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University education

1. Overview
2. The Universities
3. Study Programmes
4. University Degrees and Degree Programme Duration
5. Admission Requirements
6. Required Steps If You Want to Study in Switzerland
7. University Entrance Examination
8. Costs
10. Health Insurance Coverage
11. Academic Calendar
12. Further Information

1. Overview

There are 12 universities awarding doctorate degrees in Switzerland. This guide provides the most important information on these universities.

In addition to the 12 universities, there are also further types of universities that are not covered here: 8 universities of applied sciences, 20 universities of teacher education and several university institutes receiving financial support from the Swiss Confederation. The institutes include mainly the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) in Geneva, Institut Universitaire Kurt Bösch (IUKB) in Sion and Stiftung Universitäre Fernstudien Schweiz (distance higher education) in Brig.

2. The Universities

Switzerland’s 12 universities comprise 10 cantonal universities and 2 Federal Institutes of Technology. A list of the twelve universities with links to their Web sites is available here.

The language of instruction is German at the Universities of Basel, Bern, Lucerne, St. Gallen and Zurich and at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ).

The language of instruction is French at the Universities of Geneva, Lausanne, and Neuchatel and at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL).

The languages of instruction are German and/or French at the University of Fribourg; Fribourg is the capital of the bilingual Canton of Fribourg.

At the University of Lugano (USI), Switzerland’s university in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland founded in 1996, courses are mainly taught in Italian.

3. Study Programmes

The number of university graduates continues to rise each year in Switzerland. Nevertheless, all study programmes have remained open to students having a valid maturity certificate or other certificate qualifying for university entrance (see section 5).

Exceptions are study programmes in medicine (human medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine) and chiropractic as well as in human movement and sports sciences. There may be entrance examinations to the study programmes in medicine and partly in human movement and sports sciences depending on the number of applicants for admission in any given year. The limited number of openings is the reason why international students, apart from some special cases, are not admitted to the study programmes in medicine.

A list of all study programmes is available as a table  and a data base.
Click here for a list of study programs with English as the language of instruction.

4. University Degrees and Degree Programme Duration

The study system at universities in Switzerland is in accordance with the Bologna Declaration organised in a three-cycle structure: The first study cycle requires 180 ECTS credits (three-year full-time study programme); the Bachelor’s degree is awarded at completion. This is followed by the second cycle comprising 90 to 120 ECTS credits (1 ½ to 2-year full-time programme); the Master’s degree is awarded at completion. The duration of and requirements for the third cycle, doctoral studies leading to the doctorate (PhD), are established by each university independently, but admission to doctoral studies is always based on a written application and the individual applicant’s qualifications (selection process; there is no general right to entry).

In addition, the universities also offer a postgraduate degree called Master of Advanced Studies – MAS (minimum 60 ECTS credits, or 1-year full-time study programme). The MAS does not give access to doctoral level programmes. Admittance to an MAS programme usually requires a university level Master’s degree (from a university, university of applied sciences, or university of teacher education).

5. Admission Requirements

a. Admission to a Bachelor’s Programme
For access to Swiss universities a valid Swiss maturity certificate or an equivalent foreign upper secondary school-leaving certificate qualifying for university entrance is required. Each of the universities makes its own decisions as to what certificates and qualifications it recognizes. Detailed information on general and country-specific access and admission requirements can be found at the CRUS/Swiss ENIC Web site.
There are special regulations for study programmes in medicine and human movement and sports science  (see section 3).

b. Admission to a Master’s Programme
The prerequisite for access to a Master’s programme is a successfully completed Bachelor’s level programme. Graduates of Bachelor’s programmes have access to certain Master’s programmes, as listed in the data base available at uni-programme.ch. Each of the universities makes its own decisions as to whether a foreign Bachelor’s degree gives the holder access to Master’s programmes without entrance examinations, or access under certain conditions, or access with further requirements, or does not give access to Master’s programmes.

c. Language Requirements
The universities require good knowledge of the language of instruction (see section 2 and the overview here).
At the Master’s level especially, the universities are offering an increasing number of study programmes in English.

For students that do not hold fully recognized certificates qualifying for university entrance, the admission requirements also include a university entrance examination (see here section 7).

6. Required Steps If You Want to Study in Switzerland

If you fulfil the requirements listed in section 5 above, proceed as follows:

a. Apply for Admission
Contact the university of your choice prior to the admission deadline. Most of the universities also accept online applications. The main documents that you will have to send to the university are your upper secondary school-leaving certificate (the original or a notarized copy) and an up-to-date passport photograph.

b. Entry/Visa and Residence Permit
Within 14 days of entering Switzerland, EU/EFTA citizens must register with the local authority (Einwohnerkontrolle, Residents’ Registration Office) at the place of residence and apply for a residence permit.
You will need to present the following documents:

  • Personal application for residence permit
  • Valid passport or identity card
  • Proof of registration at the university
  • Evidence of sufficient funds (e.g. certificate or certified document of a bank authorised in Switzerland)
  • Proof of address at place of residence
  • 2 passport photographs

Other foreign national students – other than EU/EFTA nationals – must contact the Swiss embassy or consulate in their own country and apply for a visa. If the responsible immigration or police authorities approve the application, the requirements for entry into Switzerland and for residence for the purpose of study are met. Further information at the Federal Office of Migration.

Foreign nationals who are not EU/EFTA citizens and who do not require a visa should consult the Swiss embassy or consulate in their country for the current entry and residence requirements and formalities.

7. University Entrance Examination for Foreign Applicants

a. Central Entrance Examination
Students that do not hold fully recognized foreign certificates qualifying for university entrance must pass a central university entrance examination (see section 5).

b. University of St. Gallen
As the only Swiss university to do so, the University of St. Gallen requires foreign national students to take its own admission test. The reason is that the university restricts the total percentage of foreign national students to 25%. Foreign nationals who hold a recognized Swiss maturity certificate are exempt from this examination requirement.

c. Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology
The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (Eidgenösissische Technische Hochschule Zürich ETHZ) and Lausanne (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne EPFL) offer the opportunity to take entrance examinations to applicants, both foreign nationals and Swiss, who do not hold a fully recognized upper secondary school-leaving certificate qualifying for university entrance.

ETH Zurich
Admissions Office
Rämistrasse 101
HG F 21.2-5
CH-8092 Zurich

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale (EPFL)
AA-EBM CMS, Station 4
CH-1015 Lausanne
Tel. +41 (0)21 693 22 95

8. Costs

Tuition fees per year (in CHF)













For Swiss students













Additional fees for foreign students







For foreign students













Living expenses: between CHF 21,000.- and 31,000.- per year (depending on the location of the university and personal demands)

Source: Websites of the Swiss universities, as of: 07.02.2014

9. Scholarships

The Swiss Government awards Excellence Scholarships to foreign research scholars (doctorate or postdoc) and artists. Detailed information on the application requirements for the scholarships, the relevant countries, and how to apply are provided by the Federal Commission for Scholarships for Foreign Students (FCS):

State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI

Department International Scholarships
Effingerstrasse 27
CH-3003 Bern
Tel. +41 (0)31 323 26 76
Fax +41 (0)31 232 30 20

The mobility centres of the Swiss universities provide information on scholarships for international students granted by universities.  

Further funding opportunities

The Rectors’ Conference of the Swiss Universities CRUS does not dispose of funds for granting financial support.

10. Health Insurance Coverage

All persons living in Switzerland for more than three months, including also international students, must have basic health insurance coverage. Students from countries that provide international mutual health coverage may be exempted from the compulsory health insurance. Other students may be exempted if they have equivalent health insurance coverage in their home country.

For further information, please see:
Health Insurance for Foreign Students in Switzerland
Gemeinsame Einrichtung KVG

11. Academic Calendar

The academic year is divided into two semesters. Classes are held starting in the fall from week 38 to week 51 and in the spring from week 8 to week 22. Detailed information is available here. 

12. Further Information

Link: http://www.crus.ch/information-programme/studying-in-switzerland.html?L=2

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