Studying in Switzerland as a foreigner
Do you have a foreign diploma or certificate and you want to study in Switzerland? Here you find answers to frequently asked questions.
The Swiss education system at the higher education area consists of three types of schools: universities, universities of applied sciences and universities of teacher education. A graphical overview explains the Swiss education system:
www.swissuniversities.ch> Topics > Studying > Qualifications Framework.
A centralized source of information is: www.swissuniversities.ch.
Where can I have my education recognised?
In Switzerland, a central organisation to recognise foreign baccalaureate does not exist. Each university makes its own decisions about recognising certificates and qualifications. For a final decision on the recognition of your diploma/certificate, you must contact the respective institute directly.
A non-binding, non-committal overview of foreign education, ordered by country, can be found at the Swissuniversites website: www.swissuniversities.ch > Topics > Studying > Admission to Universities > Countries.
What kind of degree programs do exist?
Information about all degree programs can be found at: www.berufsberatung.ch/studium or www.studyprogrammes.ch (teaching language may be chosen in the advanced search).
What are the language requirements?
At Bachelor level, most lectures are held in the regional language of the university location (German, French or Italian). Normally, language knowledge at level C1 (Common Framework European References CFER) is required and has to be proven by examination results or a recognised certificate. Several degree courses in English are available at Master and at post-Master level, especially in the areas of natural sciences and technology. Information about language requirements can be found at the universities’ websites. Requirements regarding languages at the universities of applied sciences and universities of teacher education are similar. Please clarify these requirements with the respective institutes directly.
Are there admission examinations?
In case of a university not recognising your diploma, you need to go through a federal baccalaureate examination (www.sbfi.admin.ch > Bildung > Maturität > Gymnasiale Maturität > Schweizerische Maturitätsprüfung).
The international «Baccalauréat International» and «Baccalauréat Européen» are further possibilities, as well as the British baccalaureate (IGCSE, A levels). To receive admission to one of the Swiss universities, restrictions may apply:
www.swissuniversities.ch > Topics > Studying > admission to universities.
Some private institutes offer international baccalaureates: www.swissprivateschoolregister.com.
Should your diploma or certificate receive a partial recognition, you can take the central complementary examination, organised by the Swiss universities ECUS (www.ecus-edu.ch). In order to apply for this examination, you will need an enrolment form from a Swiss university. The universities will decide about the extent of the examination and will allocate you to an examination centre either at Zurich or Geneva. Several institutes can help you prepare for the examinations:
- www.akad.ch > BMS, Passerelle, Gymnasiale Maturität > Vorkurs
The universities for applied sciences and for teacher education, as well as the University of Zurich and the Federal Institute of Technology, offer their own admission examinations. Please inform yourself at the respective institute.
At some universities, it is possible to join a course without having a baccalaureate. Special admission procedures apply: www.swissuniversities.ch > Topics > Studying > Admission to Universities > Ohne Maturitätszeugnis.
Special cases (Federal Institute of Technology ETH, University of St. Gallen, medical degree programs)
ETH (Federal Institute of Technology)
Both federal institutes of technology in Zurich (ETHZ) and Lausanne (EPFL) conduct their own admission examinations on demand. For students from non-EU countries, the EPFL offers under certain conditions a preparation year CMS (cours de mathématiques spéciales).
- www.ethz.ch > Studies at EH Zurich > Bachelor's degree studies > Application > Non-Swiss matriculation certificate
HSG (University of St. Gallen)
Students holding a foreign diploma are subject to admission restrictions (except for residents from Liechtenstein, foreigners holding a Swiss C permit, holders of a doctorate and special guests). Admission is subject to passing an examination by the HSG or an international test (GMAT, GRE or LSAT). www.unisg.ch > Studying > Admission > Admission to a Bachelor's Programme > HSG selection procedure.
Medical degree programs (human, veterinary medicine, dentistry)
For the obligatory qualifying examination, special admission requirements are applicable. (Swiss citizenship or citizen of Liechtenstein, etc.): www.swissuniversities.ch > Service > Applying to Medical Schools.
Study opportunities for refugees
Refugees with an academic background may be admitted as auditors at University of Zurich for a discovery semester. In Geneva, refugees are admitted to examinations.
Which requirements apply for studying at a university of applied sciences?
In addition to a recognised diploma, in most cases a practical year in the field of the planned study is required. In case of a partial recognition, depending on the institute, admission examinations can be taken. Please contact the university website directly.
I am living abroad and want to study in Switzerland. How do I proceed?
Apply in due time at the university of your choice and clarify the admission requirements. All students travelling to Switzerland for the purpose of studying must apply for a residence permit. Depending on the country of origin, you only need a residence permit (residents of EU/EFTA countries) or a visa. In order to apply for a residence permit, you must submit an admission confirmation from the university, as well as proof of having sufficient funds at your disposal for living in Switzerland.
- www.swissuniversities.ch > Topics > Studying > Admission to Universities > Kontaktadressen
- www.ag.ch/migrationsamt> Merkblätter & Formulare > Merkblätter > Studienaufenthalte
How to finance my studies?
For a scholarship, foreign students must first apply to the appropriate institutes in their country of origin.
Swiss students living abroad, recognised refugees and holders of a C permit apply in the canton where they live, or at the canton of their parents' residence. www.ag.ch/stipendien
Further Information: www.swissuniversities.ch > Service > Grants to study in Switzerland
Foreign students (maximum age: 35) admitted to a post-graduate study can apply to the federal scholarship commission for a scholarship: www.sbfi.admin.ch> Education > Scholarships and grants