How Switzerland got rich

**Important Update on COVID-19**

In response to the global situation with COVID-19, we have come to the conclusion, that we cannot go ahead with the "normal" planning of the UZH International Summer Schools 2020. We therefore will definitely not be able to host our summer schools with a physical presence of students.

At this point, we do not yet want to cancel the UZH International Summer Schools, but currently evaluate whether a credit-bearing “online summer school” could be provided.

You are welcome to state your interest in an online version of the UZH International Summer Schools by completing the online application form.

(updated 26 March 2020)

UZH International Summer Schools 5 - 24 July 2020


Course Description

This Summer School looks at the development of Switzerland into one of the richest and most globalized countries in the world.

During the three weeks of the program, you will:

  • find out how some Swiss companies evolved into big transnational corporations and how they manage to export Swiss-made goods under the condition of a strong currency, the Swiss Franc.
  • find out how Switzerland, a landlocked country in the mountains, managed to establish itself as a wealthy nation state.
  • learn about the humble beginnings of Medieval guilds, the origins of the banking system as well as the associational way of state-building in a world of monarchies.
  • hear about early globalizers and industrializers, who pioneered hydropower, textiles and heavy machinery.
  • study the Swiss labor movement, from class struggle to social partnership and welfare state.
  • find out how various Swiss industries, for instance food, finance or watch-making, continue to be successful globally.

The course director Prof. Dr. Patrick Ziltener will introduce you to the state of research and scholarly debate on “how Switzerland got rich”. You will evaluate this topic from a sociological, historical, economical, and political point of view.

As part of the program, you will have the opportunity to travel to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites and other scenic locations in Switzerland, including La Chaux-de-Fonds and Lucerne. You will also discover the country's political roots when visiting the capital city of Bern.

The program is coordinated by Prof. Dr. Patrick Ziltener, Institute of Sociology UZH, with distinguished guest speakers from other UZH departments (history, economics, anthropology).

Participating in this Summer School will not only allow you to get to know the University of Zurich but also to experience Zurich as one of the world's most attractive student cities. As part of our social program, we will introduce you to some of the most beautiful spots in the city and the region and provide you with plenty of opportunities to socialize and make friends. 

Learn more about the program and its learning outcomes here (PDF, 176 KB).


Hosting Institute: Institute of Sociology, UZH

Course Director: Prof. Dr. Patrick Ziltener

Language of Instruction: English

Credits: 6 ECTS

Target audience: 2nd or 3rd year Bachelor students and Master students

Entry Requirements and Application Process

Entry Requirements

  • Master students or good Bachelor students who have completed their first year of study are encouraged to apply. This course is open to students from all subject areas.
  • Applicants must possess a sufficient command of English (broadly CEFR B2 or equivalent) to be able to actively contribute to classes. This needs to be visible from your motivation letter, previous studies or work experience.

Application Process

Applications are open until 26 April 2020. To apply, please complete the online application form and send your application documents (PDF, 49 KB) to


UZH International Summer Schools Regulations 2020 (PDF, 59 KB)

UZH Students please note that it is possible to register for this summer program directly via the regular module booking tool. Additional information on the course can be found in the course catalogue. The number of UZH participants is restricted. 
Participation in the UZH International Summer School is free of charge for UZH students. In return we expect some organizational support in running the summer school.

Fees and Discounts


The regular fee for this summer school is CHF 2,000. Tuition Fees will be reduced significally for an online course. More information will be shared as soon as possible. Further Tuition Fee discounts are also still available.

  • The fee includes: Tuition and application fee; final certificate; study trips; social program
  • Not included: Accommodation and subsistence costs


We offer generous discounts to students from certain UZH partner universities, including Strategic Partners and Universitas 21 and LERU universities. Once we have received your application, we will notify you of any potential discounts available to you.  

Schedule and Classes

The preliminary program includes:

  • Around 20 hours of classroom teaching per week
  • Full day study trip to Lucerne, Altdorf and Schwyz
  • Full day study trip to Bern (World Heritage Site) 
  • Full day study trip to the Jura Alps incl. visits to Le Locle (World Heritage Site) and the International Watch Museum in La Chaux-de-Fonds
  • Study tours through Zurich
  • Various social events including a welcome dinner, barbecues, a trip to Schaffhausen and the Rhine Falls and an optional day hike to a local mountain!

Note: The program may be subject to change.

Practical Information

Visa Requirements

Depending on your nationality, you may be required to apply for a visa to enter Switzerland. Please make sure you fulfill the visa provisions that apply for your country before traveling to Switzerland.

EU / EFTA Nationals: EU and EFTA nationals may directly enter Switzerland with a valid travel document that is recognized by the Swiss authorities. 

Non-EU / Non-EFTA Nationals: Citizens of non-EU and non-EFTA countries require a visa to enter Switzerland. Please note that some non-EU / non-EFTA nationals do not need a visa if their stay is less than 90 days.

Overview of visa provisions according to nationality
List of Swiss embassies and consulates of Switzerland

Note: Please keep in mind that you will receive the official letter confirming your successful registration for this program only after having paid the full tuition fee. If you require this document for visa purposes, please make sure to plan enough time between the payment and your entry to Switzerland.

Arriving in Zurich

Zurich can easily be reached by train, plane, bus or car. The Zurich Tourism website has all the relevant information on how to reach the city.

Arriving in Zurich (Zurich Tourism)

Arriving at Zurich Airport: Zurich has a very well connected international airport. If you arrive at Zurich Airport, you can take a direct train or tram to the city center. Trains depart from the airport train station on the lower level, the tram and bus stops are located outside check-in area 3.

From Zurich Airport to Downtown (Zurich Tourism)