Foreign students attending Switzerland's top federal technology institutes, ETH Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), may soon face a significant tuition

increase. A proposal passed by the House of Representatives on Wednesday suggests that foreign students could pay at least three times more than their Swiss counterparts. This proposal, which currently awaits Senate approval, marks a departure from the current policy where fees are equal for both Swiss and foreign students.

This change was proposed by the House's Science, Education, and Culture Committee (WBK-N) during discussions on the Federal Council's motion concerning the promotion of education, research, and innovation for the 2025-2028 period. The House highlighted that tuition fees for Swiss students abroad can be up to 40 times higher than those in Switzerland, despite the world-class reputation of ETH Zurich and EPFL.

Katja Christ, a parliamentarian from the Liberal Green Party, pointed out that even with tripled fees, Swiss tuition would remain among the lowest globally. The current equal fee structure means this proposal, if approved, would specifically impact foreign students.

Although there was an attempt to increase foreign students' fees to three to five times that of Swiss students, it was unsuccessful. The House of Representatives, focusing on additional revenue amid federal budget constraints, supported the measure as part of a broader strategy to manage educational spending.

The Federal Council aims to cap the growth in education and research expenditure, having already reduced the planned budget by CHF 500 million to CHF 29.2 billion ($32.02 billion) for the upcoming years. Despite resistance to interfering with the ETH Board's autonomy, Economics Minister Guy Parmelin noted that the board has long had the authority to differentiate fees between Swiss and foreign students.

This proposal's approval by the Senate would mark a significant shift in Switzerland's approach to funding higher education, potentially making it more expensive for international students to study at its premier institutions. Photo by ETH-Bibliothek, Wikimedia commons.