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If you're looking to study abroad in a true higher education powerhouse, then you may well decide to study in Switzerland. Read our guide to find out everything you need to know about studying in this elite European study destination....
Eight Swiss universities are featured in the QS World University Rankings 2013/14, including two entries in the world's top 20, and five more within the world's top 200. This is pretty impressive, given that the population of the entire country is smaller than that of the US state of Virginia.
Switzerland’s system of higher education is extremely international in nature. Four of the eight ranked universities make the world’s top 30 in terms of international students, with EPFL finishing sixth in the world in this indicator. They perform similarly well in terms of international staff.
But it’s not just universities that inspired 50,000 international students to study in Switzerland. For one thing, you won’t find many more beautiful countries. From its postcard-perfect lakes and mountains, to its picturesque and charming towns, which sometimes look like they’ve been plucked straight out of a Disney film, Switzerland is pretty easy on the eye!
Then there is its status as a true European melting pot, which can offer some of best quality of life anywhere in the world. Sound good? If so, then maybe Switzerland is the study abroad destination for you…
Studying at master's or PhD level? Read our graduate-level guide to Switzerland >
Find out about Switzerland's top cities for students...
Zurich is Switzerland’s largest city, and also its financial hub. Universities in Zurich include two high entries in the QS World University Rankings: continental Europe’s highest ranking institution, ETH Zurich (The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) and the University of Zurich, ranked 13 and 90= respectively in 2012/13. Situated on the banks of Lake Zurich, there is plenty of natural beauty close at hand, and the well preserved old town means that there’s some manmade charm too. It’s not cheap, but like any city, you can certainly find ways around this. Zurich is predominantly German-speaking.
See where Zurich ranks in the latest QS Best Student Cities >
Based in the French speaking region of Switzerland, Lausanne is a culturally rich city, which boasts a museum dedicated to the Olympic Games – the largest of its kind anywhere in the world. The medieval center, as well as its proximity to magnificent Lake Geneva and numerous ski resorts, make Lausanne a big draw for tourists, and the large student population ensures that it enjoys a vibrant nightlife. The main two universities in Lausanne are the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (29 in the QS World University Rankings 2012/13) and the University of Lausanne (115).
Lying between the lake with which it shares its name and the French border, Geneva is the center of Francophone Switzerland. It is known on the international stage as one of the world’s main centers of diplomacy, home to the second largest base of the United Nations and an impressive number of NGOs. One consequence of this is that Geneva is one of the pricier study abroad destinations out there – but in return you’ll get to enjoy a comfortable, safe and cosmopolitan existence, while studying at one of the world’s top 100 universities - the best-known of universities in Geneva, the University of Geneva (74).
Universities in Bern, the Swiss capital, include one which ranks within the world’s top 150: the University of Bern (149). Known as the ‘Slow City’ due to its relaxed pace of life, Bern's center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This does mean, however, that it is not the best city for party animals. But, if you’re looking for a more chilled out experience, then Bern can deliver. You can go swimming in the river, visit one of the city’s renowned museums, or even hang out with some of the captive bears – the city’s symbol – who live just outside the city (in good conditions!).
Situated towards the north of the country near the French and German borders, Basel is perhaps the ideal city to experience the Swiss melting pot in action – or to make a jaunt over the border to visit some of Switzerland’s European neighbors. Basel is the centre of the Swiss chemical industry, and is also known for being a cultural hub. It is home to the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, an institute dedicated to the study of music from the medieval period through to the baroque. Leading universities in Basel is the University of Basel, which comes in at 121 in the QS World University Rankings 2012/13, and which is the country’s oldest university.
There is no centralized application procedure for foreign students, so contact any institution to which you’re thinking of applying directly. You will be able to apply online, and universities’ international offices should be able to help you if you have any problems. Make sure you check the language requirements of the courses you’re applying to – this is a country with four official languages after all. German, French and English (particularly at graduate level) predominate.
Switzerland is not a cheap place to live. However, this is massively counterbalanced by low fees. In most cases, international students pay no more than local students (some universities operate a slight mark-up). The exact sum varies but the average fee in 2010 was US$1,190, making Switzerland one of the cheapest places to study, in terms of tuition, in the world.
The process you will have to follow to get a student visa for Switzerland will depend on whether you are from an EU/EFTA country or not.
If you are from an EU/EFTA country:
If you’re from outside of the EU/EFTA:
Click to apply
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