ETH Zürich

The Federal Polytechnic School of Zurich (German: Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich) is a pioneering public research university in Europe and around the world.The campus is in the Swiss city of Zurich, and is known as the ETH. Its fame is due to the many scientists who have passed through its classrooms and laboratories, Twenty-One Nobel laureates in its more than one hundred and fifty years of existence; Albert Einstein is among the most famous.

In the 2021 editions of the QS World University Rankings, ETH has been considered the sixth best university in the world (second in Europe behind the University of Oxford), 23rd and eleventh according to The Times Higher Education World Rankings

In the French-speaking part of Switzerland is its sister University, the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne). It is a member of the idea League and top Industrial Managers for Europe (red TIME) and the International Alliance of research universities (IARU).


From 1848 to 1855

Since the time of the Helvetic Republic, the idea of a National University has been debated throughout Switzerland, but infighting has long prevented its realization. As the Helvetic Republic was transformed into the Swiss Confederation, of federal government, the voices calling for a university were heard again and after long debates, on 7 February 1854, the Swiss Federal Council signed the law for the creation of a Federal Polytechnic School (“Eidgenössische Polytechnische Schule”) in conjunction with a school for exact, political and Human Sciences.​

From 1855 to 1904

The new institution wanted to provide theoretical and practical knowledge in line with the Industrial Revolution that was in Europe at that time. Thanks to the pleasant climate that reigned in the ETH-Z, many students from all over Europe entered, as did renowned scientists such as Kinkel, De Sanctis, Cherbuliez, Clausius, Reuleaux and Semper.​

Together with the growing Federation, the ETH-Z began its construction process. At this time the main building (Hauptgebäude) was built, which was designed by Semper, in addition to its Machine Laboratory, the chemistry and physics building. Student associations, departments of Agriculture and Military Sciences were founded.

From 1904 to 1911

This era is marked by changes within the institution. From 1904 the debate around the change of name from Polytechnikum to Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule began, according to the changes that German educational institutions were making this change was effective in 1911. In these years, ETH began its process of separating from other federal institutions, both the University of Zurich and the Canton and the city of Zurich today the name is according to what this university provides.

In addition to the change in the name, in 1908, the institution began the process of restructuring both the subjects and the education system according to what the time required. In 1909, the first doctoral degrees were awarded to six in the area of Chemistry, two in Mechanical Engineering and one in natural sciences.

From 1911 to 1968

The University began to work with academic autonomy but cooperatively with the canton of Zurich. This formula served him to achieve the desired goals, theoretical formulation and controlled experimentation of experiments thus, after the First World War, the creation of institutes with mixed funding within the institution was consolidated. Over time, the University focused on national information roles. In both industry and science, ETH was beginning to be a benchmark in terms of the paths to be directed.

With regard to infrastructure, Laboratories continued to be built. In 1929 the water and Hydrology laboratory was created, in 1933 the Institute for experimental Physics, in 1937 the Institute for industrial Development, with which it was noticed that the university required a larger place to continue its expansion, which concluded in 1961 with the start of the works of the first stage of its new campus on the outskirts of Zurich, in the hönggerberg sector. For this purpose, in 1952 the Swiss National Science Foundation was created, which was responsible for obtaining the necessary funds. In 1954, 444 million Swiss francs had already been raised for enlargement.

From 1968 to 1973

This short period was embroiled in a series of disputes over the intention to implement new regulations and laws at the University. In 1968 the new laws for ETH were enacted but the students themselves voted against their implementation in a referendum. In 1969, its sister university École Polytechnique Universitaire de Lausanne became the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne.​

From 1973 to 2005

Like the rest of the world, universities at this time had to evolve according to the growing technological innovation to become technology generating points, and not just simple consumers. So at this time, ETH had to relax its research programs in order to achieve the necessary technological advances and for that they managed to achieve strategic alliances with several important companies.​

Thanks to this in the 1980s they promoted the creation of new departments as well as new careers such as computer science, materials science and environmental science. From then on the University, which already had a great prestige, continued its path accompanied by the scientific advance and the innovation required to become a leading university.

From 2005 onwards

In recent years the ETH has met various quality standards that both the Swiss Federal Government and the European Union and First World countries have required; one of these examples is that it had to carry out the reform approved in the Bologna Process.11 the degrees awarded at their educational levels as well as their scientific and technological advances always carry the quality that the university has won. In the years 2005, 2006 and 2007 the ranking of universities in the world gave him the position 27,12 being the fifth best university in Europe and the best university in his country.


ETH has two campuses as stated above, one in the city center (Zentrum) and one in Hönggerberg. The central campus adjoins the University of Zurich, the Universitätspital and the Canton college (Kantonschule). It’s not actually a closed campus; on the contrary, it is a set of buildings and offices surrounding the Hauptgebäude, which was designed by Gottfried Semper, who was a professor of Architecture at the time is located in a central area of the city, which is easily accessible from Zurich central train station (Hauptbahnhof) by tram or even on foot.

The hönggerberg campus is more modern, about 50 years old and was built because the Zentrum campus could not be expanded further. It was mainly built between 1964 and 1976, although the largest construction was completed in 2003 with the construction of the Departments of Materials Science, Architecture, civil Engineering, Physics, Biology and chemistry. The campus is away from the Zentrum campus about 20 minutes by public transport and about 25 minutes from the central train station.

For the 150 years of the University a plan was forged to turn this university campus into a Scientific City, where you can live, eat, do sports, etc.the project called Science City is an ambitious project that seeks to create a city with the highest environmental standards accompanied by cultural, economic and social spaces.


For admission to undergraduate (Bachelor) studies, there are two modalities: one for students who have the Swiss Baccalaureate (eidgenössisch anerkannten gymnasialen Maturitätsausweis) and another for those who do not. Those who have this Schweizer Maturität or some equivalent must only register at the entrance office for others, it varies if the higher degree they have revalidates with the CH-Maturität. Applicants must first register at the admission office, where they will be told if their degree is equivalent, and otherwise they will have to take entrance tests (Aufnahmeprüfung) in the subjects corresponding to their career in addition to a test of knowledge of the German language (Deutsch-Kenntnis-Prüfung) although the language of study is German, tests can be conducted in any of the four official languages in Switzerland.​

The ETH also offers the option of entering advanced levels; for this, students must also register at the admission office and, depending on where they have completed their studies, they can revalidate the subjects taken at other universities if they are in a second year of study students from universities in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Italy and France only need to present their certificates of study.

For admission to master’s degrees, the ETH requires the applicant to have a degree equivalent to The Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science. The application for admission must be submitted in writing by attaching a copy of your corresponding title. Several master’s degrees at ETH can also be done in English several courses are taught primarily in German but a good knowledge of English is needed for certain subjects and others are primarily in English with some subjects in German. There are also courses that are only in English; for more detail there is a table below.

Why is ETH Zurich better than average?

Annual tuition fee
1 237.00$ vs 13 182.41$

Position in the US News ranking
13 vs 145.07

Position in Times Higher Education ranking
12 vs 125.55

Collection in the library
7000000 vs 4947128.46

Position in the ARWU rankings
60 vs 143.19

Professors with Nobel Prize
17 vs 6.86

International students enrolled
37% vs 12.54%

Former students with Nobel Prize
13 vs 5.78


At the undergraduate level, the ETH offers 23 Bachelor’s and 41 Master’s degrees. In 2006, 6,800 students were pursuing Bachelor’s degrees and 3,800 were pursuing master’s degrees or diplomas. They also had 2,900 PhD students in 16 departments.


Studies to obtain the Bachelor of Arts or The Bachelor of Science have a duration of three years, divided into 6 semesters or 180 credits. The first year is the base year where the fundamentals of Mathematics, Physics, Biology and chemistry are taught, so that later, in the following two years, more work is done on projects and more specific jobs for their corresponding degree the careers it offers at this level are:


Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geomatics

Civil Engineering
Geomatics and planning

Environmental Sciences
Engineering Electrotechnics and Information Technology
Materials science
Mechanical engineering
Mathematics and Natural SciencesBiology
Chemical Engineering
Interdisciplinary Sciences
Pharmaceutical Sciences
Computer science and engineering
Systematic and oriented Natural SciencesHealth Sciences and technology
Food science
Agricultural Sciences
Environmental Sciences
Earth Sciences
Social and Administrative SciencesSocial, human and Political Sciences

Master’s degree

Studies continue with a master’s degree, which lasts 3 or 4 semesters or from 90 to 120 credits. The studies are concentrated in the branch that the student chooses. In addition, internships (between 3 and 8 weeks) and a written work must be carried out to finally obtain the title of Master of Science ETH or Master of Arts ETH master’s degrees offered by ETH departments, several of them in English, are:

Architecture, Civil Engineering and GeomaticsArchitecture
Civil Engineering
Geomatics and planning

Spatial development and infrastructure systems
Environmental engineering
EngineeringBiomedical Engineering
Computational biology and Bioinformatics
Electrotechnics and information technologies
Energy science and technology
Mechanical engineering
Materials science
Micro and Nanosystems
Nuclear Engineering
Process engineering
Quantum Engineering
Natural Sciences and MathematicsHuman Movement Sciences and sports
Chemistry and biological engineering
Interdisciplinary Sciences
Mathematics and applications
Medical Sciences and industrial Pharmaceuticals
Neural systems and computing
Pharmaceutical Sciences
Computer science and engineering
Systematic and oriented Natural SciencesAgricultural Sciences
Applied Geophysics
Materials science
Earth Sciences
Food science
Environmental Sciences
Social and Administrative SciencesComparative and International Studies
Administration, technology and economics
Philosophy and history of thought


  • The course is taught in English and German, predominantly German. ** The course is taught in English and German, predominantly English. *** The race is taught in German only. **** The course is taught in English only.


The great fame of this university is due to its innumerable contributions to science. That is why every year the number of doctoral candidates is around 700; almost half are foreigners. The duration of a PhD is around 3 or 4 years. The first thing that is advised to do a PhD in the ETH, is to look for a professor within the university, to together elaborate the study plan and work. Upon completion of studies, the ETH awards the title corresponding to the study as ETH Graduate Schools.

Recognized characters in the ETH

The corridors of this university have passed, both as students and professors, renowned science characters.

Nobel Prize winners

The ETH-Z has 21 Nobel Prizes, a figure that represents almost a third of all winners of this prize in science in the table below you can see the character and the year he was awarded this award:

1901Wilhelm Konrad RöntgenPhysical
1913Alfred WernerChemistry
1915Richard WillstätterChemistry
1918Fritz HaberChemistry
1920Charles Edouard GuillaumePhysical
1921Albert EinsteinPhysical
1936Peter DebyeChemistry
1938Richard KuhnChemistry
1939Leopold RuzickaChemistry
1943Otto SternPhysical
1945Wolfgang PauliPhysical
1950Tadeus ReichsteinMedicine
1952Felix BlochPhysical
1953Hermann StaudingerChemistry
1975Vladimir PrelogChemistry
1978Werner ArberMedicine
1986Heinrich RohrerPhysical
1987Georg Bednorz y Alexander MüllerPhysical
1991Richard ErnstChemistry
2002Kurt WüthrichChemistry

Other characters

Among the characters who have been teachers or have graduated from the ETH that enjoy some recognition are:​

Jakob Ackeret (1898–1981)Othmar H. Ammann (1879–1965)
Hans Boesch (1926–2003)Hendrik Petrus Berlage (1856–1934)
Alfred Büchi (1879–1959)Santiago Calatrava (1951– )
Rudolf Clausius (1822–1888)Ernst Dübi (1884–1947)
Hermann Burger (1942–1989)Hans Albert Einstein (1904–1973)
Karl Culmann (1821–1881)Max Frisch (1911–1991)
Beno Eckmann (1917-2008)Jacques Herzog (1950– )
Paul Feyerabend (1924–1994)Robert Maillart (1872–1940)
Fritz Fischer (1898–1947)Pierre de Meuron (1950– )
Jérôme Franel (1859–1939)Walterio Meyer Rusca (1882–1969)
Albert Heim (1849–1937)Gustave Naville (1848–1929)
Eduard Imhof (1895–1986)John von Neumann (1903–1957)
Otto Jaag (1900–1978)Henri Pittier (1857–1950)
Carl Gustav Jung (1875–1961)Walter Ritz (1878–1909)
Gustav Adolf Kenngott (1818–1897)Volker Staab
Ernst Laur (1871–1964)
Christian Menn (1927– )
Adolf Muschg (1934– )
Franz Reuleaux (1829–1905)
Roland Ris (1939– )
Heinz Rutishauser (1918–1970)
Jean Rudolf von Salis (1901–1996)
Karl Schmid (1907–1974)
Gerold Schwarzenbach (1904–1978)
Peter Sehr (1951- )
Gottfried Semper (1803–1879)
Eduard Stiefel (1909–1978)
Aurel Stodola (1859–1942)
Friedrich Traugott Wahlen (1899–1985)
Hermann Weyl (1885–1955)
Niklaus Wirth (1934– )

Leave a Comment