredited and/or known by the Staatssekretariat für Bildung, Forschung und Innovation, Schweiz (State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation, Switzerland), Hochschule Luzern (HSLU) is a medium-sized (uniRank enrollment range: 8,000-8,999 students) coeducational higher education institution.
Finally, Hochschule Luzern (HSLU) offers courses and programs leading to officially recognized higher education degrees such as bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees in several areas of study. See the uniRank degree levels and areas of study matrix below for further details.
However, this 23-year-old higher-education institution has a selective admission policy based on entrance examinations. International students are welcome to apply for enrollment.
#14. Universität Luzern
Established in 2000, Universität Luzern (University of Lucerne) is a non-profit public higher education institution located in the urban setting of the big town of Luzern (population range of 50,000-249,999 inhabitants), Lucerne.
Officially accredited and/or acknowledged by the Staatssekretariat für Bildung, Forschung und Innovation, Schweiz (State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation, Switzerland), Universität Luzern (UNILU) is a small (uniRank enrollment range: 2,000-2,999 students) coeducational higher education institution.
Universität Luzern (UNILU) offers courses and programs leading to officially recognized higher education degrees such as bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, doctorate degrees in several areas of study. See the uniRank degree levels and areas of study matrix below for further details.
This 20-year-old higher-education institution has a selective admission policy based on students’ past academic records and grades. International applicants are eligible to apply for enrollment.
#15. Glion Institute of Higher Education
Established in 1962, Glion Institute of Higher Education is a for-profit private higher education institution located in the medium-sized town of Glion (population range of 10,000-49,999 inhabitants), Vaud.
This institution has also branch campuses in the following location(s): Bulle, London. Officially accredited and/or known by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the Glion Institute of Higher Education (Glion) is a very small (uniRank enrollment range: 1,000-1,999 students) coeducational higher education institution.
Glion Institute of Higher Education (Glion) offers courses and programs leading to officially recognized higher education degrees in several areas of study. See the uniRank degree levels and areas of study matrix below for further details.
FAQs on the best universities in Switzerland
Switzerland has a lot to offer to international students: Swiss universities provide world-class education, and their degrees are recognized around the globe. With its high quality of research and teaching, Switzerland regularly ranks high in EU Country Ranking.
Compared to many other European countries, the cost of study in Switzerland is quite low as the education system here is mostly public-funded. On average, fees per year can range from 15,000 Swiss Francs to 40,000 Swiss Francs.
Switzerland has three official languages: German, French, and Italian. The language in which your degree will be taught depends on where you wish to apply to. However, most universities also offer a wide range of programs taught in English.
Public Swiss universities receive significant funding which makes tuition fees seem affordable compared to tuition costs charged by universities from the UK or the U.S. Students who come to Switzerland on an exchange program don’t pay any tuition fee.
In conclusion, despite being a small country nestled in the center of Europe, Switzerland has many great opportunities for international students.
With 11 of its 12 universities highlighted in the World University Rankings (all in the top 600), there are a number of great institutions that students can choose from that all have high numbers of international students among the student body.
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