Basic Information about Switzerland
Switzerland is a small country located in the heart of Western Europe, and sharing borders with neighboring Germany, Austria, the Principality of Liechtenstein, Italy and France. There are now approximately 7.7 million people living in Switzerland, speaking four official languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh.
A mountainous landscape: 60% of the Swiss territory is occupied by the Alps, a great mountain range stretching circa one thousand kilometers from Austria to France, that offer more than 80 peaks above 4000 meters.
A prosperous economy: nowadays Switzerland enjoys the most competitive economies in the world (1st on the WEF Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2012), which relies mainly on the third sector. Large multinational corporations such as Nestlé, Novartis and ABB have their headquarters in Switzerland. High-quality performance and well-trained, reliable employees, as well as the concentration of high-quality niche products are at the heart of the Swiss economy. The key areas for Swiss exports are high-technology in general including pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, micro and nanotechnology, environmental technologies, as well as finance, design, luxury and hospitality.
Environment and quality of life: a well-preserved environment easily accessible by public transport, safe cities, and excellent infrastructures make living in Switzerland very pleasant, and explain why the Global Ranking of Cities with a High Quality of Life ranks three Swiss cities among the top ten (Mercer's 2011 Quality of Living Survey).
The Higher Education System
Switzerland offers a very dynamic, conducive and competitive education and research landscape, as testified by 27 Nobel Prize winners from 1901 to 2002. The first Swiss University was founded in 1460 in Basel and today the country offers outstanding higher education in the 10 cantonal universities and the 2 Federal Institutes of Technology, in the more professionally-oriented universities of applied sciences and in the universities of teacher education. There are also a few more University-level institutions that are considered public institutions of higher education.
High diversity of cultures and languages, open access to students, very low student fees, highly international student cohorts and staff, as well as access to international networks and programs and tight links to academic research and industry, are the major strengths of the Swiss Higher Education System.
The Bachelor degree
The Bachelor's degree is a pre-requisite for enrollment in a Master's programme. The program is done in 3 years and comprises 180 Credits (in the Bologna system, one academic year corresponds to 60 ECTS - European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System). All Bachelor programmes are open to students in possession of a valid secondary school diploma, a Swiss school-leaving certificate, or a foreign degree that has been deemed equivalent.
The Master degree
The prerequisite for access to a Master's programme is a successfully completed Bachelor's programme. It takes in general 2 years (sometimes 1,5 years) and comprises 120 Credits ECTS. In this second cycle of studies, the student will further advance his or her knowledge and specialize in a particular field, or acquire an interdisciplinary formation. This programme is completed with the writing of a master's thesis.
The research doctorate degree (PhD)
A doctorate is an academic degree of the highest level. Research doctorate degrees are generally awarded after 3-5 years of postgraduate research and study, and submission of a thesis. Professional doctorates are awarded in the professional disciplines of, for example, law or medicine. A Master's degree - and a high grade average attained during the Master's studies - are the main pre-requisites for admittance to a doctoral programme. In Switzerland, only the twelve state-run university institutions of academic learning (10 cantonal universities, plus 2 Federal Institutes of Technology) are allowed to award doctoral degrees.
Most courses are taught in German, French or Italian at Bachelor level. More courses are taught in English at Master and PhD level.
Tuition fees and living costs
Due to the national commitment to education and the generous funding from federal and cantonal governments, tuition fees at Swiss universities are relatively low: depending on the Universities and program chosen, they cost on general around 1’300 Swiss Francs (SGD 1’800.-) per year. An estimate of 1’500-2’000 Swiss Francs (SGD 2’000-2’800) per month will cover the livings costs (food, accommodation, etc.) depending on the location of the university and personal demands.
The Swiss Government offers scholarships to foreign students and artists on the basis of reciprocity or within the framework of a scholarship pool to several countries. Scholarships are granted to postgraduate candidates or researchers from both industrial and development countries. See Federal Commission for Scholarships for International Students.
To find out whether a Swiss University offers scholarships to international students, candidates are advised to check the website of the University in question, see the Swiss Universities contact details.
Switzerland is also part of the Erasmus Mundus Program, which offers scholarship and academic cooperation.