Growing Interest in Natural Sciences, Law and Economics

Next Monday, the Fall Semester begins for about 27,000 students at the University of Zurich. The number of Master's students in particular has increased. In the arts and social sciences, students now benefit from clear and consistent degree program structures, which have been brought about by a wide-ranging study reform.

Die Anzahl der Studierenden steigt an der UZH kontinuierlich.
The number of students at the University of Zurich is continuously increasing. (Picture: Ursula Meisser / UZH)

The number of students at the University of Zurich continues to grow: Around 27,000 students (2018: 26,587) are matriculated for the Fall Semester of 2019 – enrolled in Bachelor’s or Master’s degree programs, pursuing a doctoral degree, teaching diploma or taking part in a Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) program. Provisional figures indicate that the number of Master’s students has increased by 6 percent (2019: 6,648) compared to last year, while the number of doctoral candidates has remained stable (2019: 5,274). “The growing number of Master’s students shows that the University of Zurich offers attractive degree programs that are compatible with previous studies,” says Professor Gabriele Siegert, Vice President Education and Student Affairs and UZH Deputy President.

More students in natural sciences and law

This year, the Faculty of Science (2019: 4,535 students) has benefitted from the growing interest in UZH’s degree programs, as more students are studying biomedicine or chemistry, for example. In the Faculty of Law (2019: 3,589 students) and in the Faculty of Business, Economics and Informatics (2019: 3,790 students), the number of students has also increased compared to the previous year, with informatics proving to be a particularly popular choice. 3,777 students are matriculated to study human, chiropractic and dental medicine at the Faculty of Medicine. For aspiring veterinarians, an additional 16 places have been created in cooperation with the Vetsuisse Faculty Bern (2019:  726 students).

In the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, the number of students has remained on par with the previous year (2019: 10,279 students) and the number of students matriculated at the Faculty of Theology (2019: 329 students) has seen a slight drop. At 58 percent, the percentage of female students is unchanged, while the share of students from abroad has increased by one percentage point (20 percent), with German, Italian, Chinese and Austrian students among the most common nationalities.

Large-scale reform in arts and social sciences

At the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, the Bologna 2020 study reform will be implemented at all academic levels from the 2019 Fall Semester. The reform has given all study programs a full makeover, with the aim of preserving the diverse range of subjects offered in the arts and social sciences while adding clear and transparent structures. These changes were a great challenge for UZH’s largest and most diverse faculty, which counts around 10,000 students.

Some of the smaller degree programs with tight exam schedules have now been given a more generous structure: “More comprehensive teaching units have been put in place to counter the fragmented nature of our programs and promote networked learning,” says Gabriele Siegert. Moreover, uniform module sizes ensure that students can make better use of cross-faculty courses.

All degrees connect upwards

The new Bachelor’s degree programs are now made up of a major subject and a minor subject – a model that is widespread both in Switzerland and abroad and thus also facilitates student mobility between universities. Each Bachelor’s degree connects upwards to at least one consecutive Master’s program, while additional requirements for students moving to the next level have been decreased. Unlike the Bachelor’s level, which has a generalist focus, the Master’s programs allow students to specialize in a particular area and sharpen their profile.

New Master’s programs – current, interdisciplinary and practice-oriented

The range of programs includes an array of entirely new ones alongside revised existing programs such as Psychology, Social and Cultural Anthropology, or History. Some of the new degree programs have a distinctly interdisciplinary focus, including Linguistics or Interdisciplinary Archaeological Sciences, while others, such as Contemporary History or Internet & Society, put an emphasis on analyzing recent societal developments. The new Master’s program German Literature: Theory – Analysis – Transfer, in turn, opens doors between academia and real-world practice.

The Bologna 2020 reform project was launched in connection with the university-wide framework ordinance template adopted in 2016, which to a large extent standardizes the study structures at UZH’s seven faculties. According to Gabriele Siegert, the project is well on track: “The reform maintains the diversity of the faculties and enables students to make the most of it, with straightforward structures and sustainable programs that connect to the next academic level.”