Swiss Universities Consider Limiting International Student Numbers

Zürich, Switzerland

Two federal institutes of technology in Switzerland are considering limiting international student enrollment and changing their admission criteria, including a new grade requirement, local media reported. Students from abroad might soon be required to earn a certain grade to be eligible for enrollment.

As the NZZ am Sonntag reported, ETH Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) are the institutions considering limiting international student enrollment. The head of communications of the ETH Board - the supervisory body of ETH Zurich and EPFL Lausanne, Gian-Andri Casutt, told the newspaper that the board would have to review the admission criteria for international students.

Aside from the discussion to restrict or not the number of international students, a tuition increase might also be approved. Several groups are invited to take part in the discussion about the admission process for international applicants in a meeting that is expected to be held on March 8 or 9.

Media have recently reported that Switzerland's government intends to reduce spending and help revenue growth, and this means budget cuts in several sectors. During the January meeting, the Swiss Federal Council agreed to work towards ensuring a balanced budget by 2024.

Finance Minister Karin Keller-Sutter's statement that the budget will need to cut by two percent, which will apply to all sectors, including education, has also put pressure on universities to stop spending.

"If we want to maintain the quality of teaching with increasing student numbers and a smaller budget, we have to take action," Casutt said.

University's data indicate that the number of students at ETH Zurich has increased by 83 percent since 2007, while staff numbers have risen by 46 percent, with the number of professors increasing by 43 percent. According to the university, only over 20 percent more space is available at the institution.

ETH Zurich enrolls more than 24,500 students from 120 countries and 6,612 scientific and 3,106 technical and administrative staff. Of the students, about a third are female. In 2021, 3,274 new Bachelor's students began studies at ETH, most choosing mechanical engineering courses, followed by computer science and architecture.

On the other hand, the total number of students at EPFL Lausanne is 11,641 students, of them 7,230 international students.

The Swish Federal Statistical Office (FS0) states that the number of students at higher education institutions in Switzerland has more than doubled since 2000.

There are three university types in Switzerland, universities and institutes of technology (UIT), universities of applied sciences (UAS), and universities of teacher education (UTE). FSO's data show that in the 2021/22 academic year, there were 168 190 students at UIT, 32.7 percent international, 84,920 at UAS, 20.0 percent international, and 23,497 at UTE, 10.5 percent international students.

Image by David Iglesias from Pexels

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