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Masters Study in Switzerland - A Guide for 2018

A Masters in Switzerland will give you the opportunity to study within one of the world's most multicultural and outward-looking higher education and research hubs. You'll also have the chance to study in a range of languages, with access to the resources and expertise of some of Europe's best universities.

This guide covers everything you need to know about postgraduate study in Switzerland, including universities, courses applications and funding opportunities.

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Postgraduate opportunities in Switzerland – what’s on offer for 2018?

Switzerland is an internationally-renowned centre of excellence for teaching and research, offering a broad range of high-quality programmes in several languages and in every field of research.

Its natural beauty, high quality of life, fascinating history and a centuries-old tradition for cultural diversity make Switzerland a great place to live in. At the same time, Swiss universities offer a variety of exchange programs that will allow you to study all over Europe and beyond.

Here are some of the most compelling reasons to study a Masters in Switzerland:

  • Investment in education and research – Switzerland has the highest number of registered patents in all European countries, one of the highest numbers of Nobel Prizes per capita in the world and enjoys worldwide recognition for its research.
  • International outlook – Switzerland has a strong tradition of attracting overseas students and offering research opportunities in a vibrant, dynamic and multicultural environment. The high proportion of foreign Masters students (29%), Ph.D. students (54%) and teaching staff attests to this.
  • English-taught Masters – In the postgraduate environment, English is often the language of instruction (over 200 Swiss Masters courses are taught in English) and the working language in a research environment.
  • Multilingualism – With four official languages – German, French, Italian and Romansh – Switzerland is one of the most multilingual countries in the world, and offers ample opportunity for you to develop valuable language skills during your studies.

Masters Study in Switzerland - Key Details
Universities 40
Oldest University University of Basel (1460)
International Students 50,591
Course Length 1-2 years
Typical Fees (Domestic / EU) €1,448 (average)
Academic Year September to June

What's it like to study abroad in Switzerland?

Want to know more about life for international students in Switzerland? Our detailed guide covers everything from accommodation and living costs to culture and entertainment.

Swiss universities

There are three main categories of higher education institution in Switzerland:

  • Research-led universities (including the two federal institutes of technology and 10 cantonal universities)
  • Professionally-oriented universities of applied sciences
  • Universities of teacher education

A few more university-level institutions are considered public institutions of higher education. As a Masters student in Switzerland you can study at any of these institutions, depending on your subject area.

Cantonal universities and federal institutes of technology

Switzerland's cantonal universities and federal institutes of technology offer Masters programmes in a wide range of fields. Most carry out substantial ongoing research activity alongside their teaching and offer PhD programmes in addition to their Bachelors and Masters courses. If your interests are primarily academic (and particularly if you are considering doctoral study) a Masters from a Swiss cantonal university or federal institute of technology may be right for you.

Universities of applied science

Universities of applied science are more professionally orientated, though their programmes still incorporate the latest academic insight and specialist knowledge. They do not tend to carry out research and award comparatively fewer postgraduate degrees than the Swiss research universities. Nonetheless, if you are interested in a vocational subject area or in working in business or industry after your Masters, you may find an excellent opportunity at a Swiss university of applied science.

Swiss university rankings

Switzerland’s impressive reputation for research excellence is reflected by the country’s performance in the main university ranking tables, with several institutions featuring in the top 200 across all three metrics.

Check out our guide to Swiss postgraduate rankings for more information.


Top 5 Swiss Universities in 2018
University THE 2018 QS 2018 ARWU 2017
ETH Zurich - Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich =10 10 19
École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) =38 12 76
University of Basel =95 =149 95
University of Bern =105 167 101-150
University of Geneva =130 =98 60
Information in this table is based on the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings and Academic Ranking of World Universities. Visit their websites for more information.

How do rankings work for Masters study?

International rankings use all sorts of metrics to assess universities and they aren't all equally relevant to postgraduate study. That's why we've put together a guide to university rankings for Masters students.

Swiss university cities

From the financial hub of Zurich and the diplomatic centre of Geneva through to the picturesque old town of Berne, Switzerland isn’t short on striking cities for postgraduates.

These are just a few of your options if you decide to study a Masters in Switzerland:

Course types

The academic year in Switzerland runs from September to June, with individual semesters from September to December and from February to June. Most Swiss Masters programmes involve between three and four semesters of study (valued at between 90 and 120 ECTS credits). In practice this means that you will be enrolled for between one and a half and two years.

You will spend most of your time as a Masters student in Switzerland acquiring advanced knowledge in your field through the completion of taught modules and related assessment tasks. Emphasis will be placed on your ability to study independently, to comprehend relevant academic research and to present your ideas to tutors and peers.

Most Swiss Masters degrees conclude with an independently researched and written dissertation. This will require you to investigate a substantial topic in your field, under the supervision of an expert from within your university.

Since 2006, all Swiss universities have offered their courses in accordance with the Bologna system. Switzerland is a full member of EU research and education programmes and researchers in Switzerland are very successful in attracting EU funding.

Search for a Masters in Switzerland

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Masters fees and funding in Switzerland

The Swiss government is committed to higher education and accessibility, providing generous funding at federal and regional (cantonal) levels. As a result, tuition fees for Masters programmes in Switzerland are generally quite low. Funding for Masters study in Switzerland is also available from a range of sources.

Fees

The exact cost of studying a Masters degree in Switzerland will vary between institutions, programmes and subject-areas. You can generally expect to pay between CHF 1000 and CHF 4000 (€862-3,448) per year, but some institutions may charge higher. In some cases this is the same rate paid by domestic students, but a number of institutions charge slightly higher fees to international students, including those within the EU.

Funding

A range of scholarships and other support packages are available to international students studying a Masters degree in Switzerland.

The Swiss government runs a scholarship scheme for foreign students, usually based on reciprocal agreements with other countries. You can find out whether you are eligible for this support by contacting a Swiss Embassy or Consulate. More information is available from the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).

Individual universities may also offer funding to international postgraduate students. Information about this will often be displayed on university websites or made available upon request. In many cases this funding is managed or administered through university's international offices or mobility centres.

Information on some other funding opportunities is available from Euraxess, the portal for research mobility within Europe.

Applying for a Masters in Switzerland

The main entry requirement for a Swiss Masters programmes is a successfully completed Bachelors programme in a relevant discipline. Universities may set additional conditions for admission to specialised Masters programmes. Language requirements will depend on the teaching arrangements for your course, but you’ll need to show proficiency in whatever language you’ll be studying in.

Each university makes its own decisions as to whether a Bachelors degree obtained in a foreign country gives its holder access to Master's programmes. As a rule you can expect qualifications from within the European Higher Education Area to be accepted by most Swiss universities. More information on the recognition and certification of foreign qualifications can be obtained from the Swiss branch of ENIC-NARIC (the European Commission's National Academic Recognition Information Centres).

Application deadlines for Masters programmes in Switzerland vary, but you should generally apply sometime during the previous spring term (between January and April) if you want to start in the autumn, and between the previous July and November if you want to start in the spring.

Language requirements

The language spoken in Switzerland varies by region, with French, German, Italian and Romansh being used in different areas of the country. For non-English Masters programmes you will therefore need to check the language used at your university and ensure you have the necessary competency. You can read guides to academic tests for French, German and Italian language skills on FindAMasters.com.

However, a large number of Swiss Masters programmes are offered in English and, due to the country's multilingual nature, it’s common for people to speak more than one language. Read our guide to English language tests for postgraduates.

Masters student visas in Switzerland

As in most countries within the European Higher Education Area, different immigration procedures apply to students depending on nationality. If you are a citizen of the EU or EEA, you will not usually require a formal visa.

Students from elsewhere will need to apply for an entry visa and allow sufficient time for this to be issued before they can travel to Switzerland as a Masters student. Health insurance requirements will also vary depending on your nationality.

EU and EEA students

EU and EEA students will still need to register as foreign residents once they arrive in Switzerland. This should be done at the Residents' Registration Office in your local area no later than 14 days after arrival. In addition to a completed application form, you will need to present various documents at this office, including:

  • Your passport or identity card
  • Proof that you are registered as a Masters student in Switzerland
  • Proof of your address in Switzerland
  • Proof that you possess sufficient funds to support yourself while living in Switzerland as a student
  • Two passport-sized photographs

Swiss visas for non-EU/EEA students

If you are not a citizen of an EU or EEA country you will need to apply for a visa before you travel. You can do this at a Swiss embassy or consulate in your home country. They will be able to inform you of the specific documents required, which usually include proof of registration at a Swiss higher education institution.

A visa may take several months to issue and you should factor this time into your application process. It’s a good idea to apply for your Masters course as early as possible in order to confirm your registration with sufficient time left for a visa to be issued.

Health insurance

Switzerland has a compulsory health insurance system that guarantees access to a range of quality medical care services and appropriate medical treatment to all people living in Switzerland. Every person living in Switzerland for more than three months – including international students – must have basic health insurance coverage.

If you’re from an EU/EEA country, you should make sure that you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which will entitle you to state healthcare in Switzerland. Within three months of your arrival in Switzerland, you should apply to your local Swiss health authority for an exemption from compulsory health insurance.

If you’re not an EU/EEA national, you’ll need to take out basic health insurance. This could be a private health insurance policy from your home country, as long as it satisfies the conditions set out by the Swiss authorities. Or, you could apply for basic health insurance (KVG) from a Swiss provider.

Next steps

Acquiring a Swiss Masters degree will associate you with a high-quality, globally renowned academic system. Swiss universities are consistently ranked among the best in the world, and Swiss research is respected by international scholarly communities.

Studying in a multilingual, multicultural country will also enhance your CV more generally – you'll be able to demonstrate to future employers that you have the flexibility and spirit of adventure necessary to successfully take on new challenges. You may also come away with some additional European language skills, which will substantially enhance your employability in international business contexts.

For further information about Masters study in Switzerland, you can visit swissuniversities.ch, an organisation representing Swiss higher education institutions. You can also have a look at PhD opportunities in Switzerland on FindAPhD.com.

Search for a Masters in Switzerland

Ready to start looking for your ideal study abroad opportunity? Browse and compare Masters degrees in Switzerland on FindAMasters.com

Last updated - 07/02/2018

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