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How much universities in Switzerland charge foreigners compared to locals

How much universities in Switzerland charge foreigners compared to locals
The law library at the University of Zurich. Photo by Mitya Ivanov on Unsplash
Foreign students pay a significantly higher tuition in Swiss universities than locals, a new study reveals.

Overall, the cost of studying in Switzerland is much lower than at top universities in the UK or the United States, where tuition can cost tens of thousands each year.

Still, costs at Swiss schools vary, according to an anlysis by consumer comparison site Comparis.ch

For instance, students at the University of Italian Switzerland in Ticino pay 2,000 francs per semester, which is more than four times higher than what universities of Neuchâtel (425 francs) or Geneva (435 francs) charge.

Interestingly, costs “do not correlate with the academic reputation of the institution,” said Leo Hug, a Comparis expert. “The most expensive universities are not necessarily at the top of the rankings.”

Ticino’s university, which has high tuition fees, only occupies 273th place in the international QS World University Rankings.

The ETH Zurich, on the other hand, which, comes in eighth place worldwide, and even climbs to first place in continental Europe in The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2022, only charges 730 francs per semester.

READ MORE: Why ETH Zurich has been ranked the ‘best university in continental Europe’

This is 10 francs more than the University of Zurich (73rd in the QS ranking).

The Federal Polytechnic Institute (EPFL), which is also highly ranked internationally, collects the same semester fees, 730 francs, as its sister institution, Zurich’s ETH.

What about foreign students?

In some establishments, students coming from abroad pay higher tuition. Swiss universities are public, which means they are partly supported by tax revenue, so people who don’t reside in Switzerland have to shell out more money to study here.

At the University of St. Gallen,  for example, foreign Bachelor students have to pay a semester fee which is 2.5 times higher than that of Swiss residents — 3,129 francs compared to 1,229 francs.

In the Masters program, the ratio is also 2.3 (3,329 francs against 1,429 francs).

At the University of Italian Switzerland, the most expensive in the country, foreign students pay double, or 4,000 francs.

The finding is similar in the Swiss universities that train teachers (HEP).

The price for foreigners is highest in Valais (6,500 francs), versus 500 francs for their Swiss counterparts.

At the HEP in Fribourg, the second most expensive for foreigners, the tuition per semester is 4,200 francs, which is seven times more than Swiss students pay.

Regardless of the fact that foreigners are not entitled to the same pricing scheme as Swiss residents, “one could wonder if foreigners are not taken for cash cows”, Hug said, adding that in some cantons, like in Valais, “the costs are exaggerated”.

Comparis analysed only the tuition fees, and not other related costs such as student housing

Complete study results can be found here.


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