Top Universities for PhD Study in Switzerland – 2024

Top Universities for PhD Study in Switzerland – 2024

Written by Taru Medha

Universities in Switzerland are generously funded, globally renowned and very popular with international students. The country has fast become one of the most famous postgraduate study destinations for overseas students both for its research-focused approach to education and the picturesque countryside.

Most universities in Switzerland are administered as local cantonal universities, but some are also centrally controlled by the federal government or through other structures. As a PhD student, you have the option to choose to study at four different types of institutions:

  • Cantonal universities: There are 10 cantonal universities run by individual Swiss states. Switzerland is a federal republic of 26 individual cantons, however, not all cantons have a university associated with them. They carry out original research as well as teaching and can award PhDs in various subjects.
  • Federal institutions of technology: The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich) and the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) are some of Switzerland’s most prestigious research centres with global reputation in various subject areas. They are centrally administered by the Swiss federal government and have the power to award PhDs.
  • Universities of applied science and arts: The 9 UASAs in Switzerland focus on connecting theory with practice to deliver advanced professional and technical training or solve specific challenges. They don’t traditionally award their own PhDs, but some have begun partnering with cantonal universities to develop innovative collaborative doctoral programmes.
  • Universities of teacher education: They award professional qualifications in teaching, often associated with particular languages. On rare occasions they offer collaborative PhD programmes in highly specific topics associated with educational theory.

Top 10 Universities in Switzerland for a PhD

Switzerland is known for its commitment to academic excellence, and this has translated positively into how Swiss universities have been ranking on the global stage. Today, the top Swiss universities are the highest ranked in Europe outside the UK.

The table below lists the 10 top universities in Switzerland for PhD study according to global rankings. This information is based on the latest rankings tables, researched and published by Times Higher Education, QS and the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU). It is important to note that each ranking system has their own methodology, and different factors affect the final result for a particular university.

Top 10 Swiss Universities in 2024
University THE 2024 QS 2024 ARWU 2023
ETH Zurich 11 7 20
École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne 33 36 -
University of Zurich 80 =91 59
University of Bern =116 =126 101-150
University of Basel =123 =124 81
University of Lausanne =143 =220 101-150
University of Geneva 183 128 49
Universita della Svizzera italiana 251-300 =328 501-600
University of St Gallen 351-400 =436 -
University of Fribourg 401-500 =563 501-600
Information in this table is based on the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings and Academic Ranking of World Universities. Visit their websites for more information.

It is also important to consider factors outside international rankings that affect the quality of study/education provided at a particular institution. Our guide on rankings for PhD study puts together a few tips and tricks that can help you make the best decision.

With the recent introductions of a range of new innovative research opportunities, Switzerland competes with other top European countries as an attractive destination of PhD research.

Search for PhD programmes in Switzerland

You can browse and compare a list of available PhD degrees in Switzerland on the FindAPhD website.

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Last Updated: 01 December 2023