Top Universities to Study PhD in Switzerland

Switzerland is one of the favorite destinations for postgraduate studies especially for international students who wish to get a PhD. The reason why international students choose to study in Sweden, UK, US, and Canada is related to why most choose to study in Switzerland. With top universities to study PhD in Switzerland abundant, you can be sure to get to learn from some of the best faculties in the world.

Switzerland, being a country popular for its position as one of the financial hubs of the world, is often mistaken as a country where only business and management studies thrive. Switzerland has managed to establish a strong global position as a place for education and research, where its universities are highly regarded.

Swiss universities are research-driven and offer various PhD opportunities. Switzerland also runs a doctoral program not only through its universities but also at several research institutions where students can accomplish their PhDs. With the country’s position as one of the world’s global research hubs, international students will find Switzerland an attractive place to accomplish their PhDs and develop careers in research and development.

Why You Should Study PhD in SwitzerlandWhy You Should Study PhD in Switzerland

There are numerous compelling and persuasive reasons why pursuing a doctorate in Switzerland is an exceptional choice. The benefits that come along with such a decision are both vast and noteworthy, encompassing various aspects such as high-quality training, an enriching international work environment, and immense personal growth opportunities. Here are the top reasons why you should study PhD in Switzerland.

  1. Affordable Tuition Fees

In Switzerland, university and doctoral study is heavily subsidized by the government. Therefore, doctoral students, whether Swiss, EU or non-EU, can study at Swiss universities at the same low cost as EU students. The actual cost of tuition fees at the doctoral level is minimal – usually around CHF 100-1000 a semester. In terms of university tuition fees, Switzerland is in general one of the most attractive places in the world to study for a doctorate.

  1. World Best Universities

Switzerland, being home to some prestigious institutions that rank among the finest worldwide, particularly excels in the fields of international affairs, technology, and the natural sciences. Opting for a PhD program in Switzerland allows international students to leverage one of the most advanced and comprehensive fundamental scientific research systems in existence today.

  1. Beautiful Cities

When coming to the best universities for doctorate studies, Switzerland will always reserve a place. The high quality of life and picturesque landscape, make Switzerland a top host nation for doctorate studies. The culture of the cities is a mix of modern and ancient culture. Every year, a lot of tourists come to Switzerland to enjoy the beautiful cities and natural scenery and these factors contribute to why Switzerland is an attractive place for PhD students.

  1. Multicultural Setting

The vibrant multicultural environment of Switzerland not only adds to the allure but also presents exceptional prospects for academic and social integration for doctoral students and their families. Switzerland, known for having one of the highest proportions of expatriate professionals globally, provides an enriching environment wherein individuals can thrive and flourish both professionally and personally. It is worth highlighting that Switzerland boasts a notable proportion of foreign students and researchers already embedded within its institutions.

  1. High PhD Salaries/Stipends

In PhD education, students at some universities are paid employees who receive a salary and social security. On the other hand, students at other universities are generally financed by scholarships from the Swiss National Science Foundation, grants from research projects, or assistant jobs at the department.

Even though the salary is not as big as a job salary, it is quite enough to finance your living and save some money as a PhD student. Additionally, the salary is tax-free, so you do not need to worry about paying high living costs in Switzerland. However, due to excellent differences in pay and living costs, it should be noted that Switzerland can be both expensive and very profitable, depending on the individual’s situation.

  1. Quality Research Infrastructure

The research infrastructure in Switzerland is world-class, providing a fantastic platform for those interested in science-based research to develop a career. Switzerland also performs well in world university rankings and delivers world-class education that is highly competitive. As a PhD student in Switzerland, you would have an excellent opportunity to network with the international research community and benefit from interacting with researchers outside of Switzerland.

There are plenty of reasons why you should get a PhD in Switzerland besides the high-quality education, cultural diversity, beautiful scenery, and friendly community. Switzerland is called a dream country for many people.

Easiest Schools to get PhD Admissions in SwitzerlandTop 10 Universities to Study PhD in Switzerland

If you are looking for universities offering the best possible framework for PhD study, then you will be seeking a mixture of great research facilities, renowned academics, and an environment that will help you to grow knowledge and develop an appropriate career path.

To assist in your pursuit of a PhD, here are what we believe to be the top 10 Swiss universities to study a PhD, as recognized by influential ranking institutions like Times Higher Education, QS, and the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU).

#1. ETH Zurich (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich)

Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich (ETH Zurich) is a renowned university not only in Switzerland but all around the globe. It is ranked the 7th best university in the world in 2024 by the QS World University ranking, 11th by the Times Higher Education, and has continually maintained its status among the best universities in the world in the field of technology.

ETH Zurich has over 20 different departments offering doctoral (PhD) studies in various fields such as engineering, natural sciences, social sciences, and architecture. The departments are well connected to the industry, so it is possible to have connections with the industry for your research project.

The doctoral study usually takes 3-4 years to complete. ETH Zurich’s main language of instruction is German, but most of the Master’s and PhD studies are available in English. Making it one of the top universities to study PhD in Switzerland.

#2. École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Recognized for its pioneering research and advancements in science and technology, this institution consistently ranks as one of the top 10 engineering schools worldwide. Overall, it is rated 33 and 36 by the Times Higher Education and QS respectively in 2024.

The doctorate program is overseen by the EPFL Doctoral School, which works together with several departments to provide a unique curriculum specifically designed for doctoral candidates. Participants in this program contribute to the school’s scientific research agenda by developing a thesis, a crucial endeavor to get a PhD. On average, this process takes approximately 4 to 5 years to complete.

#3. University of Zurich

Located on the banks of Lake Zurich, in the very heart of Switzerland, UZH has attracted numerous Nobel laureates over the years, which speaks volumes about the university’s exceptional quality. In the 2024 rankings by the QS World University Ranking, Times Higher Education and the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), the UZH is ranked 80, 91, and 59 respectively. Making it one of the best Universities for doctorate studies in Switzerland and the world.

When considering doctoral programs, UZH offers an impressive array of more than 30 options. These programs not only foster an environment of innovation and research but also prioritize the delivery of world-class education.

The University of Zurich boasts seven faculties and over 150 departments and institutes, making it the largest and most diverse comprehensive university in Switzerland. There is a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration, with courses and research priorities being closely interconnected. PhD candidates are advised to visit the coordinators of various programs for information regarding the particular program. Visit the PhD Portal to learn more.

#4. University of Bern

The University of Bern has a strong connection to the Swiss capital city of Bern. UB’s commitment to academic excellence earned it a renowned global standing. It has consistently demonstrated its academic prowess over the years, hence its current positions at 116 and 126 in the world rankings by the Times Higher Education (THE) and QS respectively.

The University of Bern is highly esteemed both nationally and internationally for its academic excellence and offers a wide range of educational, sporting, and cultural opportunities, along with excellent living standards and a clean environment. This makes it a highly appealing destination for doctoral students.

Being a university with eight faculties and a strong focus on research, the University of Bern provides excellent opportunities for aspiring researchers to pursue a promising doctorate. There are various options available for pursuing a doctorate, including within a graduate school or as part of a doctoral degree program. Another option is to pursue a traditional individual doctorate.

#5. University of Basel

The University of Basel, as a research-intensive institution, provides young researchers with a superb and innovative atmosphere, together with professional training programs and appealing PhD programs. this has really contributed to its position at number 123 on both the QS and THE ranking.

At the University of Basel, the structure of PhD studies is meticulously designed, placing a prominent focus on research. The different faculties offer PhD programs, with the Dean’s Office of each faculty providing indispensable administrative support.

There are different types of funding options for pursuing a PhD at the University of Basel, such as individual scholarships, project grants, or work positions inside or outside the university. At the University of Basel, you have the opportunity to get a PhD degree in a wide range of areas, either via independent study or by participating in a structured doctoral program.

#6. University of Lausanne

The University of Lausanne, commonly known as UNIL, provides a platform for students to pursue a PhD across 14 different departments and faculties. Situated in the heart of French-speaking Switzerland, along the shores of Lake Geneva, UNIL boasts a diverse and cosmopolitan student community consisting of over 13,000 individuals. The university places great importance on the creation of new knowledge and seeks to comprehend the details of the world in its entirety.

The PhD programs at UNIL prioritize research, requiring 3-4 years for completion. Presently, there are over 900 students dedicated to their doctoral studies. In addition to its academic merits, the University of Lausanne offers an exceptional quality of life, complemented by its breathtaking natural scenery and a wide array of cultural, sporting, and recreational activities. Hence it is ranked 143 by the Times Higher Education in 2024 and 220 by QS.

#7. University of Geneva

The University of Geneva is well-regarded as one of the top Swiss universities for pursuing a PhD. It offers a diverse range of doctoral programs in both conventional and interdisciplinary fields. The university’s Doctoral School is committed to aligning its programs with the European Higher Education Area and the European Charter for Researchers.

This includes ensuring that students earn the required number of ECTS credits, providing career guidance, and establishing a more transparent system for validating knowledge and skills. While the University of Geneva’s primary focus is on the sciences, such as biology and physics, its Doctoral School also provides opportunities in various other areas.

Currently, there are more than 40 doctoral programs available, with a significant portion being in interdisciplinary fields. This allows students from different academic backgrounds to pursue their academic interests. The university takes pride in conducting high-quality research and currently (2024) ranks 183, 128, and 49 in the world by THE, QS, and ARWU.

#8. Universita della Svizzera Italiana

The Università della Svizzera Italiana (USI) is a renowned Swiss university situated in the Italian-speaking region of Southern Switzerland. Despite its young age, it has gained recognition for its exceptional faculty, research opportunities, small student-to-teacher ratios, and appealing study programs. One of the university’s unique attributes is its location, allowing students to observe the breathtaking Alps and lakes in the surrounding region.

With roughly 6000 students, USI is a smaller university, fostering greater teacher-student interaction. This intimate setting creates a conducive learning environment for students. The PhD programs at USI are primarily based on individual research work, supplemented by participation in research seminars and doctoral courses.

On average, a PhD degree at USI takes about 3-4 years to complete, requiring approximately 180 ECTS. USI continuously strives to improve its educational and research standings, aiming to become one of Europe’s premier centers for higher education and innovative research. Given its recent ranking at position 328 by the QS and ongoing progress, this goal seems well within reach.

#9. University of St Gallen

The University of St. Gallen, known as Europe’s top business university, has experienced a notable increase in its business programs, aligning with Switzerland’s thriving economy. This growth has created a highly favorable environment for PhD students. HSG offers an appealing and well-supported PhD program, delivered in English to cater to international students.

The university ensures that students have the necessary infrastructure and working conditions to successfully complete their research projects and submit a dissertation within the allocated time frame. The Times Higher Education ranked the University of St Gallen between 351 and 400 in the world while the QS World University Ranking ranked HSG as 436.

#10. University of Fribourg

The University of Fribourg is a renowned institution dedicated to both academic study and research, with a strong emphasis on human well-being. It is known for its exceptional research programs that seamlessly integrate teaching and scholarly research. Students can study at a university highly esteemed in various fields and have close ties to the Fribourg region, Switzerland, and beyond.

The university provides students with a modern infrastructure that creates an optimal environment for learning and research. The active involvement of students is a key factor in shaping the university’s growth and the services it offers. The university takes great pride in attracting lecturers and researchers from all corners of the globe, thereby enriching its research programs with diverse perspectives and expertise. It is currently ranked within 401 – 500, 563, and 501 – 600 respectively by THE, Qs, and ARWU.


The rankings and ratings provided in this article are based on detailed research on the academic reputation, doctoral success, infrastructure and program, and university student community. These will give a clear idea about the best universities for PhD in Switzerland. Students pursuing a PhD in Switzerland can also enjoy a unique cultural experience.

The country is relatively small but rich in cultural diversity, with four national languages and various customs and traditions. A great advantage for students doing their PhD in Switzerland is that the standard duration of the PhD study is 3-4 years, which is relatively short compared to the US and UK. This allows students to focus more on finishing their studies and carrying on their work.



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