In this article, you’ll find out how you can study in Switzerland and why it's such a popular destination for international sudents.
When you hear the name Switzerland, you immediately think of things such as Swiss chocolate, Swiss cheese, cuckoo clocks, high-end wrist watches and the Swiss army knife – iconic products of a high quality. If you are a nature lover, you might even picture the Swiss Alps, the Jura Mountains, or picturesque Swiss villages.
Perhaps one thing that might not immediately come to mind is Swiss education, although it rightfully belongs on that list.
What does Switzerland offer?
A landlocked, mountainous country, Switzerland is bordered by Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Italy, and France. Clearly, the country is strategically located, making it an ideal home for anyone wanting to explore Europe.
It also happens to be one of the safest countries in the world. If you choose to study in Switzerland, you’ll experience multiculturalism at its finest and get to live in some of the world’s top ranked cities for quality of life. Most importantly, Switzerland has some of the best universities in the world.
All these factors make studying and living in Switzerland a smart decision that will ensure your personal and professional development. Among the first things you will have to do in order to study in Switzerland is to have your level of English assessed. And what better way to do it than by taking the IELTS test, the world’s most popular English language proficiency test for higher education and migration.
How British Council supports your IELTS preparations
Even though you won’t be required to submit proof of language proficiency at the time of applying for your visa, your chosen place of study in Switzerland will most certainly ask for one.
The British Council offers a range of IELTS study materials and resources that will help you prepare for each section – Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking – of the IELTS test. Here’s what you can do to get ready for the test:
- Take IELTS practice tests online (free, not marked)
- Get familiar with the IELTS test format
- Sign up for IELTS preparation courses (free and paid)
- Attend IELTS webinars and check the IELTS Study Pack (free)
- Download IELTS mobile apps (free)
- Purchase IELTS Progress Check (paid, marked)
- Get IELTS preparation books and study guides (paid)
- Watch /read IELTS tips on how to prepare by yourself (free)
If you make the most of these materials and resources, you stand a good chance of producing excellent IELTS scores, which will open the way for studying in countries such as Switzerland.
The benefits of studying in Switzerland
Switzerland has a proven track record in higher education, with its oldest university, the University of Basel, founded way back in 1460. Swiss universities frequently feature on the list of the world’s top 100 ranked universities. The most notable names among them are ETH Zurich, the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), the University of Zurich and the University of Geneva.
Despite the high quality of education, educational institutions, especially public Swiss universities, charge some of the lowest course fees in all of Europe.
One of the key advantages of studying in Switzerland is that educational institutions there tend to have a close relationship with businesses; this drives the implementation of research programmes guided by corporate development centres.
Another plus is that if you live in Switzerland, you’re unlikely to feel lonely because you will have plenty of opportunities to meet people from different parts of the world and forge friendships. Apparently, international students comprise 25% of the student population in Switzerland.
Switzerland is also a language-rich environment since it has four official languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh. This gives you the perfect opportunity to pick up one or two foreign languages during your stay.
Depending on the canton in which a place of study is located, the language of instruction in class may be German, French, Italian or English. Be sure to look for this information at the time of choosing a place of study. In order to demonstrate your English ability, it’s best to take IELTS Academic, as it reflects aspects of academic language and evaluates whether you’re ready to begin training or studying.
Like in all other top study destinations, most programmes that suit international students are offered full-time. Universities and Federal Institutes of Technology (ETHZ and E PFL) tend to focus on engineering, mathematics, and natural science programmes.
In Switzerland, a bachelor’s degree involves three years of study. If you spend a further year or two at university, you can obtain a master’s degree in science, which is a prerequisite for a doctoral degree.
Switzerland is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with a fairly decentralised education system.This means each canton is responsible for regulating its educational institutes. It is a good idea to visit each institution’s website to verify admission requirements, as these tend to vary greatly across the country.
If you are planning to study in Switzerland, there are public and private Universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen) which offer more than 200 programmes. Although they function like traditional universities, their programmes have a hands-on approach.
Moreover, the faculty members at such universities are hired directly from the respective fields to ensure they have extensive experience and expertise. To apply, the best way is to contact each institution individually, as entry requirements tend to vary considerably.
Popular courses include Master in Anti-corruption and Diplomacy (MACD), International Hospitality Management, and Advanced Diploma in Cosmetic Science.
Winning a scholarship to study in Switzerland
Winning a scholarship is an excellent way for international students to study in Switzerland. Swiss government scholarships are only offered through the Federal Commission for Scholarships for Foreign Students (FCS). Most of these scholarships are granted to postgraduate students and researchers. To see if you are eligible, please visit the FCS website.
You can also view details of grants and scholarships by visiting the websites of universities. For instance, the University of Italian Switzerland offers bachelor’s and master’s level scholarships for which you can apply, depending on your canton of residence and the course.
Zurich University, on the other hand, only offers financial support to undergraduate students until they have successfully completed the first year of their course. Master’s students can only apply for financial aid if they have earned a bachelor’s degree from Switzerland.
The cost of studying in Switzerland
As you may already know, Switzerland has a higher cost of living than most other countries. Given below are four types of expenses you shouldn’t fail to include when preparing a budget or summing up actual costs.
As with other countries, the costs you are likely to incur every month will vary, depending on the city and location, and the size and condition of housing. Considering that transport is expensive, the distance you’ll need to travel every day to reach your place of study, or workplace, will also have a significant impact on your monthly budget.
In a city such as Zurich:
In a city such as Baden or Winterthur:
This is one of the most expensive parts of life in Switzerland.
Cost for one person is around €400; however, if you live on the border with Germany, you can purchase things for lower prices by crossing over. Alternatively, you can also buy at street markets.
Basic health insurance is mandatory and costs between €185 and €230 per month. However, this amount does not cover all your medical necessities. You must have at least €3,000 a year to cover all of your health-related costs.
Overall, the approximate costs incurred by an adult living in Switzerland will be around CHF 2,175 or €2,000 a month.
Requirements to live and study in Switzerland
If you are planning to study or work in Switzerland, you will have to submit the following documents at the time of lodging your visa application:
- Valid passport or identification card
- Passport photos
- Letter of acceptance from a Swiss university
- Employment contract or job offer (if applying for residency for employment reasons)
- Original and certified translation of birth certificate
- Health examination report and updated vaccination record
- Certified copies of academic qualifications
- IELTS TRF
Please be aware that the requirements for living and studying in Switzerland keep changing constantly, so we recommend that you check with official sources before starting your journey.
Working in Switzerland
If you are wondering if you will be able to work part-time while studying in Switzerland, then the answer is yes! International students are allowed to work for a maximum of 15 hours per week during term time. During holiday breaks, though, they are entitled to work full-time.
Do remember that as an international student, you cannot begin employment during the first 6 months of your stay in Switzerland. However, this rule does not apply to students from EU/ EFTA countries.
On successfully completing your studies, you can apply for an employment permit. Although Switzerland has highly restrictive policies in this regard, it’s worth initiating the process. Once you obtain an employment permit, you’ll have access to the same wages and employment conditions as a Swiss citizen.
Remember, many foreign nationals succeed in obtaining positions in international organisations located in Switzerland. Almost half of such organisations are located in Geneva.
Ready to take the next step?
In spite of the rather high cost of living, Switzerland is one of the most desirable places to live because of its high quality of life, Swiss outdoor lifestyle, safe environment, generous salary packages and career opportunities.
If you are planning to study in Switzerland, take the IELTS test, apply to a Swiss university of your choice and get yourself a world-class education.
On successfully completing your studies, you will be allowed to remain in Switzerland for a period of 6 months so that you can look for a suitable job. With sufficient preparation and hard work, you’ll be able to build a new life in heavenly Switzerland.