PhD in Switzerland – Your Complete Guide

Switzerland has one of the most advanced free-market economies, which is reflected in the high living standards and the satisfaction of people living here. In terms of higher education, Swiss universities are constantly ranked among the best in Europe, and they shine in areas like Business, Tourism, Culinary Arts, Life Sciences, and Engineering. When compared to Western universities, tuition fees in Switzerland is affordable, and all studies — especially PhD programmes — are world-class. Also, Switzerland has some of the world’s most renowned universities, with a history of higher education dating back to the fifteenth century. It is estimated that around 50% of PhD students in Switzerland are international students. Swiss universities are generously funded, globally renowned, and have excellent research opportunities for international students. Also, The Swiss National Science Foundation provides great support for postdoc and early career researchers who want to research in Switzerland after a PhD. If you’re planning to PhD in Switzerland, you should read this blog until the end.

PhD Degree Structure in Switzerland

PhD is the highest qualification degree you can achieve in Switzerland and represents a significant achievement. As in other countries, the Swiss doctorate is a research-based qualification, involving independent work towards an original thesis. There are two typical routes towards a Swiss PhD:

Traditional or general PhDs take place within a single university under the guidance of one or more of its academic experts. You’ll spend most of your time working on your doctoral thesis, though opportunities for additional training and development may also be offered.

Structured PhDs are a more recent development. They involve more formal training as part of the PhD programme and often involve collaboration between different institutions (including partnerships of different institutional types, such as cantonal universities and universities of applied sciences).

PhD Supervision in Switzerland

At least one academic supervisor is appointed during your PhD. This may be the principal investigator for the laboratory or research group you work within, or an experienced academic with expertise in your general field. The supervisor will act as a mentor for your project and will work with you to guide and support your research.

Some Swiss PhD programmes involve second or multiple supervisors. This is especially likely if you are enrolled in a structured PhD, within input from more than one institution. Each supervisor will normally have a specific role to play in your project, sometimes focussing on particular topic areas or on providing overall mentoring and pastoral support at your university.

Length of PhD in Switzerland

A PhD in Switzerland generally lasts for three to five years. The academic year in Switzerland runs from September to May and is divided into two teaching semesters (September to December and February to May/June). There isn’t usually a deadline for Swiss PhD applications. However, international students from outside the EU / EEA should apply as early as possible in order to leave time for their visa to be processed.

Cost of PhD in Switzerland

All students in Switzerland pay fees, including EU, EEA and international students. These are typically between CHF 1000 to CHF 2000 for a full PhD. These low fees are possible due to generous government support. Sometimes, Swiss universities advertise their PhD programs as paid assistant jobs. This way, you don’t have to pay your tuition fee, and you get paid for the job you’re doing (that is doctoral research).

Scholarships/ Funding for PhD in Switzerland

The main source of funding for international PhD students in Switzerland is the Swiss Federal Commission for Scholarships for Foreign Students (FCS). They award annual Government Excellence Scholarships. These scholarships are aimed at young researchers from abroad who have completed a master’s degree. They normally cover fees and costs of living.

Students from over 180 different countries are eligible to apply and selection is based on the candidate’s academic qualifications and achievements as well as the merits of their proposed PhD work. If your application is successful, the scholarship will normally cover your fees and living costs. The average PhD student salary in Switzerland is around CHF 50,000 per year. However, if not fully employed, the pay will be accordingly less.

Entry Requirements for PhD in Switzerland

You need a Master’s degree in a relevant subject and this is the main academic requirement for admission to doctoral research. Other requirements will depend on the type of PhD you are applying for:

If you are responding to an advertised project or position you will need to put together a personal statement or cover letter, along with an appropriate academic cv and references. Your university should provide further information and guidance for this.

If you are coming up with your own PhD topic you should normally submit a research proposal outlining the scope of your project, its objectives, methodology and outcomes. Supporting material such as academic references may also be required.

Applications to join structured PhD programmes may not require an initial research proposal as students will often develop their project during the first year of the doctorate.

Post-Study Work Visa in Switzerland

After PhD, international students can obtain a residency permit for six months in order to look for a job in Switzerland that is consistent with their qualifications. Once you find work you may become eligible for a longer-term or permanent residence permit.

Family visa norms in Switzerland

PhD students, visiting professors, post-doctorates can bring their family to Switzerland with them.

Can I work in Switzerland part-time during my studies?

Most PhD students in Switzerland are employed by their universities, and therefore there may not be much scope for additional work. Nonetheless, in some cases, you may wish to undertake additional employment.

International students can take up part-time work for up to 15 hours a week during the semester and they can work full-time during holidays. But there’s a catch for non-EU/EFTA students: they can only begin working 6 months after the start of their studies. For non-EU/EFTA students, the hiring company/employer needs to apply for a work permit.

How can “Road to Abroad” help you?

We provide the best PhD Assistance across the globe. We provide the right guidance and support needed to complete the tedious and time-consuming PhD admission process. Our flawless track record and very high success rate have fulfilled the dreams of many students who aspire to gain a doctoral degree. We will help you secure a fully-funded PhD position and help you in all the steps from application to immigration. For more information, visit our PhD Consultation Page

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