I am an international student in Australia studying Bachelor of IT. Australian education system as the norm here is to take 4 subjects per semester and these subjects are pretty much "dumbed down". So a lot of subjects don't really teach much, for instance for Algorithms and Data Structures subject we weren't taught complexity at all, so during technical interviews for my internships, I was not able to give any answers in regarding to complexity.

Now this will be my last semester, and I feel like I still need more coursework for Computer Science and spending more money for Australian universities just sounds ridiculous at this step. Since almost all US and UK universities need honours award from Australian degrees (and that's extra $26k), I will not be applying to any US universities . I applied to one UK university that never mentioned requirement of honours and got rejection. I have applied to UBC in Canada but it will also cost me about CA$15-20k/y. So I had a look at European universities and found out that German and Swiss universities charges about 500-600 Euros per year. I found out that most German reputable universities don't really offer fully English Masters degrees in Computer Science, however that's not the case. ETH Zurich prefers students with honours as well. I found that EPFL has a good education and I would like to study Distributed Systems, which they offer quite a lot subjects on that, however what concerns me is after graduation job security. As I mentioned, my purpose of studying Computer Science is not to become an academia but to have stronger Computer Science skills.

Anyway so far it sounded like very specific, but my question is not that specific. Would it really worth studying Computer Science in Switzerland, with the consideration of graduate job prospects as well as doing internships and the fact that I don't have EU citizenship? I know that Google would accept international grads, but are there many companies like that?

  • 7
    Can you compress your question to its essence? There is a lot of irrelevant information for the actual question. Jan 22, 2014 at 16:09
  • I tried to get rid off the most irrelevant parts
    – Sarp Kaya
    Jan 22, 2014 at 23:50
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    Note that Master studies are not really considered 'graduate school' in Switzerland.
    – Cape Code
    Oct 3, 2014 at 22:42

4 Answers 4


EPFL is one of the better technical universities. This has two consequences: 1) it will be hard (as @xLeitix notes, if your current school doesn't even teach complexity, you will be in for a challenging time at EPFL), and 2) you won't have a problem to get a job afterwards.

Note that differences between schools are not as pronounced in Europe as elsewhere. For instance, I am pretty sure that you will not be able to attend a German or Swiss university without exposure to algorithm complexity. Consequently, employers (both academic and industry) in Europe don't really care all that much about school quality. Grades, internships and the impression you leave at the interview are much more important.

Beware of costs of living in Zurich. Zurich compares with New York City. It's horrendous. (I used to live there.) Lausanne should be somewhat better, but Switzerland is generally an expensive place. If you seriously plan on going there, check local rents and/or supermarkets (coop.ch or migros.ch - you should be able to find this week's offers even without speaking German) and convert them from CHF to AUD to get an impression.

Note the language: Zurich is German-speaking, but Swiss German is very hard for a non-native speaker, even if you did take German classes. Lausanne is French-speaking, and the Swiss French is closer to "standard" French than Swiss German is to German. Francophones dislike speaking English, so you will get by more easily in Zurich than in Lausanne in English.

Switzerland is not in the EU (although it of course cooperates), so your EU membership is not all that important. With an ETH/EPFL diploma, you should have no problem getting a job anywhere in Switzerland or the EU.

  • 1
    "Francophones dislike speaking English, so you will get by more easily in Zurich than in Lausanne in English." - It's a little more than that. Because in Lausanne (and all of Swissromande) children were (changed recently) required to learn German but not another language and the German-speaking part was allowed to learn any foreign language (so most choose English) you generally find VERY weak English skills in Lausanne and quite good English skills in Zurich.
    – earthling
    Jan 23, 2014 at 8:10
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    This post is really good. One generally important tidbid of information: "Consequently, employers (both academic and industry) in Europe don't really care all that much about school quality. Grades, internships and the impression you leave at the interview are much more important." In Europe, it is much more important that you are good than that you come from a good school.
    – xLeitix
    Jan 23, 2014 at 9:36
  • @xLeitix Interesting point in your last comment. Hope its true though. Future will show! Jan 23, 2014 at 9:48
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    @WolfgangKuehne It has been my impression at least. I come from a good-but-not-worldclass CS school, and colleagues of mine have scored very competitive jobs in Microsoft, IBM and Google.
    – xLeitix
    Jan 23, 2014 at 9:52
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    I have been to Lousanne, I know its expensive but I live in Australia where a room rent is $800/m. About complexity, I went to another uni to take advanced algorithms subject and fixed that problem. At the moment I am interning at Oracle. So I don't think I am that bad. I tried so hard to be better.
    – Sarp Kaya
    Jan 23, 2014 at 10:17

Honestly there are really cool universities in Europe where you can learn much about Computer Science and related subjects.

If you look at the rankings of universities in the world you will see that ETHZ and EPFL are ranked among top 50 unis for CS subjects. Last time I checked ETHZ was somewhere around 7 and EPFL somewhere close to 20. However keep in mind that the rankings are important for future employers but not that important in terms of teaching. Wherever you go in Switzerland and Germany you will face the same approach to science, with top class professors.

Let me clarify some stuff for you, first of all tuition fees in Swiss are not around 500-600 euros! They are a bit higher, however the real problem with living in Swiss are the living costs. I hear it is damn expensive over there. Especially if you think about Zurich.

When it comes to Germany, the semester fees are less than 300 euros. So you will be paying at mos 600 euros per year for studies. In some federations of Germany you even get a semester ticket, which you can use for traveling for free by bus and by train withing the borders of the federation where your University is located.

It is true that all the programmes offered by universities are not completely in English. However the selection of courses which is provided for international students is pretty nice. Additionally, at the moment there is a lack of IT people in Germany. My professor said "The only way not to find an IT job in Germany is to die early". If you register for master studies in germany, the state requires you to have at least 8000 euro in bank for 12 months. So they have calculated that as a student you can live comfortably with that money. However, you are free to spend as much as you want. This is the minimum that I told you.

If you are interested for English studies, bear in mind that Sweden provides CS studies mostly in English (over 80% of the population is fluent in English over there).

I think the main thing that you have to consider when registering for your future studies is the difficulties that you will face due to "poor" background at the moment. Studies will be very demanding (I know it form myself, I've been in the same position), but with hardwork you can achieve everything. However, if you are not ready to invest extra time to your studies, do not bother going to ETHZ or EPFL, or top universities in Germany.

I hope I answered you question, if you have further dilemmas let me know.

Edit1: Since you are aware of your drawbacks coming from the Bachelors, analyze well the curriculum of the university where you are planning to apply, and before that make sure to watch some of the free courses (related to that curriculum) provided by top universities online: http://www.mooc-list.com/

The courses provided in Masters studies are usually a continuation of the courses from the Bachelors, so check what the students have studies during bachelors in the unis that u are planning to apply

Selam ;)

  • 1
    About Germany I heard that TU's like TU Munchen are quite hard and doesn't have any assignment for CompSci degrees. I checked EPFL's curriculum, I see no problem with that and it seems like almost all subjects are offered in English. Unfortunately, Sweden doesn't really have high reputation university, so not really considering that. Also with German job advertisements, I mostly found jobs either requiring high German fluency or doing very front-end(not so technical) jobs.
    – Sarp Kaya
    Jan 23, 2014 at 2:44
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    @SarpKaya Wilfgang is right about ETZH and EPFL they are top tier schools. They are tough to get in and tough once you are there. If you don't have the knowledge to do well in an interview I suspect you will have major problems there (if you somehow manage to get admitted to either of these two schools). The costs of living in Switzerland are also quite high (compared to other European countries).
    – earthling
    Jan 23, 2014 at 8:05
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    @SarpKaya "Sweden doesn't really have high reputation university, so not really considering that" You should look again. The KTH Royal Institute of Technology (kth.se/en) is certainly on par with Lausanne or with most good German universities, especially re: distributed systems (they have strong ties to Ericsson Research).
    – xLeitix
    Jan 23, 2014 at 9:32
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    @SarpKaya as xLeitix mentioned, KTH is one nice uni in Swede, the others being Chalmers and Lund University. So do not hesitate to think of them as well. As far as language requirements go in Germany IT jobs, I can assure that Germans are much more tolerant than Swiss people when it comes to the language. Besides that I see nothing bad in learning a new language, and I am sure you can do it for the 2 years that you will be in a given German speaking country. Knowing German is a massive advantage, it provides full access to job opportunities in Swiss, Austria and Germany. Jan 23, 2014 at 9:45
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    I did study German at high school but Lousanne is not a German canton so I don't think I can learn anything more than Gruzi.
    – Sarp Kaya
    Jan 23, 2014 at 10:23

As a general comment: I feel there is a lot of fluff in this question which (as you seem to figure out yourself) makes the question seem more specific to you personally than what it actually is.

So after reading through rather unnecessary backstory (no offense :) ) I think this was your actual question?

I found that EPFL has a good education and I would like to study Distributed Systems, which they offer quite a lot subjects on that, however what concerns me is after graduation job security. As I mentioned, my purpose of studying CompSci is not to become an academia but to have stronger Computer Science skills.

Yes, job security with a MSc in Computer Science, also, even especially, with a focus on distributed systems, is very good in Switzerland and the surrounding countries. Lausanne is considered a good to excellent university in Europe. However, if your current school is as bad as you describe it (no complexity theory??), you may find the masters in Lausanne quite challenging. Not impossible, but you will probably spend a lot (!) of time learning the fundamentals.

EDIT: (this has been added after my original answer)

with the consideration of graduate job prospects and the fact that I don't have EU citizenship?

I do not know how not having an EU citizenship factors in. I am also a foreigner working in Zurich, but coming from an EU state. I have heard that things are not always easy for non-europeans around here, but I cannot offer any concrete info.

  • As I recall from my time in Switzerland, the rule is that before an employer can hire someone without the right to work in Switzerland or the EU, that employer must show there are no available, qualified workers in Switzerland or in the EU. This is quite a high hurdle (but not impossibly high) for an employer to jump over. Either you must be really special or they must REALLY want you.
    – earthling
    Jan 23, 2014 at 8:14
  • @earthling That's a good point. So there is not much chance for me to stay in Switzerland.
    – Sarp Kaya
    Jan 23, 2014 at 10:38
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    MSc level jobs in Switzerland are usually easy to get, especially in EE/CS areas. So don't bother about that. All foreigners (EU or not) are subject to the rule that some Swiss people couldn't get the job done, but any decent company has workarounds for that. The actual rule for non-EU students is that they need to find a job at most 6 months after graduation, which is not so hard for ETHZ/EPFL graduates. However, both EPFL and ETHZ are very selective at the Master level, so you may not be accepted easily, and life is very expensive in both towns.
    – sansuiso
    Jan 23, 2014 at 20:16
  • @sansuiso How many decent companies do you know in Switzerland like that? All I know is Google...
    – Sarp Kaya
    Jan 24, 2014 at 0:22
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    @SarpKaya: there is a lot of small companies and startups, IT support for banks and market places, niche companies that may be known worldwide like Doodle, Scandit or Kooaba... There's also a rising business in secure data storage and processing because of Swiss particularities like former Army caves (to keep the servers) and Swiss secrecy tradition...
    – sansuiso
    Jan 24, 2014 at 8:25

In have been recently taking Master of Advanced Studies in ETHZ, Zurich. From that I have seen, most of courses are optional. Each of them just gives some number of points and you simply need to collect enough. If it is initially not obvious which courses are good, it is not uncommon to take more than planned and drop some you find less useful. Of course, there are also mandatory courses you must take and pass they exams, but in general you most likely will not study that you see useless.

ETHZ seems quite oriented to self-dependent work and significant percent of the knowledge is acquired outside the lecture time (literature, assignments, etc).

Some courses are in German but there are also many English courses, as ETHZ hires professors from the whole world. Have never heard about somebody giving lectures in Swiss German in the university or even secondary school. Standard German is used for teaching.

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