Academic Excellence & Close Ties to Research


Swiss universities, universities of applied sciences and arts, and universities of teacher education strive for academic excellence. They fare well in conducting top-notch research and in acquiring competition-based funding. But how does that reflect on students’ day-to-day experiences?

Teaching in Swiss higher education is much more than swotting up on theory or rushing from one exam to another. Nearly all professors are involved in cutting-edge research projects and closely link their student-centred teaching to their findings.

Challenge accepted

Upon enrolment, you become part of a community that supports your growth and academic development. Your contribution is requested, and you are supposed to develop your own viewpoints. Professors and classmates will eagerly challenge your viewpoints and thus empower you to defend them.

Selective System

The Swiss higher education system is very selective. Studying at a Swiss university will of course always involve a solid base in theoretical foundation. Your classes, seminars and projects will, however, be strongly linked to research conducted at your institution. Swiss universities are dedicated to the task of forming highly skilled, creative, innovative, multilingual and culturally open graduates. Swiss authorities are committed to making sure that the universities are substantially funded for this task.

Outstanding learning environment

Students learn directly from researchers. Academic excellence is mainly based on an outstanding framework for junior and senior researchers and on the principle of competition. There are several national research funds in Switzerland where scholars compete for funding – for basic research or for R&D. Apart from being an innovation hotspot, Switzerland is also highly successful in international competition for research funds.


Swiss Researchers are Highly Successful in Competing for European Research Funds

ERC Grants
Swiss researchers show a very high success rate in the European competition for ERC funding (European Research Council). From 2007 to 2013, Switzerland held a big lead with an average success rate of 23 per cent. Other countries followed with 16 per cent. In ERC grants per capita, Switzerland and Israel do extremely well (Science Magazine).


Nobel Prize Laureates

The success of Swiss universities is also due to their openness and international scope. The contribution of international researchers conducting their projects and teaching at our institutions is highly relevant. Some of them have crowned their research achievements with a Nobel Prize and brought fame to their university. Others have been inspired by several organizations and initiatives receiving this prestigious award:

    1. Jacques Dubochet, Chemistry, 2017
    2. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), U.N. Office at Geneva, Peace, 2007
    3. Kurt Wüthrich, Chemistry, 2002
    4. Médecins Sans Frontières, Peace, 1999
    5. Rolf M. Zinkernagel, Physiology or Medicine, 1996
    6. Edmond H. Fischer, Physiology or Medicine, 1992
    7. Richard R. Ernst, Chemistry, 1991
    8. Karl Alexander Müller, Physics, 1987
    9. Heinrich Rohrer, Physics, 1986
    10. Georges J. F. Köhler, born in Germany (worked in Switzerland from 1976 to 1984), Physiology or Medicine, 1984
    11. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), U.N. Office at Geneva, Peace 1954 and 1981
    12. Werner Arber, Physiology or Medicine, 1978
    13. Vladimir Prelog, born in then Austria-Hungary, now Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chemistry, 1975
    14. International Labour Organization (I.L.O.), U.N. Office at Geneva, Peace, 1969
    15. International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Geneva, Peace, 1963
    16. Daniel Bovet, Physiology or Medicine, 1957
    17. Felix Bloch, Physics, 1952
    18. Tadeus Reichstein, Physiology or Medicine, 1950
    19. Walter Rudolf Hess, Physiology or Medicine, 1949
    20. Paul Hermann Müller, Physiology or Medicine, 1948
    21. International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), U.N. Office at Geneva, Peace, 1917 and 1944
    22. Hermann Hesse, born in Germany, Literature, 1946
    23. Leopold Ružička, born in then Austria-Hungary, now Croatia, Chemistry, 1939
    24. Paul Karrer, Chemistry, 1937
    25. Albert Einstein, born in Germany, Physics, 1921
    26. Charles Édouard Guillaume, Physics, 1920
    27. Carl Spitteler, Literature, 1919
    28. Alfred Werner, Chemistry, 1913
    29. International Peace Bureau (IPB), Geneva and Zurich, Peace, 1910
    30. Theodor Kocher, Physiology or Medicine, 1909
    31. Élie Ducommun, Peace, 1902
    32. Charles Albert Gobat, Peace, 1902
    33. Henry Dunant, Peace, 1901


Front picture: Albert Einstein © ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Bildarchiv / Photographer: unknown/ Hs_0304-1151-003 / Public Domain Mark


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