Study Maths in Switzerland

Mathematics has a long tradition of excellence in Switzerland (going back to Euler and the Bernoulli dynasty) which has lead to a high standard of education and top quality research. Other well known names in the mathematical field are: Dedekind, Frobenius, Hurwitz, Minkowski, Polya, Plancherel, de Rahm... all of them have been active here.

Study Maths in Switzerland

This excellence has been attracting professors on a worldwide basis and presently, a large proportion of the mathematical staff comes from abroad. Moreover, sophisticated industries and insurance and financial platforms have contributed in the last decades to the development of strong groups in applied mathematics, matching in quality the traditional trend in pure mathematics.

Because of the small size of the country, most Swiss researchers and teachers have spent a few years abroad as post-docs and have kept international connections. This ensures an open mind and facilitates contact with foreign colleagues and students who choose to come to Switzerland for work or study.

Even though Switzerland is a small country, you can study Mathematics at 8 universities: 2 Federal Institutes of Technology (ETH Zurich and EPF Lausanne) and 6 cantonal (local) universities (Basel, Bern, Geneva, Fribourg/Freiburg, Neuchâtel, and Zürich). Teaching is mainly in French in Geneva, Lausanne and Neuchâtel, German in Bern, Basel and Zürich, and bilingual in Fribourg/Freiburg, i.e. depending on the semester! Advanced courses, especially at the Master level, are also taught in English, as many of the teachers are not natives of the local language, and it is also considered most important to train the students to use the international language of mathematics.

The curricula have just been (or are just about to be) reorganised according to the Bologna agreement: a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics for three years and a Master of Mathematics of one and a half to two years. They are thus likely to be modified in the next few years. The BSc is meant to provide a solid general basis onto which the students can specialize. No matter which Swiss institution you are studying at, the standards of education are equally high, with basic education in linear algebra, real and complex analysis, algebra, topology, functional analysis and probability theory. Most universities offer a large choice of advanced courses starting from the third year of the BSc and given the relatively small size of our mathematics departments (the largest having about 300 students spread over 4 years), one can expect the friendly atmosphere inherent to lectures given for a small audience, with close contact to the teaching staff. If you would like to continue studying Mathematics in Switzerland, all universities offer the possibility to continue training as a PhD student.

The two Federal Institutes of Technology (which are the biggest institutions with the university of Zurich) have a large coverage of applied domains, but this is not exclusive: for example, the universities of Geneva and Bern have respectively very strong groups in Numerical Analysis and Statistics. The smallest institutions (Fribourg and Neuchâtell) are not big enough to have specialized research groups with several professors, the positive outcome being an open atmosphere (and life in small cities is really pleasant). Moreover, no matter which university you are located at, it is matter of at most 75 minutes by train to meet a colleague at any other institution, so that seminars can be effectively organized at a national level. Pure mathematics can be studied at every university, with strong connection to physics at ETHZ..

Finally, there are two more facts which are worth mentioning. First, due to Switzerland's rather healthy situation, libraries are incredibly well furnished: Lausanne offering more than 20,000 books on mathematics with free access, when it takes about one hour to get a book in Zurich. Moreover you can order books from any other Swiss institutions and get them usually within 2-3 days. Second, here summer schools are less usual than winter schools, where one is working morning and evening ... and skiing in the afternoon!

Mathematics in Switzerland:

  The university of Basel
  The university of Bern
  The university of Fribourg/Freiburg
  The university of Geneva
  The university of Neuchâtel
  The Federal Institute of Technology EPF Lausanne
  The Federal Institute of Technology ETH Zürich
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