Zurich university
Updated 5 months ago

With 400,000 inhabitants only, Zurich is not only Switzerland's most densely populated city but also its economic and financial hub. Moving to Zurich for your studies can thus be an exciting experience at all levels.

Although one of the world's most expensive cities for expatriates, Zurich offers an unparalleled quality of life in a lush green, and safe environment. With no less than 30% of the inhabitants of foreign origin, Zurich is a cosmopolitan city where you will easily be able to adapt. Zurich is also a very attractive destination for international students thanks to its quality higher education system and its renown research programs. Two of its universities are among the best in the world according to the QS Top Universities Ranking 2017.

Main universities in Zurich

ETH Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

The ETH Swiss Federal Institute of Technology is a world-famous institution which, according to its president, encourages students to put their ability to think ahead of knowledge itself. Founded in 1854, the ETH (also known as ETHZ or EPFZ) comes up 10th in the QS top universities rankings 2017, proving to be a state of the art technical and scientific institution. It is also known to be one of the world's leading institutions in the fields of Earth and Marine Science since 2014.

The ETH has produced 21 Nobel prize winners in medicine, chemistry, and physics, including Albert Einstein. It also has international partnerships with prestigious institutions such as Harvard, Princeton, Polytechnique, etc. It's worth noting that its student population was comprised of 9,815 students in 2017 including 7,563 international students of which 72% were postgraduate students in research.

The ETH is divided into two campuses, one being located in Zurich's historic area and the other at the other end of the city. Students can access the campuses via shuttle buses.

Find more information on the ETH website.

To enrol, you can either send a spontaneous application or take part in the entrance examination. Since most courses are taught in German, proof of language proficiency (Goethe, TestDaF, DSH-3, etc.) is required. Some English programs are also available.

University of Zurich

Even though it doesn't compare to the ETH, the University of Zurich offers high-quality science programs and ranks among the best in the world according to QS top universities rankings. In 2016 in ranked 86th, and 80th in 2017, and 73rd in 2018.

Founded in 1833, the University of Zurich is the most prominent Swiss university with around 26,000 students, including about 5,000 international students. The University of Zurich especially stands out for its dentistry and anatomy programs even though it offers a range of courses such as law, theology, economics, computer science, arts, etc.

Since Zurich is a German-speaking city, you need to have a good command of German (Goethe, TestDaF, DSH-3, etc.) unless you are enrolling in one of the English masters program.

International students who intend to spend six months or a year at this university will be delighted to know that Zurich has 460 exchange partnership agreements and adheres to the Erasmus Plus program.

Also, the unemployment rate is quite low in Zurich, and you're very likely to end up with a job upon completing your studies.

Find more information on the University of Zurich website.

Entry requirements

Even though Switzerland is not part of the European Union, international students coming from many European countries do not need a visa to move to Zurich. Once they receive their admission letter from a Swiss university, they can apply for a resident permit, renewable on a yearly basis. To be eligible, you have to prove that you have subscribed to a health insurance as required by Swiss authorities.

Tuition fees

Tuition fees in Zurich are rather affordable compared to other major European cities. Semester fees for bachelors and masters students amount to € 600 at EHT and € 630 at UZH. For PhD students, fees amount to € 130. Note, however, that these fees exclude books and other material.

International students are also eligible for social and merit scholarships offered by ETH under certain conditions. To qualify, you must have passed the first semester or first-year examinations. Even though the University of Zurich does not offer any scholarship or financial aid, it does provide information on federal scholarships for PhD students. Students are advised to inquire about scholarships in their home country or region.

Student accommodation in Zurich

Since Zurich is one of the world's most expensive cities, so rent prices tend to also be very high. ETH and UZH do not provide student accommodation, but they do have connections with trusted organisations. Feel free to seek more information from the University of Zurich's housing department.


In case you have not been able to find accommodation from abroad, you are advised to travel to Zurich at least two weeks before the beginning of the semester, which will give you some time to find proper housing. Consider renting a room or flat-sharing. Accommodation on average can cost between € 400 and € 700 per month.

Student cost of living

Besides accommodation which is probably going to be your most significant expense on a regular basis, there are other things to take into account, such as health insurance, which is compulsory for students in Switzerland. You can either check for any current partnership between your university and a health insurance provider in your home country, or simply subscribe to a private health insurance such as Smerra (as from € 23 per month), Cap Students (around € 25 per month), or April International (around € 40 per month). Feel free to request a free quote and compare prices according to your budget and the duration of your stay before subscribing.

According to the ETH and UZH websites, your food budget is likely to range between € 350 and € 400 per month. Also, count € 3.90 for a bus ticket (unless you prefer cycling), € 15 for a cinema ticket, and € 5 or € 6 for a beer. In total, count an average of € 1,000 to € 1,200 per month.

Transport in Zurich

A safe and developed public transport network makes it easy to travel across Zurich. Tickets cost around € 3.90, but you can also opt for a subscription. Find more information on the ZVV website. Zurich is a bike-friendly city where you can either buy a bike at the flea market or rent one with € 17. Alternatively, pedestrian areas are also very safe.

Student jobs

International students are allowed to work in Zurich. A maximum of 15 hours per week is allowed during the university semester and 42 hours per week during holiday periods, provided the employer is ready to assist you in procedures relating to obtaining a work permit. The L permit allows foreign nationals intending to make a short stay in Switzerland (less than a year) to work. Your employer will have to send a duly filled application form to the cantonal office. A work permit is issued whereby all documents provided (university admission letter and resident permit) are in order.

Remember that Zurich is a German-speaking city, so language skills will be a benefit.

Internship in Switzerland upon completing your studies

An internship in Switzerland can help you cope with the high cost of living. In Switzerland, internships are well paid, so expect around € 1,600 and € 2,000 per month. However, you will have to apply for a L permit if the duration of your internship exceeds 90 days, unless you already have a resident permit.

Find a job in Switzerland after your studies

Graduating from one of these two prestigious Swiss universities brings not only a sense of pride but also more credibility to your CV. In fact, ETH and UZH rank 16th worldwide and perform well in terms of finding a job afterwards, thus standing out in the top 150. Keep in mind, however, that you need to obtain a work permit first. If your job contract has a more than one-year duration, you will be entitled to the B permit.

Leisure activities in Zurich

Even though Zurich is an expensive city, it has a lot to offer regarding leisure activities. Regardless of your budget, there is so much to see and to do in Zurich, from jogging and biking along the lake, swimming, hiking in the surrounding hills, to a wide range of museums, parks, etc. By producing your student card, you will also be eligible for discounts on movie tickets, especially on Monday nights and in the afternoon. You will be amazed by many other activities such as festivals, as well as the magical Christmas markets. Find more information here.

Zurich, a city of festivals

Zurich's inhabitants enjoy the outdoor lifestyle in the summer, during which many festivals are held. Opera for all is one of the most popular outdoor events in the city centre. The Zurich open-air festival is another must-see, with world-famous artists putting on shows and concerts. Ticket prices are high but usually include transport fees. The Street Parade is one of the world's biggest electronic music festivals and is held in Zurich, not to mention the Ironman contest.

 Good to know:

Amounts mentioned in this article are provided in euros, but are indicated in Swiss francs (CHF) on local websites.

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