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Popular and innovative Enrolment at Switzerland’s top tech universities shoots up

University students at the the Swiss Federal Institute of Technolog in Lausanne.

The Alpine nation has a growing reputation as a magnet for students and companies seeking fertile ground for creativity and innovation.​​​​​​​ Pictured here: federal technology institute EPFL in Lausanne

(Keystone)

Switzerland’s federal technology institutes are attracting a record number of students, particularly in the fields of information technology and engineering sciences.

The two institutes – ETH Zurich and EPFL in Lausanne – enrolled 31,293 students and doctoral candidates in 2017, according to the ETH annual reportexternal link released this week. That represents an additional 1,000 students compared to 2016 and 10,000 more than the previous decade.

The top-tier universities are widely credited for their contribution to Switzerland’s global competitiveness. Last year they concluded more than 500 new cooperation agreements with the private sector, according to the report. The schools were also the birthplace of 600 spin-offs and on average, one patent application was filed every 48 hours in 2017.

+ International students make up 17% of the student body at Swiss universities

The federal institutes of technology claimed the top two slots in the Times Higher Education ranking of the world’s most international universities. They also landed into the top ten in a Reuters ranking of the most innovative universities in Europe. 

Switzerland is one of the world’s biggest spenders on education per capita and a recent study by a British consulting firm suggests the investment largely pays off. BiGGAR external linkclaims that ETH Zurich and EPFL account for 100,000 jobs and CHF13 billion ($13 billion) in added value to the Swiss economy.

The only area where the two institutes appears to be falling short is gender parity.

The proportion of women among students and doctoral students barely budged in the span of a year, rising from 30% in 2016 to 30.6% in 2017. Women made up only 15% of professors but the ETH Zurich board expects that number to rise as female professors get a growing share of new appointments (24.1% in 2016, 29.5% in 2017).

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