Universities

A PhD is the highest degree a person can obtain from a university. PhD stands for Doctorate in Philosophy but is not related to philosophy-related studies. It is a doctorate degree, possible in any discipline, except medicine, and sometimes theology. Some PhDs require a Master’s degree

Switzerland is known for its degrees in business, is home to some of the best institutes of technology, and is a world leader in science and engineering. This makes it the perfect country to continue your education, especially crown it with a PhD.

Best Universities for international students

It is estimated that around 50% of PhD students in Switzerland are international students. This big percentage is a factor of the great universities and PhD programmes in Switzerland. It is really a circle. The good universities attract lots of students and a large number of students encourages international universities. No matter what angle you look at it from, Switzerland is an overall great country to live and study in.

Swiss universities generally rank quite high compared to world universities. These are the best Swiss universities that offer PhD programmes, as well as their world ranking.

The University of Zurich is one of the best universities in Switzerland. They ranking 54th in the world.

The University of Geneva’sPhD programs provide students with a high-quality education for an academic career in the fields of economics, econometrics, management, statistics, finance, and information systems. They rank 59th in the world.

Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne offers customized PhD programs, cutting-edge laboratories directed by internationally renowned professors, a modern, fast-developing campus, satellite sites in French-speaking cantons, and close ties to industry. They rank 81st in the world.

The University of Basel has been developing around 40 PhD programs since 2010. They rank 96th in the world.

Language of instruction

Switzerland has 4 official languages, German, French, Italian, and Romansh. Most of their undergraduate study programmes are offered in the national languages while for their postgraduate studies they use English.

Cost

Cost of studying

The cost of studying in Switzerland depends totally on the university you choose to finish your doctoral studies. As you move to higher levels of education, the tuition fees get lower. A bachelor’s degree tuition is higher than a master’s one and a master’s tuition is higher than a PhD.

Tuition fees for PhD programmes in Switzerland range around CHF 1000 to CHF 2000. But sometimes Swiss universities advertise their PhD programmes as paid assistant jobs. This way you don’t have to pay your tuition fee and you get paid for the job you’re doing.   

Cost of living

The cost of living in Switzerland for a Master student depends on a personal choice of recreational activities, but it’s somewhere around CHF 1600 – CHF 2000 for monthly expenses.

Accommodation

Average price: Studio – CHF 900 to 2000/per month, Shared flat – CHF 500 to 900/per month

Clothes, personal care, entertainment

Average price: CHF 75-100/per week for groceries

Public transport

Average price: ~CHF 100/per month

Health insurance

Average price: CHF 90/per month

Utilities and memberships

Average price: CHF 350/per month for utilities, gym membership, Netflix membership, and internet bills.

Clothes, personal care, entertainment

Depends on your personal lifestyle.

Scholarships for PhD students

PhD students are the main recipients of Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships. These scholarships are given to researchers and artists. The research scholarship is given to post-graduate researchers in any discipline that want to come to Switzerland to pursue their doctoral or post-doctoral studies. The researcher has to hold a master’s degree as a minimum.

As for other specific scholarships from universities, we have another guide where you can find everything out in detail.

Eligibility

Things to bear in mind

Residence permit

All students (even those coming from an EU or EFTA member country) will still have to apply for a residence permit for a stay longer than 6 months. Students from all other nationalities apply directly for a visa in their country of origin, which is usually issued within 8 weeks.

Language certificates

All universities usually require a language certificate proving you know the language of instruction. In most cases, you’ll need to know the respective language in a minimum C1 level. Some of the widely recognized certificates are:

  • 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 German – Goethe Certificate C1 or TestDaF with TDN 4
  • For French – DALF (Diplôme approfondi de langue française) C1
  • For Italian – CELI (Certificazione Italiano Generale) C1 or PLIDA (Progetto Lingua Italiana Dante Alighieri) C1
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