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Country Guide - Switzerland

calendar_month 01 Mar 2011, 00:00
Is there any better reason to study in Switzerland than being able to live on Swiss chocolate for a year? Situated in the heart of Europe, Switzerland is a small country renowned for its beautiful scenery, diversity of cultures and being able to ski right from your doorstep. Now this country of chocolate, cheese and the great outdoors is making its mark in the global higher education arena.

The country has four official languages - German, French, Italian and Romansh. However, English is widely spoken and increasingly used as the primary language of business and research, so English-language speakers find it easy to settle in Switzerland. The country's population is diverse with over 20% foreigners; Swiss universities also have an international environment with 23% of students and about 50% of researchers and professors from abroad.
Education Overview
There are 12 public Swiss universities.ETH Zurich and EPFL, the two federal institutes of technology, are among the world leaders in science and engineering education and research. The ten cantonal (state) universities provide comprehensive courses in diverse fields of study, and conduct cutting-edge research. Excellent programs are also offered by the eight Swiss universities of applied sciences and the 15 universities of teacher education. Moreover, Switzerland is home to several outstanding special institutes in the areas of international affairs, public administration, finance and hotel management.

There are two categories of tertiary education in Switzerland: universities of applied sciences, which offer professional training and higher technical schools, which give students professional or vocational qualifications. Two Swiss universities appear in the top 50 of the 2010QS World University Rankings, another one appears in the top 100.A total of eight universities feature in the overall QSTop 500. A first degree requires three years of study in Switzerland; and a master's, a further two. Many Swiss universities offer courses in English, but students do need a high level of language comprehension in German, French or Italian. Students must include a state-recognized Swiss maturity certificate or equivalent foreign certificate, as part of their application.
Focus on graduate study
While most bachelor's programs are still taught in German, French or Italian, English has become the main language for master's degrees and PhD programs. A wide range of programs are fully or partially taught in English in an international setting, offering attractive opportunities for international students to pursue their postgraduate studies in Switzerland. There is a broad offering of PhD or postdoctoral programs, which are often organized in small working groups. At many Swiss universities, international students comprise 50% of total PhD candidates, who are considered part of the workforce and are well paid.
Pros & cons
+ Low tuition and fees (the universities are mainly publicly funded) + Scholarships available + Can work 15 hours per week while studying - Tough entry regulations - Language comprehension requirements
International Student Accommodation
Accommodation is generally easy to find while studying in Switzerland. There are some university student houses, but most students live in flat shares, which are advertised on university notice boards or student websites (here)

Don't expect flat shares to be furnished when you move in, and some won't even have light-bulbs!

It is also obligatory for international students staying longer than three months in Switzerland to take out health insurance.
Pack your bags for a range of temperatures - Switzerland offers snow capped mountains as well as a warm Mediterranean climate, it depends on where you are. Most of the time, daytime temperatures range between 18C to 28C in summer and -2C to 7C in winter. The coldest area is the Jura, in particular the Brevine Valley. The warmest spot is Ticino in the south.

Switzerland isn't short on sunshine during the summer months, but neither is it short on rain. Make sure you have both your sunglasses and umbrella handy. Look out for the hot, dry wind that sweeps down into the valleys and can be oppressively uncomfortable. It can strike at any time of the year, but is most common during spring and autumn.
Switzerland's transport system is one of the best, and most efficient, in the world - but you pay for it. Getting around isn't cheap. That doesn't mean to say it's difficult though. All local city transport is linked via the same ticketing system, so you can change lines on one ticket. In some towns, your ticket may have a time limit for travel within a particular zone, so make sure you check. The best deals can be found on a multistrip ticket or a one-day pass. Always have a ticket when using public transport. Inspectors regularly check and ask for your ticket and if you're found without one, expect a fine on the spot of up to Sfr80.
Item Price (Swf)
5kg load in coin-operated laundry 10.00
loaf of bread 3.25
glass of draught beer 3.50
litre of petrol 1.34
litre of water 2.00
souvenir t-shirt 20.00
takeaway kebab 8.00
fondue dinner 25.00
hostel dorm bed
* WorldGuide Index Price Lonely Planet

Useful info
Dialing code: 41 Currency: Swiss francs Time Zone: GMT + 1 (Central European Time - CET). During daylight saving/summer time, it is shifted forward by one hour, GMT +2.
More links:
Here: "Studying in Switzerland" is a comprehensive website designed for foreign students to explore the excellent study opportunities in Switzerland.

Here: serves as a portal to Swiss universities, providing basic information to international students who wish to study in Switzerland.

Here: allows the user to search programs by fields of study, keyword or detailed search.