Record 78,000 International Students Are Studying in Switzerland This Academic Year

Switzerland Europe International Studies Higher Education News by Erudera News Apr 19, 2024

people in Zurich, Switzerland

Is Switzerland becoming the new higher education hub for international students? Although the country may still need to become one of the top ten host destinations for international students, official data show that it has been appealing to an increasing number of students over the last few years.

The Swiss Federal Statistical Office (FSO) reveals that over 78,000 international students are studying at Swiss universities this academic year, reports.

Switzerland’s higher education system is built on three pillars:

  • Universities (UNIs) - the traditional higher education institutions.
  • Universities of Applied Sciences (UASAs) - combine university education with professional-oriented programs.
  • Universities of Teacher Education (UTEs) - these institutions provide practice-oriented training.

According to the statistical office, a total of 78,558 international students have enrolled in universities and institutes of technology (UITs) and universities of applied sciences (UASAs) in the 2023/24 academic year. Of this figure, 58,075 international students study at universities and institutes of technology (UITs), and the remaining 20,483 are at universities of applied sciences.

Most international students at universities and institutes of technology hail from Europe (43,376). Of these students, 38,247 are from European Union countries, and 4,621 from other parts of Europe. Germany and France lead with 11,974 and 9,449 students, respectively.

Asian countries follow closely, with 8,464 students, America with 3,106, and Africa sending 2,965 students. A smaller number of 151 students hailed from Australia and other parts of Oceania.

Where Do Most International Students in Switzerland Originate

Other countries that send students to Switzerland are:

  • Italy - 6,451 students
  • Austria - 1,506 students
  • Spain - 1,505 students
  • Portugal - 1,356 students
  • Turkey -1,157 students
  • Russia - 954 students
  • Greece - 814 students
  • Belgium - 729 students
  • United Kingdom - 648 students
  • Netherlands - 600 students
  • Poland - 598 students
  • Romania - 557 students
  • Liechtenstein - 457 students

Most international students attending UITs pursue bachelor’s degrees (18,668). Of these, nearly 12,000 have a prior foreign school education.

International Students at Swiss Unis & Institutes of Technology By Study Level

On the other hand, among 20,483 students studying at universities of applied sciences (UAS), most are from Germany (4,047) and Italy (3,049), while other countries include:

  • France - 2,625 students
  • Portugal - 1,269 students
  • Austria - 677 students
  • Spain - 674 students
  • Turkey - 369 students
  • Russia - 369 students
  • Kosovo - 304 students
  • Liechtenstein - 312 students
  • Poland - 212 students
  • Serbia - 190 students
  • Netherlands - 188 students
  • Croatia - 173 students
  • United Kingdom - 160 students

12,852 international students are enrolled in bachelor’s programs and 6,113 in master’s. The remaining 1,518 are pursuing other study levels.

Apart from these numbers, another tens of thousands of students in Switzerland have chosen universities of teacher education (23,654), with international students making up 10.7 percent of the overall student population.

Data indicate that 9.7 percent of international students at these institutions pursue bachelor’s degrees and 11.9 percent master’s degrees.

A year ago, specifically in the 2022/23 academic year, the number of international students in Switzerland was 76,257. With college becoming hardly affordable in many countries, the increase in international students flocking to Switzerland can mainly be attributed to low tuition fees at Swiss universities and the global ranking of institutions. Quality of life is another important factor that influences students’ choices.

Erudera has previously reported on trends of international students in Switzerland, and data shows the number had increased by 25 percent in the past seven academic years.

Academic Year International Students
2015/16 59,206
2016/17 61,171
2017/18 62,384
2018/19 63,908
2019/20 66,264
2020/21 70,329
2021/22 74,440
2022/23 76,257

Higher education expert Alma Miftari says that if this trend continues, Switzerland’s position as a study-abroad destination will strengthen in the coming years and soon emerge as one of the leading centers for students seeking quality education and enriching cultural experiences.

“Switzerland is becoming a top choice for students worldwide because of its great universities, many different programs to choose from, and employment opportunities after graduation because many international companies are located there,” Miftari told Erudera News.

Depending on the city, international students living in Switzerland spend an average of € 3,000 to €5,000 per month. Students can work 15 hours per week during their studies and full-time during semester breaks.

Zurich, one of the most educated places in Europe, and Geneva are among the top ten most expensive cities globally, according to Numbeo’s Cost of Living Index for 2023. According to figures from the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, student employment contributed about 3.8 billion CHF in 2021.

© Tomek Baginski | Unsplash

More from Erudera:

>> Best universities in Switzerland

>> Switzerland’s Labor Shortage: Are International Students a Solution?

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