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Masters in Switzerland
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Masters in Switzerland

Grüezi!

Switzerland, or more precisely the Swiss Confederation, is a small landlocked country located right in the center of Europe. Packed with more than 8.5 million people spread around beautiful cities and picturesque towns, the Swiss nation is a perfect example that size does not always matter. Admit it – you’ve already thought about their world-famous banks, tasty chocolate and of course, unsurpassed watchmakers. 

But even if you haven’t, today you will have the opportunity to learn about a whole new area that Switzerland has started to conquer – higher education. So check your Rolex now, as after no more than 15 minutes you will know all about your Masters opportunities in the often called “land of milk and honey”! Read more about studying in Switzerland!

Fun fact: Did you know that there are 4 official languages in Switzerland – French, German, Italian and Romansh?

Swiss universities

In general, there are in total 3 types of universities in Switzerland:

  • University
  • University of Applied Sciences and Arts
  • University of Teacher Education

The basic difference between them is the amount of research and practice that you will be dealing with, as well as having the opportunity to study either more advanced study areas or even applying professional education

Either way, high quality of Swiss education and excellent academic instruction will follow you everywhere, at all 42 public and private universities. Just look at the stats – the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2018 have placed 7 Swiss universities in the Top 200 on the planet!  

Masters in Switzerland – higher education details for 2019
Top-ranked Universities* 10
Tuition fees at state universities p.a.€530 - €2200
Average Living Costs per month (+ housing)€1050
Number of Masters in English450+
% population that speaks English62%
Forbes Global 2000 companies41

 *according to THE’s World University Rankings

Choosing a Masters in Switzerland

Now that we have scratched off the university part from our list, it is time to find out more about your Masters degree opportunities. And the choice is rich – just like the Swiss themselves! 

Among the more popular study areas you can find courses in Business & Economics, Education, Fine Arts, Humanities and Science & Mathematics. The typical duration of most Masters programmes is somewhere between 1.5 and 2 years worth of full-time study. In most cases, upon graduation, you can expect one of the following:

  • Master of Arts
  • Master of Advanced Studies
  • Master of Science
  • Master of Education
  • Master of Business Administration

But what about language of instruction? Wait, you mean languages of instruction, right? We mentioned that there are 4 official languages but in reality, there is also English being used as an unofficial one.

And there is more – some universities in the German-speaking regions of Switzerland also offer Masters degrees in Swiss German. And trust us – it is completely different! 

So overall, it is safe to say that Switzerland can definitely offer a truly international environment. In fact, according to the OECD and their report Education at a Glance for 2017, international students account for 17% of all studying at Swiss universities!

Oh, and did we mention that the ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) is fully functional in Switzerland? 

Fun fact: Did you know that Albert Einstein developed the E=MC2 theory of relativity in Switzerland?

How to apply for a Masters in Switzerland?

Important: Before we go through documentary, remember that Switzerland is not a member of the EU. However, students from member states or EFTA (European Free Trade Association) are exempt from visa requirements. 

Much like elsewhere, application requirements in Switzerland can be summed up in the preparation of the following documents:

  • Bachelor degree in the same or similar study field
  • Application form 
  • Essay
  • Motivation/Recommendation letter
  • Curriculum Vitae/Resume
  • Language certificate
  • Visa/Residence permit

Of course, some Swiss universities apply specific requirements that are usually in the form of examination or interviews

Bear in mind that, even if you are a student coming from an EU or EFTA member country, you will still have to apply for a residence permit for a stay longer than 6 months. And since you will be studying for at least one year, remember that you will have to register within the cantonal authority. 

Students from all other nationalities apply directly for a visa which is usually issued within 8 weeks

Another key document worth more attention will be your language certificate. For a higher chance and maximum effect, keep in mind that you will have to present knowledge corresponding to the level C1 of the respective language. Here are some widely recognized certificates:

  • For French – DALF (Diplôme approfondi de langue française) C1
  • For Italian – CELI (Certificazione Italiano Generale) C1 or PLIDA (Progetto Lingua Italiana Dante Alighieri) C1
  • For German – Goethe Certificate C1 or TestDaF with TDN 4
  • For English – IELTS with a score of 7, TOELF with a score of 600 or 100 (paper-based or online) and Cambridge CPE or CAE
  • For Romansh – since Masters instructed in this language are limited, it is recommended that you learn more about language courses given by the specific university

Finally, Switzerland does not offer a centralized application system. With that being said, it is hard to be 100% precise with admission deadlines, since each Swiss university sets dates individually. However, since most Masters start in September/October, it is advisable that you submit your application somewhere between the beginning and middle of spring

Tuition fees and funding opportunities in Switzerland

Both Switzerland and the Swiss universities operate with the national currency called the Swiss franc (CHF). However, there are often times that you can also see tuition fees set in Euro as well.

Expecting to see big numbers next? Well, you will be disappointed – the general tuition cost range for Swiss public universities is between CHF 600 and CHF 2500! In EUR, this is somewhere between €530 and €2200. Or to sum up – figures much below the average for other major study destinations within Europe. 

Of course, this picture would have to take a 180° turn if we were to describe private university tuition. But wait – what about scholarships in Switzerland?

Indeed, a scholarship is the ideal instrument that can help you battle not only private but also public tuition. Find and choose the best funding opportunity for you!

And there you have it – now you know all about a Masters in Switzerland! But hold it right there partner – you are yet to discover more about your life as a student in the Swiss Confederation!

Swiss student life – accommodation, costs and transportation

Now from a financial point of view, Switzerland is by no means an affordable country for students. However, that does not mean that it is impossible to “keep it cheaper”.

For starters, accommodation. On the one hand, student halls of residence are available, with some Swiss universities even offering on-campus housing. However, numbers are limited, competition is high and information is scarce – so make sure to contact your chosen university for specific info. 

On the other hand, there are also shared flats – the most common form of accommodation in Switzerland. Extremely low-price apartments are rare find but a monthly rent of CHF 2000 for nicely located and medium-sized private accommodation is possible. Divide that by 4 and you will be looking at a price of CHF 500 for a total of 4 people. And this is the worst case scenario – for big city life in Bern, Geneva or Zurich.

Moving on to living costs as a student, these depend strongly on your needs and capabilities of saving. However, should you decide to follow a more economical way of life, you would find CHF 1200 (including your monthly accommodation and tuition fee cost) each month more than enough. Starting with a visit to a local Swiss supermarket:

  • Bread (500 g) – CHF 2,60
  • Eggs (12, regular) – CHF 5,30
  • Milk (1 liter) –  CHF 1,56
  • Chicken meat (1 kg) – CHF 24,70
  • Beef meat (1 kg) –  CHF 49, 20
  • Fruit (1kg) – CHF 6,50
  • Vegetables (1kg) – CHF 4,60

And there you have it – food supplies for two weeks! Even if you are not a fan of being a cook every day, you can choose to spend around CHF 20-25 sometimes for a meal at a restaurant. Add another CHF 150 for occasional shopping, CHF 90 for health insurance and CHF 60 for your monthly transport card – and your budget is complete! 

Speaking of transportation, Switzerland’s public transport system is super-efficient, safe and green. Through a connected network of trams, buses and trains, it is hard to say that you will have any issues reaching point B from point A problematically at most cities. Cycling is also a common sight with many routes enabling fast and healthy travelling. 

Is it possible to work while studying in Switzerland?

Without a doubt, finding a student job is a good way to battle your monthly spending while still relying on budgeting. However, there are certain limitations – non-Swiss students can only work for a maximum of 15 hours each week. As for those coming from countries outside the EU and EFTA, there is even a restriction of starting work earlier than 6 months after the beginning of the study semester. 

Nevertheless, it is still good that the possibility of working is there, and some income from a part-time job not fully restricted. Your best chance of finding a student job would be employment websites and newspaper advertisements. Of course, your university might also assist you in starting a more valuable internship or even beginning professional development.

Spending free time and leisure in Switzerland

In Switzerland, as a student, your free time would be your most valuable resource – there is so much to do! Starting with sports, you can freely practice ice hockey, skating, cycling and soccer. And don’t forget about tennis and the titan of the sport – Roger Federer! 

Then there is also mountain exploration, which can quickly turn into a skiing or snowboarding session around the Swiss Alps. Bear in mind that you will also have 1500 lakes waiting to be visited!

City exploration is another trait, as you will be surprised to find out that Swiss architecture is a big deal. You also have your standard chocolate buying sessions – Toblerone, Lindt, Milka. Oh, and how could we forget about cheese and wine tasting? Yummy!

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