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The Case for Switzerland’s Higher Ed: Why it is Ripe for International Education Greatness

Switzerland, largely popular for the majesty of its landscape, has long been known for providing high-quality education, with its well-regarded research outputs and student-centered teaching methods. The Swiss education system is, in fact, considered as one of the most progressive in the world.


The country has a total of 12 universities, 10 of which are run and regulated by the cantons and offer theory-oriented majors. There’s an extensive range of subjects offered at Swiss universities but they are largely known for their BBAs and MBAs. This is one of the reasons why we see a substantial number of international students in the country. 


Swiss universities have a solid focus on research and train their students through research-based teaching. The ten cantonal institutions offer programs in Law and Economy, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Humanities, and Social Sciences, while the federal institutes of technology concentrate on Engineering, Mathematics, and Natural Sciences. 


University-level education in Switzerland follows the bachelor-master scheme. Similar to most other European countries, they observe the Bologna system, meaning that many international students can easily transfer the qualifications they earn in Switzerland to their home institutions. 

International Student Population

Overall, around 16.9 percent of higher education students in Switzerland come from abroad. The country also enjoys a high rate of Ph.D. students. It is interesting to note that Switzerland has the highest rate of citizens in the world that hold doctoral degrees. Nearly a quarter of foreign students come from Germany, with 16 percent from France, 11 percent from Italy, and 4 percent from China.

Percentage of Foreign Students by Institution

International students who aim to enroll at a Swiss university must earn a state-recognized Swiss matriculation certificate (Matura), or a requirement of equal value. Language proficiency is necessary and is determined by the language being used in the class. Switzerland has four official languages, namely: French, German, Italian, and Romansh.

Quality of Higher Education in Switzerland

Switzerland is a country with a long tradition of excellent higher education. Its first university was established in 1460 at Basel and as a result of continued academic progress over the centuries, Switzerland is now home to some of Europe’s most prominent higher educational programs.


In terms of aspects by which universities are measured — teaching, research, knowledge, and international perspective– institutions in Switzerland have ranked steadily high in their performance.


No less than seven belong in the top 200 of QS World Rankings (2019). The highest-ranking — the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich / ETH Zürich)– is dedicated to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics or STEM. The university has produced more than 20 Nobel laureate winners and well-known former students including Albert Einstein. 


University Ranking (Top 200) – QS and THE, 2018-2019

Source: QS World University Ranking / Times Higher Education

Working in Higher Education in Switzerland

Switzerland also offers highly paid positions within academia. Being from Switzerland is not normally mandatory for the position. Scholars and those principally from French, German and Italian-speaking backgrounds work right across the higher education system. The number of international professors is high — for example, over half the teaching staff at the University of Zurich are internationally hailed.


Whether the school is within a German or French-speaking canton, there can be various titles to positions within the hierarchical order. The lowest post on the career ladder is usually the research assistant or reader. In French-speaking cantons, a Ph.D. is required for all positions above the research assistant role. In German-speaking cantons, it is typical for Ph.D. candidates to work as research assistants or lecturers.


Salaries are considered highly attractive with research assistants having a starting salary of EUR 40,410 and post-doctorates salaries starting at EUR 51,396 a year.

Conclusion: So Much to Offer

Switzerland has so much to offer, particularly in higher education. With a low crime rate, clean surroundings, excellent public transport networks, and a world-class health system, the country promises international students a standard of living like no other. Switzerland is an open, exciting, and forward-thinking nation that understands the value of nourishing young talent. It’s a place where students can get a world-class education, learn about unique cultures, and grow their careers.

Source: Project Atlas, 2019

Without a doubt, Switzerland has one of the world’s best education systems and is one of the most conducive for serious study. It is a wonder that it is currently not among the top countries of choice for international students as shown by the graph above. 

The country definitely needs to open itself up and reach out to more  global learners. And if it is marketed properly and aggressively, Switzerland could go head-to-head with leading international education destinations such as the US, Canada and the UK. (SUNEETHA QURESHI) 

#PartnerForLife #InternationalEducation #InternationalStudents #MSM

Suneetha has more than 10 years of experience in the international education sector. As the Vice President of MSM Global, she leads MSM’s extensive back-of-the-house operations, including MSM’s human resources, financial management, information technology, and marketing, communications, and social media activities. 

She has an impeccable track record of successfully launching the representative offices in Asia and Africa of many North American and European higher education institutions. Her key strengths include hiring, training, and developing teams as evidenced by the successful results of the dedicated in-country college and university client teams.  

Suneetha also has taken the lead in developing several initiatives at MSM, including building robust standard operating procedures, the Rise ‘n Shine team engagement platform, and the organization’s data analytics and audit segments. 


2019 Project Atlas Infographics. (n.d.). Retrieved April 8, 2021, from https://www.iie.org/Research-and-Insights/Project-Atlas/Explore-Data/Infographics/2019-Project-Atlas-Infographics

Bekolli, U. (2020, November 24). Education in Switzerland: Here’s what you need to know. Retrieved February 20, 2021, from https://studyinginswitzerland.com/switzerland-education/

Higher education Switzerland: Why Switzerland is a popular destination for foreigners. (2019, February 21). Retrieved February 20, 2021, from https://www.academics.com/guide/higher-education-switzerland

Higher education system in Switzerland. (n.d.). Retrieved February 20, 2021, from https://bit.ly/3aPihMe


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