Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships

The Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships are prestigious scholarships offered by the Swiss government to international students from over 180 countries for pursuing higher education in Switzerland. These scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic excellence and leadership potential.

This post will provide you with all the key details you need to know about the Swiss Excellence Scholarships, application process, eligibility criteria, benefits and tips to increase your chances of selection.

Overview of Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships

The Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships program was established in 1960 with the objective of promoting international exchange and cooperation. These scholarships are open to young researchers and postgraduate students who wish to pursue higher education at any public University or University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland.

The scholarships are awarded for maximum one year for PhD students and maximum two years for postgraduate studies. The scholarship covers tuition fees, living expenses, health insurance, accommodation, air fare, and other expenses related to the grantee’s stay in Switzerland during the scholarship period.

Around 150-200 scholarships are awarded every year across all fields of study. The scholarships are granted by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and administered by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

Benefits of Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships

Here are some of the key benefits offered by the Swiss Excellence Scholarships:

  • Full tuition fee coverage at any public university in Switzerland
  • Monthly stipend for living expenses in Switzerland
  • Paid accommodation or housing allowance
  • Paid health insurance during the scholarship period
  • Air fare to and from Switzerland
  • Support services for visa application and settling in Switzerland
  • Opportunity for internships and field trips during studies
  • Chance to be part of Switzerland’s world-class research institutions

The monthly stipend provided is CHF 1920 for PhD students and CHF 1650 for postgraduate students. This is sufficient to cover basic living expenses in cities like Zurich, Geneva, Bern, and Lausanne.

Eligibility Criteria

The Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships are highly competitive with strict eligibility criteria. Here are the key requirements to apply for these scholarships:


  • Candidates from over 180 countries are eligible to apply. Preference is given to nationals from developing countries.

Age Limit

  • Applicants should be maximum 35 years old for PhD scholarships and maximum 40 years for postgraduate scholarships.

Academic Criteria

  • For PhD scholarships, applicants must hold a Master’s degree or equivalent.
  • For postgraduate scholarships, applicants must hold a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent.
  • Applicants should have an excellent academic record with minimum Grade A or 80% marks in undergraduate and postgraduate studies.

Work Experience

  • At least 2 years of relevant work experience along with proven research skills for PhD applicants.
  • Relevant work experience is preferred for postgraduate applicants.
  • Leadership skills and potential for high quality research work.

Language Proficiency

  • Strong English language skills are mandatory. Applicants must pass an IELTS/TOEFL test with high scores.
  • Knowledge of an official Swiss language (French, German or Italian) is preferred but not compulsory.

Non-Swiss Candidates

  • Applicants who are not citizens of Switzerland will be preferred.

How to Apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships

Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships 3

The application process for Swiss Excellence Scholarships is through Swiss Embassies in the candidate’s country. Here are the key steps:

1. Choose a Study Program

  • Decide the field of study and select 1-3 preferred universities/institutes in Switzerland for your chosen program.
  • Ensure that your selected program matches your academic background and interests.

2. Prepare Required Documents

Once you have shortlisted your study programs, start preparing all required application documents like:

    • Latest CV
    • Motivation letter
    • Letters of recommendation
    • Academic transcripts
    • English language test scores (IELTS/TOEFL)
    • Copy of passport
    • Proof of work experience
    • Proposal of research plan (for PhD applicants)
    • Acceptance letter from Swiss University (if you have already obtained)

3. Submit Application

  • Submit complete application form along with required documents to the Swiss Embassy in your home country.
  • Each embassy has different application periods based on study level and subject. Confirm the deadline well in advance.
  • If your country does not have a Swiss Embassy, submit the application through the Swiss representation responsible for your country or directly to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).

4. Selection Process

  • The applications are reviewed by academic experts and the best candidates are shortlisted.
  • Shortlisted candidates may be called for an interview by the Swiss Embassy or Consulate.
  • The final selection decision is made by SERI. All applicants are informed about selection results approximately 3 months after the application deadline.

5. Accept Scholarship Offer

  • If selected, the Swiss Embassy will provide visa assistance and other pre-departure guidance.
  • A legal agreement must be signed between you and SERI before starting your studies in Switzerland.

Application Timelines

The application deadlines for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships are as follows:

  • PhD Scholarships – Applications open in September, deadlines between November-December
  • Postgraduate Scholarships – Applications open in August, deadlines between October-November

Exact application timelines vary across study disciplines and Swiss cantons. Some cantons have spring/summer intakes also. Check the application deadlines carefully on the websites of Swiss embassies, SDC, and cantonal universities.

Success Tips to Get Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships

Here are some top tips to strengthen your Swiss scholarship application and increase chances of selection:

1. Academic Excellence

  • Have an outstanding academic record with high grades/scores.
  • Showcase research skills and potential through publications, thesis, projects etc.

2. Relevant Work Experience

  • Include work experience related to your field of study to demonstrate practical knowledge.

3. Strong Motivation

  • Prepare an excellent motivation letter explaining why you are the best candidate. Highlight your academic and professional achievements.

4. Research Proposal

  • For PhD, develop an impressive research proposal related to Switzerland’s research priorities.

5. University Acceptance

  • Try to get unconditional acceptance from your chosen Swiss university before application.

6. Language Skills

  • Learn basic French/German and achieve high English test scores (IELTS 7.0+ or TOEFL 100+).

7. Swiss Connections

  • If you have any past experience in Switzerland or Swiss university connections, highlight it in your application.

Switzerland has some of the world’s best universities at graduate and postgraduate level. Here are the top-ranked options:

1. University of Zurich

Ranked #56 globally, the University of Zurich is Switzerland’s largest university with over 26,000 students. It offers world-class research facilities and education in fields like medical and natural sciences, economics, law, humanities and social sciences.

2. ETH Zurich

Ranked #14 in the world, ETH Zurich is one of the leading science and technology universities in Europe known for engineering, natural sciences, computer science, architecture, and mathematics programs.

3. University of Geneva

Ranked #73 globally, the University of Geneva is highly reputed for subjects like economics, psychology, translation studies, law, humanities, science, and medicine.

4. EPFL Lausanne

École Polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne is ranked #14 globally for its engineering, natural sciences, computer science, life sciences, management and architecture programs.

5. University of Lausanne

Ranked #144 globally, the University of Lausanne has 13 faculties covering life sciences, geosciences, computer science, law, business, humanities and social sciences.

6. University of Basel

Established in 1460, the University of Basel is Switzerland’s oldest university and ranked #151 globally. It is known for its life sciences, medicine and pharmaceutical studies programs.

Top Questions about Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships Answered

Here are answers to some common questions about the Swiss Excellence Scholarships:

Q1. How many Swiss Government Scholarships are awarded annually?

About 150-200 Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships are awarded every year for PhD and postgraduate studies in Switzerland.

Q2. What is the scholarship amount provided?

The scholarships cover full tuition fees and provide a monthly stipend of CHF 1920 for PhD students and CHF 1650 for Master’s students to cover living expenses.

Q3. Do I need a letter of admission to apply?

Having an unconditional acceptance letter from a Swiss university strengthens your application but it is not mandatory. You can apply before getting admission.

Q4. Can I bring my family to Switzerland on this scholarship?

No, the Swiss Excellence Scholarships are meant only for the selected scholarship holder. There is no provision to bring along family members on this scholarship.

Q5. Am I allowed to work part-time during my studies?

Yes, most Swiss Excellence Scholarship holders are allowed to take up part-time employment along with studies, subject to valid work permit. However, priority should be given to academic work.

Q6. How long is the scholarship duration?

The scholarships are awarded for a maximum duration of 12 months for PhD studies and 24 months for Master’s studies. Extensions are not possible.

Q7. Do I need to know French/German to apply?

Knowledge of a Swiss national language is an advantage but not mandatory. You need to have excellent English skills. Learning basic French/German before applying gives you an edge.

Q8. Can I choose any university in Switzerland?

Yes, you can apply to any public university in Switzerland. However, you should shortlist universities where your subject expertise lies.

Q9. When do I need to apply for admission in Swiss universities?

Deadlines for admission applications vary as per university. For September intake, you should apply 8-12 months in advance. For February intake, application period is August-November of previous year.

Q10. Can I pursue distance learning courses through these scholarships?

No, the Swiss Excellence Scholarships are only provided for full-time classroom based learning at universities in Switzerland. Distance learning programs are not eligible.

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