The Swiss scholarship system is a mess. Four tips for a little more orientation.
1. Which canton is responsible?
What kind of scholarship you will get in Switzerland is also a matter of luck. Canton is responsible for allocating training grants (scholarships and loans). And they reward different amounts on different terms.
Scholarship is not a handout. They are a support for people who have no money for education. They are rewarded when their own financial means and family money are not enough.
Scholarships usually do not have to be paid. However, some Canton Scholarship holders have to borrow a portion of their money – to go into debt.
Scholarships are usually applied to the Canton of Residence by the parents. You can only apply for a scholarship if you have already completed your training and have lived and worked in a cantonment for two years. Swiss abroad should contact their home cantonment, refugees abroad should contact the refugee cantonment of their residence.
Most cantons have agreed to a deal: the so-called Scholarship Concordate has set some minimum standards for scholarships since 2008.
2. What’s in a fine print?
Once you find the canton responsible, you need to carefully study the relevant scholarship law and the relevant ordinance.
Provisions are especially important.
- … side: If you earn too much, you may lose the right to a scholarship.
- … to repay the loan: Scholarships are usually awarded based on one’s own and one’s parents’ predictions. If the reality eventually deviates from it, it may be that you will have to pay back the money you have already raised.
- … Reporting Obligations: If you report important changes (such as your financial situation) too late or not at all, you run the risk of being asked to make a refund.
- … on the duration of the study: Those who have studied for a long time often do not get scholarships.
“Your fine print should be read carefully, even if it is a very small print,” concludes Andrea. He received a scholarship from the Canton of Solothurn while studying biology. Now he is in debt: because he has worked so hard, he has to pay back 20,000 francs in grants.
3. Where else is the money?
The Swiss Scholarship System is a patchwork quilt. In addition to cantons, municipalities, universities and foundations sometimes help if there is no money for training.
But how do you find the source of this kind of money? The basic rule is: Ask everywhere – in the community where you live, in the training area, in the Cantonal Scholarship office. There is also a list of counseling centers – such as ETH Zurich, University of Applied Sciences St. Gallen or Basel-Stad or Edukaswis. The Foundation also has a Federal Register.
If you receive a scholarship from a variety of sources, then the following applies:
4. Which advice is useful?
There are many counseling centers. The following applies: Beware of payment offers. A lot of serious advice is free, a lot of information can be found on the internet for free.
So before spending insufficient money on scholarship advice, you should try the government authority: Canton, career counseling center or university (such as Zurich, Bern, Basel or St. Gallen). Often there are also opportunities to get interest-free loans – on better terms than private lenders.
Student Adviser Brigitte Ortega’s advice always applies: create a budget as soon as possible, get advice and submit an application. Because often you have to wait a long time for a decision.
The right to a scholarship?
There is no right to higher education in Switzerland. Its constitutional basis failed in 1973 due to the number of estates. Accordingly, there is no national grant entitlement that covers all living expenses.
There have always been attempts to change this. Most recently, in 2015, a popular initiative of the national student organization VSS failed in the ballot box – only 28% voted yes.