study in switzerland
These universities make it affordable for you to study in Switzerland. Source: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Home to institutions that consistently rank in the top spots of the QS World University Rankings. Described as one of the most innovative countries in the world, according to the Global Innovation Index. A world-class healthcare system. These are some reasons why many international students choose to study in Switzerland.

It’s little wonder why this country has become a popular destination in recent years. As many as 12,300 international students have enrolled in a higher education institution in Switzerland at the start of the 2020 academic year, according to annual data published by the Federal Statistical Office — a 4%  increase compared to 2019.

While there is a certain prestige that comes with studying in a country that houses the Swiss Alps, Central Plateau and the Jura mountains, it is undoubtedly expensive to live in Switzerland. In large cities like Geneva, Lausanne and Zurich, expect to pay up to US$2,196.60 to rent one bedroom in the city centre. That’s not including your utilities, public transportation fees and student insurance. 

Although there are no tuition-free universities in Switzerland, there are fortunately cheap options for international students to consider. Tuition at these universities can start from as low as 500 Swiss francs (US$498.27 at the time of writing) per semester:

study in switzerland

Need a break? Just gaze at the picturesque landscapes in Switzerland. Source: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP

Study in Switzerland: Best cheap universities for international students

1. University of Geneva

The University of Geneva (UNIGE) is a public research university based in Geneva — a city known to house organisations like the United Nations Red Cross and World Trade Organisation. It was founded in 1559 and ranked amongst the top 100 best universities in the world

Take your pick from over 500 programmes covering exact sciences, medicine, humanities, social sciences and law, among others. Its domains of excellence in research include life sciences (molecular biology, bio-informatics), physics of elementary particles and astrophysics. 

UNIGE also hosts and co-hosts seven National Centres of Competence in Research: Frontiers in Genetics, MaNEP, PlanetS, SwissMap, Chemical Biology, Synaptic Bases of Mental Diseases and LIVES-Overcoming vulnerabilities in a life course perspective. 

You will need to pay 500 Swiss francs per semester for an education at UNIGE. A three-year undergraduate degree will last six semesters, whereas a two-year master’s programme only has four semesters. 

2. University of Lausanne

Situated along the shore of Lake Geneva, the University of Lausanne — also known as UNIL — is the second oldest university in the country.

UNIL is home to seven faculties, including the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, Faculty of Law, Criminal Justice and Public Administration, Faculty of Arts — School of French as a Foreign Language, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Faculty of Business and Economics, Faculty of Biology and Medicine and Faculty of Geosciences and Environment. 

As UNIL is located in the French-speaking region of Switzerland, a majority of its courses are taught in French. As such, you should have a good level of French to be admitted into UNIL. Click here to view the bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UNIL that are taught in English. 

Whether you are an undergraduate or postgraduate student, you can expect to pay 580 Swiss francs per semester to study at UNIL.

study in switzerland

Students at ETH Zurich are always at the forefront of innovation. In this picture, students are working on their race car during the Formula Student Germany competition. Source: Daniel Roland/AFP

3. ETH Zurich

As one of the oldest institutions in Switzerland, ETH Zurich offers the best of both worlds. The ETH Zurich Zentrum campus embodies the university’s traditional roots within the city, while a modern ETH Zurich Hönggerberg campus is located on the outskirts of Zurich. 

Pick from a wide range of English-taught master’s programmes that will cover areas like Environmental SciencesEnvironmental EngineeringQuantum Engineering and many more. Project-oriented learning components are included in these programmes to encourage active participation in industrial and academic research projects.

Generally, you will pay 730 Swiss francs per semester for your master’s at ETH Zurich. 

4. University of Neuchâtel

Another university situated along Lake Geneva in a French-speaking region of Switzerland is the University of Neuchâtel (UniNE). Despite its modest size, UniNE is relatively well-known for its welcoming attitude to students who come from 100 countries. According to its website, 42% of students come from other Swiss cantons (cantons refers to a district, section or part of a country)  and 22% are from abroad. 

While most of their courses are delivered in French, UniNE offers English-taught programmes too. Some of them are distinctive. Picture learning about management within the sports world through the FIFA Master —International Master (MA) in Management, Law and Humanities of Sport in the heart of Europe or learning about the philosophy of the mind with a Master of Arts or Science in Cognitive ScienceTuition fees at UON start from 790 Swiss francs for their master’s programme.