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
So far under Horizon 2020, Swiss researchers have acted as project coordinators in 422 or 21.7% of all Swiss participations. This is comparable to the figure for FP7: between 2007 and 2013, 22.8% of all Swiss participations were project coordinations (Swiss Participation in European Research Framework Programmes, SERI, 2018).


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. Didier Queloz, Physics, 2019
    2. Michel Mayor, Physics, 2019
    3. Jacques Dubochet, Chemistry, 2017
    4. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), U.N. Office at Geneva, Peace, 2007
    5. Kurt Wüthrich, Chemistry, 2002
    6. Médecins Sans Frontières, Peace, 1999
    7. Rolf M. Zinkernagel, Physiology or Medicine, 1996
    8. Edmond H. Fischer, Physiology or Medicine, 1992
    9. Richard R. Ernst, Chemistry, 1991
    10. Karl Alexander Müller, Physics, 1987
    11. Heinrich Rohrer, Physics, 1986
    12. Georges J. F. Köhler, born in Germany (worked in Switzerland from 1976 to 1984), Physiology or Medicine, 1984
    13. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), U.N. Office at Geneva, Peace 1954 and 1981
    14. Werner Arber, Physiology or Medicine, 1978
    15. Vladimir Prelog, born in then Austria-Hungary, now Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chemistry, 1975
    16. International Labour Organization (I.L.O.), U.N. Office at Geneva, Peace, 1969
    17. International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Geneva, Peace, 1963
    18. Daniel Bovet, Physiology or Medicine, 1957
    19. Felix Bloch, Physics, 1952
    20. Tadeus Reichstein, Physiology or Medicine, 1950
    21. Walter Rudolf Hess, Physiology or Medicine, 1949
    22. Paul Hermann Müller, Physiology or Medicine, 1948
    23. International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), U.N. Office at Geneva, Peace, 1917 and 1944
    24. Hermann Hesse, born in Germany, Literature, 1946
    25. Leopold Ružička, born in then Austria-Hungary, now Croatia, Chemistry, 1939
    26. Paul Karrer, Chemistry, 1937
    27. Albert Einstein, born in Germany, Physics, 1921
    28. Charles Édouard Guillaume, Physics, 1920
    29. Carl Spitteler, Literature, 1919
    30. Alfred Werner, Chemistry, 1913
    31. International Peace Bureau (IPB), Geneva and Zurich, Peace, 1910
    32. Theodor Kocher, Physiology or Medicine, 1909
    33. Élie Ducommun, Peace, 1902
    34. Charles Albert Gobat, Peace, 1902
    35. 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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