Choosing a small university

An Italian-Swiss student at the University of Neuchâtel describes his experience a university in the 2016 world's best small university ranking

January 25 2016
University of Neuchatel

See the Times Higher Education World’s Best Small Universities 2016 table here.

Alex Lussignoli, an Italian-Swiss student at the University of Neuchâtel, describes his experience at this small university

Alex Lussignoli 

I’m an Italian born in Ticino (Switzerland). Until the end of high school, I studied at my place of birth, but after finishing high school in Ticino I decided to leave. I felt the need to continue my studies somewhere else, yet I still wanted to stay in Switzerland. When it was time to choose, I first eliminated all universities in the German part of Switzerland, because I was not certain I would be able to study in this language, which had not been my favourite in high school. Thus, I decided to study in the French part of Switzerland.

I chose the University of Neuchâtel (UniNE) mainly because of its reasonable size, as I saw many advantages that could come with that. Currently, I am finishing my bachelor’s studies and I can confirm that I was not mistaken.

In a small university such as UniNE, which has about 4,300 students, there is closer and simpler contact between people, be it other students or academic staff. This ease of contact makes university life more pleasant and easier to handle during tougher times, for example during an exam session. Helping each other becomes easier as well – you can always find someone to pass course notes along or organise a study group. The small classes allow us to better interact with professors because there’s always the opportunity to ask questions during class or to obtain additional information afterwards. Classes really are interactive – something that would be unimaginable in a big university. Moreover, both academic and administrative staff are helpful and easily available via email.

As a non-native speaker of French, I’ve definitely been able to take advantage of these qualities of a small university, especially at the beginning of my studies, when my knowledge of French was fairly limited. Having the subject matter explained in a more personalised way was very helpful, and I also enjoyed the fact that professors were understanding and appreciative of my effort to study in a foreign language. Furthermore, the university’s small size is definitely an advantage when looking for an internship, especially with the help of the institute one is studying at. I expect that this will also be the case when the day comes for me to look for a job.

Finally, when it comes to activities outside the classroom, the University of Neuchâtel offers an impressive choice, whether for academic or cultural activities or sports. Since I started studying, here I’ve been able to participate in a study trip to Rome for one of my medieval history classes, as well as to Crete for ancient history. On top of that, the Arts History Institute organises additional activities on different subjects every semester.

At the end of my third year as a UniNE student, I am certain of having made the right choice, and I will continue my studies with a master’s degree here.

As we say in Italian: nella botte piccola c’è il vino buono (good things come in small packages)!


Alex Lussignoli was born and went to high school in Ticino. In 2013, he moved to Neuchâtel to study at the Faculty of Literature and Humanities of the University of Neuchâtel. He will graduate in June 2016 with a bachelor’s in history, arts history and classical and medieval studies. He plans to continue with a master’s degree in history. Along with his studies, he works part-time for the communications department of the university.

The University of Neuchâtel is ranked at number 11 in the Times Higher Education World’s Best Small Universities 2016 table.

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