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 stunningly beautiful and impressively competitive European study destination…
Switzerland is home to one of Europe’s most prestigious higher education systems, including continental Europe’s two highest entries in the QS World University Rankings 2014/15 – ETH Zurich and Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) are both placed among the world’s top 20.
Additional attractions to study in Switzerland come from the postcard-perfect beauty found throughout the nation, which is especially known for its magnificent Alpine mountains and dazzling lakes. With four official languages, it’s a true European melting pot, and consistently ranks among the world’s leaders on measures of quality of life. Sound good so far? Then maybe Switzerland is the study abroad destination for you.
Universities in Switzerland
Eight universities in Switzerland are featured in the QS World University Rankings 2014/15. ETH Zurich and EPFL, both within the global top 20, are joined by five more Swiss universities ranked among the world’s top 200. This is even more impressive when you consider that the population of the entire country is just 8 million (for comparison, that’s a little lower than that of the US state of Virginia).
As well as having a strong presence in the international ranking tables, universities in Switzerland are also very international in terms of their student and academic communities. Four of the eight ranked universities make the world’s top 50 for their percentage of international students, and the country's performance is even stronger when comparing the percentage of international academic staff members.
The following four universities in Switzerland are all ranked in the world’s top 100:
ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology)
Switzerland’s highest ranked university, ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) is currently placed 12th in the world, making it the top entry from continental Europe. The university was founded in 1855, and is well established as a leader in scientific and technical fields, with connections to an impressive 21 Nobel laureates. Today almost 18,000 students study at ETH Zurich, studying at two campuses – one in the center of Zurich, and one on the outskirts. In the QS World University Rankings by Faculty, ETH Zurich is currently ranked third in the world for engineering and technology subjects, and fourth for natural sciences. Teaching at undergraduate level is mainly in German, while most master’s courses are English-led.
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
The second of the two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology, the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) was established slightly earlier than ETH Zurich, in 1853, and follows close behind in the international rankings tables. It’s placed 17th in the world in the QS World University Rankings 2014/15, and in the QS World University Rankings by Faculty comes 10= for engineering and technology and 16th for natural sciences. Since Lausanne is in a French-speaking part of Switzerland, most courses offered are in French, though there are also some programs in English. About half the size of ETH Zurich, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne currently teaches about 9,200 students.
University of Zurich
With around 26,000 students, the University of Zurich is the largest university in Switzerland, and lays claim to the country’s largest selection of study programs. It conducts teaching and research across a broader subject spectrum compared to the more specialized ETH Zurich and EPFL, with facilities spread throughout the city of Zurich. It’s currently ranked 57= in the QS World University Rankings, having climbed from 78th place since the last edition. With public outreach at the heart of its mission, the University of Zurich runs an impressive selection of museums, public libraries, collections, events and educational programs, including a “Children’s University” and “Senior Citizens’ University”.
University of Geneva
Another of the largest universities in Switzerland, the University of Geneva is also one of the oldest, established in 1559. It stands at 85th in the QS World University Rankings 2014/15, boasting one of the nation’s (and the world’s) strongest scores in the indicator assessing research impact (measured based on citations per faculty member). Like other leading universities in Switzerland, it also scores notably well for its high proportion of international students and faculty members. It’s located in Geneva, the second-largest Swiss city after Zurich, and offers undergraduate and postgraduate programs across a broad range of subjects. Teaching at bachelor’s level is mainly in French, while many master’s courses are led in English.
Also ranked among the world’s higher education elite are the University of Lausanne, University of Basel, University of Bern and University of St Gallen (HSG); the first three are all within the global top 200, while the University of St Gallen is within the top 430.
Compare the top universities in Switzerland >