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Despite its small size, Switzerland is known around the world for its skiing resorts, chocolate, and luxury watches. You’ll probably have seen beautiful pictures of Lake Geneva and complex diagrams of the experiments at CERN laboratory nearby. But what is Swiss higher education like? The country’s private banking may be kept a secret, but we can spill the beans on why its universities are so popular with international students! Read on for our top reasons to study in Switzerland.
Switzerland is home to some of the best universities in the world. Higher education is part of a long tradition in the country, dating back to its first university in 1460 in Basel. Nowadays, 10 of Switzerland’s institutions rank in the top 500 according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2022. And ETH Zurich and EPFL even rank 15th and 40th respectively!
Universities are well-funded and have put a focus on modern IT over the past few years. In 2020, the Swiss government announced it would increase its research and higher education funding to 28 billion CHF (25.5 billion EUR) over four years. As a student, this means you can expect busy academic semesters with high student-to-lecturer ratios and access to well-equipped laboratories.
The centre of Europe
Switzerland is located in the centre of Europe. Its population includes people from all over the world, ranking as the second most globalised country in the world in 2021 according to Statista. This is also true of its student population, with around 40% of students coming from outside the country for higher education. This will allow you to meet lots of like-minded people studying away from their home country - get ready to share your top recommendations and advice on life abroad!
Switzerland’s central location also makes it an ideal base for travelling around Europe. It is quick and cheap to travel to neighbouring European countries, particularly if you book in advance. When you’re not brushing up on your conversation skills in the free language classes that universities offer to students, you might want practice in person around Europe. You’ll be able to take the train from Zurich to Budapest for 40 EUR, or fly from Geneva to London for only 80 EUR!
Fresh mountain air
Much of Switzerland’s countryside looks like it could be from a Hollywood movie, with Alpine landscapes, lakeside scenes, and historic city architecture. And some of it is! James Bond: GoldenEye was filmed at the Contra Dam in the Verzasca Valley, and JRR Tolkien based the Lord of the Rings’ Rivendell on the breath-taking Lauterbrunnen Valley. Exploring your surroundings will become your favourite study break activity!
Swiss living is consistently ranked highly. The country came 1st in 2021 in the Numbeo Quality of Life Index. Surrounded by picturesque countryside, people in Switzerland are in the habit of walking and enjoying fresh air - even keeping up a national average of 9,650 steps per day. When you study in Switzerland, you’ll benefit from the high standard of living too, with clean cities, Alpine backdrops, and a good work-life balance.
Food and festivals
Studying abroad is the perfect opportunity to try new dishes, especially when the local cuisine in Switzerland consists of so much cheese, chocolate, and meat! The country is also a good spot for non-meat eaters, with a growing number of vegan and vegetarian restaurants. Zurich is even home to the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world - Hiltl - founded in 1898. And if you have a sweet tooth, you’ll enjoy trying the different regional desserts, with everything from hazelnut gingerbread and meringues in Bern, to honey ‘Tirggel’ biscuits and cherry liquor-soaked ‘Kirschtorte’ cake in Zurich.
Once you’ve finished eating, there are lots of other cultural events and entertainment to get your teeth into in Switzerland. Many museums and galleries offer discounts to students too, so remember to take your student ID with you. Throughout the summer months, there are festivals to suit all kinds of musical taste. The calendar includes Paleo Rock Festival, Montreux Jazz Festival, and even the Basel National Yodelling Festival. If you prefer art, you can visit the Art Basel Fair in the summer, or the winter ice sculptures at Grindelwald World Snow Festival. Don’t forget your gloves though!
As you get to the end of your degree, you’ll want to start looking at job options. Switzerland has a highly educated workforce, long life expectancy, and political stability. The percentage of adults in Switzerland who have attained at least a secondary education is 86%, which is significantly higher than the global average. The country is home to the second-largest office of the United Nations, and notable firms like Novartis, UBS, and Nestle. So you’ll be able to choose from a career in anything from diplomacy and banking, to food science and pharmaceuticals once you graduate. Even one of the world’s largest chocolate manufacturers - Barry Callebaut - is based in Switzerland!
Universities are keen to help students prepare for life after studying. Each institution has a careers office with advisors often specialised in a field of research or industry to support you. This preparation for the world of work shows in Swiss universities’ employability rankings: four institutions rank in the top 300 of the QS Graduate Employability Rankings 2022, with ETH Zurich placing 22nd. While you study, you’ll be able to ask for help finding a part-time job, signing up to networking events, or joining workshops to improve your job application skills.
Is this your dream study destination? Check out our other guides on studying in Switzerland to help you get started on your application: