Academic mobility at USI for incoming students

Università della Svizzera italiana and the International Relations and Study Abroad Service are pleased to welcome you and wish you a pleasant and successful stay on our campuses.

Here are the exchange programmes available at USI:

  • Swiss mobility programme, for students matriculated in other Swiss universities to study at USI one or more semesters;
  • SEMP programme (Swiss-European Mobility Programme, former Erasmus), for students coming from partner institutions to study at USI for one or two semesters. At present, USI has over 80 bilateral agreements with universities all over Europe;
  • International agreement programme, for students coming from partner institutions outside of Europe with whom USI has established bilateral agreements for one or two semesters. At present, USI has twelve international agreements;
  • Free-mover programme, for students whose home university does not have a bilateral agreement with USI (Lugano campus only).

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  • Admission criteria

    The main conditions for admission are the following:

    • Exchange students must be enrolled in a university having signed a bilateral agreement with USI;
    • Exchange students may spend one or two semesters of study at USI;
    • Applicants must provide evidence from their home institution that the exchange term is fully acknowledged and accepted as part of their degree curriculum;
    • Exchange students must be approved by their home university for an exchange term at USI.

    For more detailed information, please refer to the Exchange Students Handbook: Exchange Students Handbook 2018/2019.


  • Application procedure

    Applicants can register online at the following link: Login and password will be sent to applicants after the nomination from the home university (not required for Architecture).

    Applicants are required to upload a passport picture as part of the online registration process, it is therefore suggested to prepare a scanned image in advance (allowed file formats: .jpg, .jpeg, .gif, .png; size <0.5MB).

    To complete the application, students are required to send the following documents by ordinary mail:

    For Swiss Mobility programme students:

    • Copy of the online confirmation message signed and stamped by the coordinator of the exchange studies of your faculty;
    • Copy of most recent transcript of records

    For SEMP, International programme, Freemover* programme students:

    • Copy of the online confirmation message signed and stamped by the coordinator of the exchange studies of your faculty;
    • A photocopy of the relevant pages of your passport or ID;
    • Copy of most recent transcript of records;
    • Copy of Language Certificate and signature from your home university that guarantees that you are sufficiently competent in the English language (a B2 is compulsory but C1 is strongly recommended) and/or the Italian language (at least a B2 level) to study at USI (not required for Architecture);
    • A photocopy of the European Health Insurance card (if available);

    Please note that we only accept original documents approved and signed by the home representatives and sent by ordinary mail (delivery of original documents is not required for the Academy of Architecture). The candidate will receive a letter of acceptance (together with other relevant information concerning courses etc.) as soon as the personal data has been processed.

    * Freemover applications: if the student's home university is not a USI partner university, they may apply for a term at USI as freemovers (Lugano campus only). The application process is the same as for an exchange student.

  • Deadlines

    Autumn semester:

    • The official approval must be submitted by e-mail from the home university to no later than by May 1st.
    • The online registration must be completed by May 15th.

    Spring semester:

    • The official approval must be submitted by e-mail from the home university to no later than by October 15th.
    • The online registration must be completed by November 1st.

    The courses timetable is published on the website of each Faculty few weeks before the beginning of the semester.
    Faculty of Communication Sciences
    Faculty of Economics
    Faculty of Informatics
    Academy of Architecture

    USI's academic calendar is available here.

  • Tuition fee

    Please check which of the three options below applies to you:

    • Tuition fees are waived at USI Università della Svizzera italiana where a reciprocal exchange agreement has been signed, and students are formally nominated by their home university.
    • Students coming from a partner university but who have not been formally nominated, can still come to USI for an exchange period with freemover status, and benefit from a reduced tuition fee of CHF 2000 per semester.
    • Freemover students are subject to the regular USI tuition fee, for an amount of CHF 4000 per semester.

    Fee payment is an essential condition for matriculating or renewing one's enrolment. Please note that USI does not offer financial support to internationals students. These students are required to guarantee their own source of funding.

  • SEMP Studies Scholarship

    Following the suspension of negotiations on Switzerland's association to Erasmus+, the Federal Council has drawn up a temporary solution by providing 22.7 million Swiss francs to finance both incoming and outgoing exchange students within the European mobility. For more information, please visit the SEMP programme section of the Swiss National Agency Movetia.

    The SEMP programme entitles students to receive a scholarship if both of the following conditions are met:

    • The applicant is officially approved by a partner university of USI;
    • The applicant is not holding another scholarship of the European Union for an international student exchange programme.

    Scholarships do not provide for total coverage of the expenses incurred during the stay abroad period, but they nonetheless contribute towards travel expenses and part of the living costs. The monthly amounts of the SEMP grant for the academic year 2018/2019 are available here.

    Payment of the SEMP scholarship

    Scholarships are paid by the International Relations and Study Abroad Service upon arrival at USI, and are credited directly to the student's bank or postal account: two-thirds are payable at the time of arrival, while the remaining third is paid at the end of the stay upon receipt of the online exchange survey and the end of study report (see the guidelines here).

  • Language of instruction and opportunities

    Bachelor courses at the Faculty of Communication Sciences and Economics are mainly taught in Italian. For non-native Italian speakers it is requested to have a good knowledge of the Italian language (at least a B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).

    Master courses at the Faculty of Communication Sciences and Economics are mainly taught in English, with few courses offered in Italian. Master courses at the Faculty of Informatics are entirely taught in English. For non-native English speakers it is highly recommended to have a good knowledge of the English language (B2 is requested, C1 is recommended).

    A certificate confirming at least a B2 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages signed by the home institution is requested.

    Wherever possible, course material is made available in translation too, for ease of reference. By previous agreement with the respective Professor, examinations may be sat in Italian, English or one of the other Swiss national languages (German/French).

    Language opportunities: learn Italian!

    Being USI the only University of Italian language and culture in the Swiss Academia, since 2006 it is particularly committed in the organization of Italian language courses, both intensive and extensive. The programmes are designed for USI students and USI professionals at all levels who want to develop and improve their practical Italian skills. Each year about 600 USI students enroll in the Italian language courses.

    Italian language courses do not count towards a degree at Università della Svizzera italiana. Only SEMP (former Erasmus), Swiss Mobility and International Exchange students are entitled to receive ECTS points after having passed the final test and attended at least the 75% of the course. 2 ECTS points are assigned for the Intensive courses and 1 ECTS point for the semestral courses. The evaluation is expressed by a binary system (Pass or Fail).

    For more information about the schedule and content of the courses offered, as well as application, please refer to the following link: Registration begins in May (for Autumn semesters) and late November (for Spring semesters). For the good organization of the programme, students should register only if seriously interested.

    Official Italian Language proficiency PLIDA

    Università della Svizzera italiana also offers an official Italian language proficiency test twice a year in cooperation with the Società Dante Alighieri in Italy. The PLIDA Certificate attests competence in Italian as a foreign language according to a scale of six levels. The levels advance from A1 to C2 in progression of difficulty and correspond to the levels established by the Council of Europe. For more information, please visit the webpage:

  • ECTS Credit System

    One of the most important objectives of the Bologna Reform is to enhance the creation of an open educational European space, in which students and teaching staff can move without obstacles. The accreditation of studies and their academic degrees is the fundamental condition for the success of a mobility period abroad. For this reason, the Erasmus program has adopted the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) to improve the acknowledgement of studies abroad.

    The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System is a student-centred system based on the student workload required to achieve the objectives of a program. Students obtain credits by fulfilling the prescribed academic requirements (class attendance, course work, term papers, or final examinations).

    ECTS credits are assigned by numeric value (ranging from 1 to 60). One credit corresponds to 25-30 hours of work.

    In the ECTS system, 60 credits is the total amount for one academic year, 30 credits for one semester and 20 for a trimester. Instead of an absolute measure, the credits consist of a relative quantification of students' workload, representing the workload required by a student in relation to the total annual workload of a degree curriculum offered by an university or a Faculty. ECTS credits take into account the student's overall performance, and are not based only on class attendance. ECTS credits are valid for all available courses, either mandatory or elective. The level of difficulty of a course bears no relation to the ECTS system, and cannot be attested by the ECTS credits.

    Students are credited with ECTS points only after they have successfully completed a course and fulfilled all its evaluation requirements. In other words, students are not awarded credits simply by class attendance or by taking part in a study abroad period.

    At USI the following credits conversions outside the ECTS system apply: credits conversion sheet.

  • Activities for incoming students

    Italian Language Courses

    Being USI the only University of Italian language and culture in the Swiss Academia, since 2006 it is particularly committed in the organization of Italian language courses, both intensive and semestral. The programme is designed for USI students and USI professionals at all levels who want to develop and improve their  practical Italian skills. Each year about 600 USI students enroll in the Italian language courses.
    The courses taking place prior to the beginning of the autumn/spring semester are particularly designed for exchange incoming students. Participating students attended morning classes focused on grammar and writing, whereas the afternoon classes focused on improving listening and speaking skills, expanding vocabulary and developing confidence.
    A guided city tour, a guided visit of a museum and an Italian film viewing in the USI Auditorio are part of the course.

    For more information about the content of the courses and to apply online please read the following link:


    Welcome day

    Exchange students are invited to an orientation meeting set before the beginning of each term. The orientation day opens with a lunch offered at the USI canteen. In the second part of the day, several USI services are present to assist the students: study advisors of the different study programmes answer students’ questions regarding the courses. Moreover, the USI/SUPSI Sport Service, the SostA project regarding sustainability and mobility and the Tours “+italiano” that enable freshmen students to discover the city of Lugano are presented.

    The welcome day for incoming students took place on Thursday 6 September 2018. The welcome day for incoming students during the Spring Semester took place on Thursday 14 February 2019.


    Welcome trip/activity

    At the beginning of each semester we organize a free of charge welcome day trip in order to offer new incoming students a taste of our region and to get to know each other.

    First trip (Autumn Semester)

    Sasso San Gottardo Museum and Caseificio del Gottardo (Gotthard cheese factory).
    When:  Saturday 6 October  (from about 13.00 to about 21.00).

    The Sasso San Gottardo museum - the secret Gotthard fortress - is located in the tunnels and caverns of the Gotthard massif: we will visit the underground defense systems which is nowadays a unique place for excursions into the heart of Switzerland and experience the underground cable car ride (Metro del Sasso). In addition to that, Sasso San Gottardo offers additional exhibitions (Crystal World: the largest crystals ever found, The Magical Chamber, Redoubt: the paintings you have to hear and a multimedia installation explaining the importance of Ticino during World War Two).

    After the visit to the Sasso San Gottardo we enjoyed a cheese fondue – a traditional Swiss cheese specialty -  at the Gotthard cheese factory (Caseificio del Gottardo) in Airolo.

    A brief description of the excursion is available at:

    Second trip (Autumn Semester)

    Guided tour of the exhibition “Magritte. La Ligne de vie” at the LAC, Lugano arte e cultura and pizza.

    When: Thursday 13 December (LAC Lugano, 17.45)

    The exhibition “Magritte. La Ligne de vie”, included approximately ninety of the Belgian artist’s works, on loan from international museums and private collectors. The exhibition documented Magritte's evolution, starting with his youthful works.

    A brief description of the excursion is available at:


    First trip (Spring semester)

    The carnival of Bellinzona, Rabadan
    The very famous and second largest carnival of Switzerland lasts from February 28 to March 5 2019. On Saturday, March 2, exchange students will have the opportunity to experience the Rabadan Carnival in Bellinzona. The Rabadan Carnival was founded in 1862 and it is today at its 156th edition; it attracts more than 150'000 visitors over 6 days of celebrations. Particularly recommended is the big parade on Sunday, and the "Guggen" concerts (the typical carnival bands). 
    Its features also include celebration on the streets and in the tents, mask contests, tug of war competitions, street theatre and risotto, food and drink are served until the early hours of the morning.


    Second trip (Spring semester)
    Adventure Park at Monte Tamaro

    On May 11, 2019, the International Relations and Study Abroad Service invites all exchange students to a day of leisure on Monte Tamaro, located about 20 minutes from Lugano in the Lugano Prealps.

    The day includes a sport activity and a cultural visit.

    The Adventure Park, a natural and environmentally friendly leisure activity, develops on trees, wooden platforms and ropes, stairs and bridges. The route is done in total safety with ropes, harnesses and carabiners, and allows participants to challenge themselves and test their physical and mental abilities, discovering perhaps hidden climbing skills. 

    After lunch, the afternoon continues with a guided tour of the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, a work of contemporary architecture designed by the local but worlwide famous architect Mario Botta. Located on the spur of Monte Tamaro, the church is a space for meditation that allows you to enjoy an extraordinary panoramic view of the Magadino plain.

    Depending on the semester, the programme includes different kind of activities such as: tours of the university and the city, sporting events, parties, Santa Secret game,… Any suggestions are very welcome.


    Be an ambassador
    Once a year, we organize the International Fair, an event where most partner universities are represented to give USI students the opportunity to browse through promotional material and gather information in order to choose the mobility programme that suites them best.
    We would be most grateful if you could represent your host universities and be available to USI students, hand out brochures and answer questions that may arise about the exchange programme as well as your host country/university.

    This Autumn Term the Fair took place on November 15, from 12.00 until 14.00.


  • Before you leave USI

    As your stay at USI ends, you should make sure to comply with the following departure procedures:

    1. All exchange students must notify their departure to the Regional Migration Office and to Puntocittà (for Lugano campus) and Ufficio Controllo Abitanti (for Mendrisio and Bellinzona campuses);
    2. All exchange students must complete the online exchange survey;
    3. All exchange students must write an end of study report (following the guidelines) and send it as PDF file to
  • Useful links


    Faculty of Communication Sciences
    Faculty of Economics
    Faculty of Informatics
    Academy of Architecture


    Study curricula

    Bachelor programmes
    Master programmes

    Visiting / exchange students are free to attend a variety of classes, both at undergraduate and graduate levels. Although formally enrolled in a Faculty, students are entitled to attend classes and take examinations in the other Faculties as well. Please note that overlapping of classes and of final exams are highly possible when choosing courses offered by different Faculties and/or at different levels. No special session for exams will in any case be organized.

    Detailed information concerning pre-requisites, admission criteria, courses with limited access or not accessible to exchange students, please read carefully pages 16-18 of the Exchange Student Handbook.



    Academy of Architecture
    Faculty of Communication Sciences
    Faculty of Economics
    Faculty of Informatics


    Accommodation service

    For information concerning the USI Accommodation service, please refer to this page


    Disabled students

    To meet the needs of disabled students, the Lugano campus, the Canavée building and the Library in Mendrisio are equipped with appropriate facilities.

    For specialist advice and assistance, disabled students may contact:

    Pro Infirmis Luganese e Mendrisiotto
    Via dei Sindacatori 1
    6900 Massagno
    Tel. +41 91 960 28 70
    Fax +41 91 960 28 88