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Scholarships in Switzerland for International Students

Scholarships in Switzerland for International Students
Alpina ChariApr 12, 2024

Switzerland has seen a surge in the number of international students pursuing higher education in recent years. The country’s prestigious universities and vibrant, multicultural cities have made it an attractive study destination globally. While public universities in Switzerland are relatively affordable in terms of tuition fees compared to other European nations, the very high cost of living can make studying here a significant financial challenge for many international students. According to statistics from the Swiss National Bank, the overall consumer price level in Switzerland is around 63% higher than the European Union average. Rent, groceries, transportation, and other daily expenses can quickly add up, putting a strain on the limited budgets of students from abroad. Many international scholars opt to work part-time jobs to supplement their income, but this approach often proves difficult to balance with the rigorous academic demands. Scholarships present a far better option for international students, allowing them to focus fully on their studies without the added pressure of financial constraints. These education funding opportunities can cover tuition costs, living expenses, or both – essentially making world-class Swiss universities accessible even to those from modest economic backgrounds. In the 2021-2022 academic year, over 15,000 international students were enrolled at Swiss universities thanks to scholarship support from the government, private organizations, and universities themselves. This figure represents around 20% of the total international student population in the country during that period.

This article will explore some of the most prominent scholarship programs available to international students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral studies in Switzerland.

Types of Scholarships in Switzerland for International Students

Government Scholarships: The Swiss government offers scholarships to international students through various programs and initiatives. These scholarships are typically awarded based on academic excellence, research potential, and the applicant’s country of origin. Government scholarships often cover tuition fees, living expenses, and health insurance.

University Scholarships: Many universities in Switzerland offer their own scholarship programs for international students. These scholarships are usually merit-based and awarded to students who demonstrate outstanding academic performance, research abilities, or exceptional talent in a particular field. University scholarships can cover partial or full tuition fees, and in some cases, they may also provide a living allowance.

Private Scholarships: Private organizations, foundations, and companies in Switzerland often provide scholarships for international students. These scholarships can be specific to certain fields of study, and nationalities, or intended to promote diversity and cultural exchange. Private scholarships may cover tuition fees, living expenses, or both, depending on the specific program.

International Organization Scholarships: Several international organizations, such as the United Nations, the European Union, and various non-governmental organizations (NGOs), offer scholarships for students from specific countries or regions. These scholarships are often aimed at promoting international cooperation, cultural understanding, and capacity building in developing nations.

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Top Scholarships in Switzerland for International Students 

Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships 

The Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships, also known as the Federal Commission for Scholarships for Foreign Students (FCS), have a rich and long-standing history dating back to 1960. Established by the Swiss government, this prestigious scholarship program represents Switzerland’s commitment to fostering international cooperation, facilitating academic exchange, and attracting some of the brightest minds from around the globe. The primary aim of these scholarships is to provide financial support to highly qualified international students, enabling them to pursue their academic aspirations and contribute to the advancement of knowledge in their respective fields. Each year, the Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships program offers a limited number of coveted scholarship opportunities across various levels of study, catering to the diverse academic interests and aspirations of international scholars. These include research fellowships, which support doctoral candidates and post-doctoral researchers in conducting cutting-edge research projects; university scholarships, which enable international students to pursue undergraduate or graduate degrees at renowned Swiss universities; and art scholarships, which are specifically tailored for talented individuals seeking to hone their artistic skills and expand their creative horizons in Switzerland’s vibrant cultural landscape.

The scholarship program is highly competitive, attracting applications from exceptional students and researchers from around the world. Successful applicants are selected through a rigorous evaluation process that takes into account their academic achievements, research potential, and commitment to advancing their respective fields. 

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Outstanding academic record
  • Proven motivation and potential for future achievements
  • Specific admission requirements based on the level of study and field of interest
  • Language proficiency in the language of instruction


  • Monthly allowance for living expenses
  • Exemption from tuition fees
  • Exemption from mandatory Swiss health insurance
  • Travel allowance
  • Allowance for research expenses (for research fellowships)

Swiss National Science Foundation Doctoral Fellowships

The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) Doctoral Fellowships are highly competitive and prestigious fellowships awarded to outstanding international doctoral candidates pursuing research in Switzerland. Established by the SNSF, Switzerland’s preeminent funding agency for scientific research, these fellowships were conceived with the express purpose of supporting and promoting cutting-edge, innovative research endeavors across a wide array of fields and disciplines. Each year, a limited number of fellowships are awarded, with the selection criteria heavily weighted on the quality and originality of the proposed research project, as well as the candidate’s exceptional academic achievements, intellectual curiosity, and demonstrated potential for making significant contributions to their respective fields. Successful candidates are granted the opportunity to immerse themselves in Switzerland’s vibrant research landscape, working alongside leading scholars and utilizing state-of-the-art facilities and resources. 

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Exceptional academic record
  • Admission to a doctoral program at a Swiss university or research institution
  • Innovative and promising research proposal
  • Language proficiency in the language of instruction


  • Monthly living allowance
  • Tuition fee waiver (if applicable)
  • Allowance for research expenses
  • Opportunity for international mobility and collaboration

Erasmus Mundus Scholarships 

The Erasmus Mundus Program in Switzerland has its roots in the Erasmus Program, which was launched in 1987 by the European Union to facilitate student mobility and academic exchange among its member states. Over the years, the program evolved and expanded its scope to include non-EU countries, leading to the creation of the Erasmus Mundus initiative in 2004. Switzerland, with its longstanding tradition of educational excellence and commitment to international collaboration, became an active participant in the program, offering a range of opportunities for international students to pursue their studies in the country’s world-class universities and research institutions. This program, which is part of the broader Erasmus+ initiative of the European Union, aims to enhance international academic cooperation, promote cultural exchange, and foster excellence in higher education within and beyond the borders of the European Union. The Swiss Erasmus Mundus Program offers scholarships at various levels of study, including undergraduate, master’s, doctoral, and post-doctoral levels. These scholarships are highly competitive, with a limited number awarded each year based on the quality of applications and the available funding. The application process typically involves submitting academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and other supporting documents, depending on the specific program and level of study.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Outstanding academic record
  • Admission to a participating Swiss higher education institution
  • Proficiency in the language of instruction (typically English, German, French, or Italian)
  • Meeting any additional criteria set by the specific Erasmus Mundus program or consortium


  • Financial support for tuition fees and living expenses
  • Travel allowance
  • Health insurance coverage
  • Access to a wide range of academic and cultural resources
  • Opportunity to study and conduct research in a multicultural environment
  • Networking and collaboration opportunities with students and scholars from around the world

Nestlé Women in MBA from Developing Countries

The Nestlé Women in MBA from Developing Countries program at IMD (International Institute for Management Development) in Switzerland is a unique and prestigious initiative designed to empower and support exceptional women from developing nations in pursuing their MBA (Master of Business Administration) degrees at one of the world’s leading business schools. Nestlé, in partnership with IMD, has established this program to address the underrepresentation of women from developing countries in top-tier business education and leadership roles. By providing financial assistance and access to IMD’s renowned MBA program, the initiative aims to cultivate a diverse pool of talented female leaders who can drive positive change and contribute to the sustainable development of their home countries.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Being a female citizen of a developing country
  • Meeting IMD’s stringent admission requirements for the MBA program
  • Demonstrating outstanding academic achievements and leadership potential
  • Exhibiting a strong commitment to promoting gender equality and sustainable development


  • Full or partial tuition fee coverage for IMD’s MBA program
  • Living allowance and relocation assistance
  • Access to IMD’s global alumni network and career services
  • Mentorship and networking opportunities with Nestlé executives and industry leaders
  • Potential internship or employment opportunities within Nestlé upon successful completion of the MBA program

University-Specific Scholarships 

  • University of Zurich Scholarships: The University of Zurich, one of the leading research universities in Switzerland, provides numerous scholarship opportunities for international students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral studies. The University Excellence Scholarships are highly competitive and awarded to outstanding students based on academic merit and potential. These scholarships cover tuition fees and provide a monthly living allowance. Additionally, the university offers the UZH Opportunity Scholarship, which supports students from developing countries and regions affected by conflict or natural disasters, enabling them to pursue their academic goals at the University of Zurich.
  • ETH Zurich Excellence Scholarships: ETH Zurich, consistently ranked among the top universities worldwide, offers the prestigious ETH Excellence Scholarships for international students. These highly competitive scholarships are awarded to exceptional candidates pursuing master’s or doctoral degrees at ETH Zurich. The scholarships cover tuition fees, provide a generous monthly living allowance, and include an allowance for research expenses for doctoral students. ETH Zurich also offers the ETH Mobility Scholarships, which support international student mobility and enable students to undertake research stays or internships abroad.
  • University of Geneva Excellence Masters Fellowships: The University of Geneva, a leading institution in Switzerland, provides the Excellence Masters Fellowships for outstanding international students. These fellowships are designed to attract and support highly qualified candidates pursuing master’s degrees at the university. The fellowships cover tuition fees and offer a monthly living allowance, enabling recipients to focus on their studies without financial constraints. The university also offers scholarships for doctoral students, such as the SNSF Doctoral Fellowships, which support cutting-edge research in various fields.
  • University of Basel Scholarships: The University of Basel, renowned for its excellence in research and teaching, offers a range of scholarships for international students. The Swiss Study Foundation Scholarships are open to students from developing countries and cover tuition fees, living expenses, and health insurance. The university also provides Excellence Scholarships for outstanding international students at the master’s and doctoral levels, supporting their academic pursuits with tuition fee waivers and monthly allowances.
  • University of Lausanne Scholarships: The University of Lausanne, a leading research-intensive university in Switzerland, offers various scholarship opportunities for international students. The Master’s Grant for Excellence supports exceptional candidates pursuing master’s degrees by providing a monthly living allowance and tuition fee waivers. The university also offers the UNIL Doctoral Fellowships, which support outstanding doctoral candidates with a monthly stipend, research funds, and other benefits.

Suggested Reading: Scholarships for Masters Programs in Germany

Tips for Applying for Scholarships in Switzerland

  • Start your search early: Begin researching scholarship opportunities well in advance, as application deadlines may vary, and some scholarships have strict submission timelines.
  • Understand the eligibility criteria: Carefully read and understand the eligibility requirements for each scholarship you’re interested in. These may include factors such as academic performance, field of study, financial need, nationality, and language proficiency.
  • Strong academic record: Scholarships in Switzerland are highly competitive, and a strong academic record is essential. Maintain excellent grades, participate in extracurricular activities, and seek opportunities for academic and research experiences.
  • Write a compelling personal statement: Many scholarship applications require a personal statement or motivation letter. Use this opportunity to highlight your academic achievements, career goals, and how the scholarship will contribute to your personal and professional growth.
  • Obtain strong letters of recommendation: Identify professors, academic advisors, or employers who can provide strong letters of recommendation that attest to your abilities, achievements, and potential.
  • Prepare for language requirements: Some scholarships may require proficiency in one or more Swiss national languages (German, French, Italian, or Romansh). Prepare for language tests or provide evidence of your language skills.
  • Research specific scholarship programs: Look for scholarships offered by the Swiss government, universities, foundations, and private organizations. Some popular options include the Excellence Scholarships for Foreign Scholars and Artists by the Swiss Federal Commission for Scholarships and scholarships offered by individual universities.
  • Apply to multiple scholarships: Don’t limit yourself to a single scholarship opportunity. Apply to multiple scholarships to increase your chances of success.
  • Follow instructions carefully: Ensure that you follow the application instructions precisely, including deadlines, required documents, and submission formats.
  • Proofread and seek feedback: Carefully proofread your application materials and consider seeking feedback from professors, advisors, or writing centers to ensure that your application is error-free and compelling.

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In conclusion, there is no dearth of scholarships available in Switzerland for international students, providing ample opportunities for those seeking higher education in this renowned nation of academic excellence. However, it is crucial to diligently explore all available options to ensure the best possible fit. The process of applying for scholarships demands a meticulous approach, as creating strong applications is key to standing out among the competition. Applicants must be willing to invest time and effort into crafting compelling personal statements, gathering relevant documentation, and adhering to stringent deadlines. It is advisable to apply for multiple opportunities simultaneously, as the chances of success increase with each well-crafted application. Furthermore, seeking guidance from experienced mentors, advisors, or professionals can provide invaluable insights and strategies for preparing strong applications. For more information and guidance regarding scholarship programs in Switzerland, feel free to contact our admission experts at Gyanberry. Book your free video call appointment now!

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Eligibility criteria vary depending on the scholarship program, but generally, international students with excellent academic records and a strong commitment to their field of study are encouraged to apply. Some scholarships may have specific requirements based on nationality or area of study.

You can search for available scholarships on the official websites of Swiss universities, as well as through platforms like the Swiss Government Scholarship portal. Each scholarship program will have its own application process, which typically involves submitting academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.

Scholarships in Switzerland often cover tuition fees, accommodation costs, health insurance, and sometimes even travel expenses. However, the coverage varies depending on the specific scholarship program and its terms and conditions.

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