Apart from the qualities visible to the naked eye which Switzerland offers, their education system is the cherry on top of the pie. The Swiss higher education has a few hundred-year-old roots, now. But, the undeniable quality is not all there is to universities in Switzerland.
The Swiss believe that attending university shouldn’t mean one needs to break the bank. They believe higher education should be a choice people should make themselves, and if they do, to be able to afford it. This is why it is estimated that by 2037, half of the population aged 25 to 65 will have a tertiary level qualification. And this is achievable because taxpayers’ money funds almost all of the Swiss universities.
The low cost, paired with the fact that Swiss schools have an array of programs and a reputation of excellence, makes Switzerland a hot-spot for international students seeking education abroad. With all the academic values they have, Swiss universities and Swiss people, in general, are known to embrace diversity. This essentially means that they provide a taste of cultural variety; they also offer top-notch education.
Are There Tuition-Free Swiss Universities for International Students?
Well, technically, no, there aren’t any universities in Switzerland that are entirely free of cost. This is not only the case with international students, but there are also no free programs for nationals. This is not to say there isn’t a way of getting a free Swiss education; it’s just not handed out on a silver platter. What this means is, the way to a free Swiss degree is through a scholarship.
Although most of the universities in Switzerland are generally cheap, sometimes that alone isn’t enough. That’s why a lot of Swiss universities offer scholarships. These scholarships will usually cover all the tuition fees and most of the additional annual living expenses and studying in Switzerland.
Universities aren’t the only place that students can turn to for scholarships. The government offers its own portion of them. However, governmental scholarships are usually given out to postgraduates and researchers.
In comparison to other countries with world-renowned universities, Switzerland offers exceptionally cheap tuition fees to their students. One of the prime examples is the difference between Swiss annual tuition fees and those of the US.
As we can see from the graph, the cheapest universities in Switzerland are public institutions, and they are far less costly than state colleges in the US.
Cheapest Universities in Switzerland
By now, we have established that Switzerland is a treasure-box of low-cost options for higher education. However, some beat the rest in that area—by a mile. And while they offer cheaper programs, it is worth noting that this doesn’t affect their value in any way.
Also, keep in mind that some study fields will be costly, no matter which institution you end up choosing. And, tuition costs differ depending on the department.
Disclaim: The following list of higher education institutions does not represent a ranking; hence they are ordered randomly.
The University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Western Switzerland
The University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Western Switzerland is spread across seven cantons of western Switzerland—Bern, Freiburg, Geneva, Valais, Jura, Neuchâtel, and Vaud. HES-SO offers various study streams and research activities.
This university was founded in 1998 and it comprises of has since become a place known for innovation, ideas, skills, knowledge, and creativity. It comprises six faculties of Art & Design, Business, Management and Services, Engineering and Architecture, Music and the Performing Arts, Health Sciences, and Social Work.
Tuition fee: CHF 500 for both Swiss and non-Swiss students (per semester)
University of Geneva
The University of Geneva was founded in 1559. To this day, it is a high-rated spot for researchers. This university encourages interdisciplinarity both in teaching and research, which is what has made it earn its global recognition.
In this Swiss university, you can pursue law, political science, economics, etc. Some disciplines include Environmental Sciences, Genetics, Human Rights, among many others. The University of Geneva offers low-cost but high quality.
Tuition fee: 500 CHF for both Swiss and non-Swiss students (per semester)
University of Lausanne
Apart from being a higher education institution made up of seven faculties, the University of Lausanne is also a well-known research institute. Their main campus is located along the shore of Lake Geneva.
In addition to the great view, they provide world-class education and research in three main subjects: Life Sciences and Medicine, Human and Social Sciences, and Environmental Sciences.
Tuition fee: CHF 580 for both Swiss and non-Swiss students (per semester)
University of Neuchâtel
The University of Neuchâtel is located in the town it shares its name with. The university is made up of four faculties, and it was created back in 1838 under the name Academy of Neuchatel.
Their four faculties include the Faculty of Law, The Faculty of Humanities, the Faculty of Science, and the Faculty of Economics and Business. Besides education, the university offers cultural activities, a sports center, a library, etc.
Tuition fee: CHF 950 for Swiss students, CHF 1540 for non-Swiss students (per year); semester fee for Swiss students: CHF 515, for foreign students: CHF 790
Apart from being a research institute and open to both nationals and foreigners, ETH Zurich is also one of Switzerland’s oldest universities. They offer merit scholarships and even a scholarship calculator with which a student can see what kind of scholarship they would be eligible for.
ETH Zurich is ranked as one of the top universities in the world. It offers degree programs in the fields of construction sciences, engineering sciences, natural sciences and mathematics, system-oriented natural sciences, and management and social sciences.
Tuition fee: CHF 1,298 for both Swiss and non-Swiss students (per year)
University of Basel
The University of Basel is the oldest in Switzerland, as it was founded around 550 years ago. While offering a wide range of academic disciplines, the university is also regularly placed among the top 100 universities in the world.
This university has an extensive curriculum and it includes several teaching and research areas such as life sciences and other disciplines.
Tuition fee: CHF 850 for both Swiss and non-Swiss students (per semester)
University of Bern
The University of Bern is a public institution, and it was established back in 1843. You can pick and choose your field from Theology to Veterinary. The University of Bern, along with the University of Zurich, is the first in Switzerland to offer a continuing study in gender-specific medicine.
Tuition fee: CHF 750 for Swiss students, CHF 950 for non-Swiss students (per semester)
University of Fribourg
Whether you are interested in learning, research, or employment, the University of Fribourg offers all three. The university was founded back in 1889 and prides itself on innovative ways of teaching and growing. This has made the university very influential in the region and brings students from both Switzerland and different parts of the world.
Tuition fee: CHF 835 for Swiss students, CHF 985 for non-Swiss students (per semester)
Zurich University of the Arts
Zurich University of the Arts is one of the leading universities of art in Europe. They offer both studying and research programs covering many art areas—film, design, fine arts, dance, theatre, music, transdisciplinary studies, and teaching of design and art.
The shared Toni Campus enables all the disciplines to be in close vicinity to one another and offers an ideal environment for students. With many students pursuing professional projects alongside their studies, the university is considering introducing part-time options.
Tuition fee: CHF 750 for Swiss students, 1,250 for non-Swiss students (per semester)
University of St. Gallen
The University of St. Gallen is a research university established back in 1898 and it is one of the leading business schools in Switzerland. They offer a variety of majors and are very open to international students.
Although they don’t offer scholarships, they have several exchange programs, and their degree holds up in both Swiss and international job markets.
Tuition fee: CHF 1,229 for Swiss students, CHF 3,126 for non-Swiss students (per semester)
American University in Switzerland
The American University in Switzerland is an excellent choice for those seeking an English program in Switzerland. They offer business & management programs and can provide bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees.
This university does not grant full scholarships, as it is not funded by the government, but they do grant partial scholarships for which you can apply through the financial aid program.
Tuition fee: CHF 21,000/year for undergraduate, CHF 19,000/year for graduate, and CHF 29,000/year for postgraduate. All including shared accommodation.
Geneva Business School
Geneva Business School is a Swiss business school that offers great programs at great prices. They have campuses in Geneva, Barcelona, Madrid, Astana, and Yangon, making it possible for students to study outside of Switzerland and still get a Swiss degree.
They promise innovative ways of studying and integrating students in the job market. Plus, they are one of the best business schools in Switzerland.
Tuition fee: CHF 12,450 for undergraduate, CHF 10,250 for graduate, and CHF 12,950 for MBA
State Tourism and Hotel Management School
State Tourism And Hotel Management School is a Swiss hospitality school that falls on the cheaper spectrum. This university is located in Bellinzona, a small gem in southern Switzerland with three UNESCO World Heritage castles. So, apart from education, there are many sight-seeing opportunities when studying there.
Tuition fee: under CHF 18,000
Beyond tuition fees, Switzerland can be quite a pricey country to live in. Their delicious food, great transportation system, and quality watches all come at a price. They put a low price on education (and rightly so), but it’s a different story with everything else.
As a student living in Switzerland, the monthly expenses are around CHF 2,500, excluding all the recreational activities they might partake in and tuition fees. On the bright side, students can work and study simultaneously, and students can apply for financial aid or scholarships. All in all, unlike popular belief, Switzerland does have a reputation for being the cheapest among developed countries in something—and what an amazing thing it is that that something is education.