Geneva debates raising tuition fees for international students

Geneva debates raising tuition fees for international students

According to a report from the Tribune de Genève, authorities in the city are looking into raising tuition fees for non-Swiss students studying at the University of Geneva (UNIGE). The move would see UNIGE join five other universities in Switzerland in charging internationals more for tuition.

Geneva SVP propose tuition fee hike for UNIGE students

In a statement, the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) in Geneva submitted a proposal that would see students at the University of Geneva pay more for tuition if they are not Swiss. Currently, UNIGE is one of the least expensive colleges in the country, charging students just 500 francs per semester, regardless of nationality.

Speaking to the Tribune de Genève, SVP grand council member Michaël Andersen said that they were looking to charge “foreign students” double for tuition. The decision would see the university join five others across the country that charge non-Swiss students more, namely the universities of Bern, Fribourg, Italian Switzerland, St. Gallen and Neuchâtel. 

At these universities, international fees are charged to those whose qualifications from high school are not Swiss. However, the SVP said that they would like the higher fees in Geneva to be applied based on citizenship or where a person is registered to pay their taxes instead.

University of Geneva demands more money

The proposal comes as the University of Geneva requests more money from the cantonal government. As part of the package being discussed by lawmakers, 405 million francs would be given by Canton Geneva to the university every year by 2027, amounting to nearly half the institution’s budget. 

The SVP see increasing fees for non-Swiss students as a way of providing more funding without having to dip deeper into public coffers. Indeed, the party estimated that if all international students in Geneva were charged 2.000 francs per semester - still not the most expensive tuition fee in Switzerland - the university budget would be bolstered by 20 million francs a year.

UNIGE argue higher fees for internationals are not the solution

While it may be popular within the SVP, a spokesperson from UNIGE, Marco Cattaneo, told the Tribune that they were not in favour of raising tuition fees for non-Swiss students. He noted that international students “bring back” more money to the university per capita than Swiss students do, citing the fact that of the 71 million francs a year given to the university by the federal government, 30 million francs is “earned” thanks to the large number of international students at UNIGE.

Cattaneo added that tuition fees would have to rise “enormously” if they were to make an impact on the university's 840 million-franc annual budget. At the same time, he argued that the attractiveness of the university for both students and other European institutions would take a hit and that Switzerland as a whole would lose specialised graduates who could help fill jobs.

The SVP's proposal will now be debated in the Grand Council in the coming days.

Thumb image credit: EQRoy /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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