Switzerland is a mix of a picture-perfect location and great education. High quality of life, top universities, and a flourishing job market are just a few of many reasons why international students chose to study in Switzerland. Switzerland, alias Confoederatio Helvetica (CH), lies in the mountainous heart of Europe, sharing its borders with Germany, Austria, and Italy. It is also famous as the home of the stunning Alps, pristine cities, and mouthwatering cheese and chocolates!
Why study in Switzerland?
Europe’s most prestigious education system is shared in Switzerland, including continental Europe’s two top listings in QS World University Ranking 2019; ETH Zurich and Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), ranked amongst world’s Top 30. Not only is it almost crime-free, Switzerland also has a reputation for being one of the happiest countries in the world coming from the clean environment and work-life balance embedded in the nation’s life quality. Overall, 21% of university enrolment came from abroad – the top 10 in the world in 2018, making it an obvious choice for you to consider studying here. As a Malaysian student, you will find plenty of opportunities if you want to study at some of the top Swiss universities. Offering wide range of at different tiers of studies are and in four different languages (German, French, Italian, English), higher education in Switzerland is very international and high and standard. Much like registering for a program in other countries, you too need to take note of:
- Type of school that offers your preferred course and interests
- Research the institution – reputation, costs, facilities, scholarships, etc.
But don’t worry, Switzerland features excellent academics. There are 12 state-funded universities, comprising of 10 Cantonal (State) Universities and 2 Federal Institutes of Technology. In addition, there are 7 private and public professionally-oriented Universities of Applied Sciences. The pathway to Swiss higher education is quite straightforward.
- Bachelor’s Degree/ Doctorate Degree: 3-4 years
- Master’s Degree: 1-4 years
- Dual degrees: Food & beverage, Business Studies, Management Studies, Technology Studies, Tourism and Hospitality
With some exception, academic year in Switzerland is split into 2 semesters with a 3-month summer break:
- Fall: August-December
- Spring: January-June
- Summer break: June-August
Top Universities in Switzerland
In terms of classification of how universities are measured – international outlook, teaching, research, knowledge, employability, Swiss universities are ranked consistently high in their performance.
The following universities are all ranked in the World’s Top 100:
|University||QS Ranking 2020|
|ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology)||6|
|Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne||18|
|University of Zurich||76|
The following universities are all ranked in the World’s Top 650:
|University||QS Ranking 2020|
|University of Geneva||110|
|University of Bern||123|
|University of Basel||151|
|University of Lausanne||153|
|University of St. Gallen||398|
|University of Fribourg||581|
|University of Neuchâtel||619|
In general, Swiss universities have a good reputation for their quality. As an international studying in Switzerland, you should be well received by employers.
Source: ETH Zurich
Quality of higher education in Switzerland
Swiss universities are not only strong in the presence of the international ranking tables, they are also international in their academic communities. Half of the ranked Swiss universities perform well in the percentage of international academic staff members as well. Many degrees – like science, arts, and humanities degrees – are only available at academic universities; whereas others, like health sciences, is offered at universities of applied sciences. As an international student, however, you’re not allowed to study medicine in Switzerland as there are limited places that are reserved primarily for the locals. Academic universities, amongst a wide range of Bachelor’s and Master’s degree, also offer doctoral/ research studies. Switzerland is known for producing some of the best scientists, hoteliers, bankers, and lawyers in the world.
If you’re wondering what subject to take, here are some sought-after fields of degree in Switzerland:
- Math and pure sciences, engineering, computer science
- Finance, international business, MBA, sustainable management
- Hospitality management, culinary arts, tourism management
- International law, international affairs, public administration
How much does it cost to study in Switzerland?
When considering cost of study, you should look into tuition fees and the monthly expenses for food and such (cost of living). We've broken them down into separate sections below.
What are the average tuition fees in Switzerland?
This will depend on the course that you will take, based on the specialised facilities you will need for each field (like engineering students need workspaces, etc).
|Bachelor's Degree||1,000 - 8,000||4,500 - 34,000|
|Masters Degree||1,000 - 10,000.||4,500 - 42,500|
|PhD||100 - 500||425 - 2,100|
*Tuition prices in MYR are subject to conversion from CHF
What is a student’s cost of living in Switzerland?
It is a fact that Switzerland is an expensive affair when it comes to living there. But, be aware of any scholarship opportunities as some institutions will grant scholarship for foreign students! Just like in other countries, the cost of living depends on the city, as some Swiss cities may be the center of tourist attraction, such as the major city of Geneva, or to locals, as in the smaller township of Basel. Here is how much, on average, living expenditure in Swiss cities looks like:
- Basel: CHF 1,200-2,000/ month
- Bern: CHF 1,500/ month
- Zurich: CHF 1,750-2,400/ month
- Geneva: CHF 1,750-2,700/month
Can you work while studying in Switzerland as international student?
Malaysian student can work for a maximum of 15 hours in a span of a week over the course of one semester and full-time during the holidays. Take note that you must wait for 6 months after the beginning of your course to do so if you are from outside of EU/ EFTA. Remember to inform the immigration authorities before you work!
How to apply to Swiss universities?
|Undergraduate (Bachelor’s Degree)|
|A Levels||Pass 3 subjects (min. C)|
|International Baccalaureate (IB)||32 out of 42 points|
|STPM||3 subjects min. B|
|SPM||3 subjects min. B|
IELTS min. 6.0 (overall), TOEFL min. 550 (paper-based), 90 (iBT)
|Postgraduate (Master’s Degree)|
||Degree from a recognized Swiss university, min. 180 ECTS points|
||IELTS min. 7.0 (overall), TOEFL min. 650 (paper-based), 108 (iBT)|
|Entrance exam||May be available upon university’s request|
Universities will decide whether or not a particular foreign Bachelor’s degree is valid or not and regulate an entrance exam. You can find specific admission requirements for each course here.
First of all, you must be proficient in the English language, as your academic courses and transactions will be conducted in formal English. In the hindsight, Switzerland has four official languages: German, French, Italian, Roman. The language medium of your degree will depend on where you wish to apply to. Most universities offer a wide range of programs that are carried out in English. As proof of your language competency, you need to provide following certificates:
- French: DELF
- German: DSH, TestDaF, telc
- English: IELTS or TOEFL
Once you have found a course and got accepted into it, you need to process with a student visa to get the permit of studying in Switzerland. You can find links to Swiss universities in here. The official university acceptance letter (certificate of enrolment) will be the confirmation that you have a place before applying for the student visa. As a Malaysian, it’s not mandatory to have a visa to enter Switzerland, whereas some nationalities will need another visa to do so. For courses of up to three months – language schools or summer course – you’re allowed to stay in Switzerland for 90 days. Here are some of the documents that you need to prepare for your student visa in Switzerland:
- Four passport-sized photos
- Letter of acceptance from a Swiss university
- Proof of sufficient financial eligibility for coverage of living costs for the study duration
- Proof of payment of registration
- For scholarship awardee: letter of institution that all expenses are covered
- Motivational statement
- Commitment to leave Switzerland on completion of studies
Opportunities after graduation in Switzerland
There is a small fighting chance to work in Switzerland if you’re a non-EU/EFTA resident. Swiss immigration strictly regulates non-European graduates from landing on a professional working experience in the country. If you’re a graduate from EPFL, however, you’re able to extend your stay in Switzerland in order to look for a job with conditions as follows:
- Issuing a letter from EPFL to confirm the end of study
- Enough financial means
- Possess suitable housing
This six-month residence permit cannot be extended and only allows you to work maximum of 15 hours a week.
Switzerland is small in size, making it easy for you to explore with the plenty of time you have in your hands during your study. Despite that, the country is surprisingly diverse, so there is a strong international ambience.
Source: Cristo Valhos
Arts and culture
Switzerland is landlocked of many European cultures and that can be seen from the four spoken languages. There are traditional and seasonal events and festivals to check out. Not to mention the modern art scenes that can get you to music venues and festivals.
Food and drink
Switzerland is more than just chocolate and cheese. Although the country is rightly famous for its fondue, pastries, and dairy products, each region of Switzerland has delicacies of its own.
Sports and leisure
Abundant activities are available in Switzerland. From winter sports – skating, skiing, snowboarding – to other outdoor activities, such as mountain-biking, hiking, canoeing, the Alpine nation offers a stunning mountains and countryside for you to enjoy. You can also check out Swiss mountain lakes, including Constance, Vierwaldstättersee, and Geneva for relaxing trips.