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Swiss Education System - An Overview


The Swiss education system comprises of the following educational levels:

  • Pre-school
  • Primary school
  • Lower secondary level
  • Upper secondary level: vocational education and training (basic vocational education and training, vocational baccalaureate) and general education (specialized middle schools and Matura schools)
  • Tertiary level: higher vocational education and training (federal PET diploma examinations, advanced federal PET diploma examinations, colleges of higher vocational education and training) and university education. The universities are divided into the traditional universities (cantonal universities and Federal Institutes of Technology) and the universities of applied sciences, including universities for art and music as well as universities of teacher education.
  • Continuing education
  • Special needs education

Higher Education

Switzerland’s 12 universities comprise 10 cantonal universities and 2 Federal Institutes of Technology. A list of the twelve universities is available here.

This results in their time and again being ranked among the top universities of the world.

  1. University of St. Gallen
  2. University of Zurich
  3. ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich)
  4. University of Basel
  5. University of Bern
  6. University of Fribourg
  7. University of Geneva
  8. EPFL (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne)
  9. University of Neuchâtel
  10. University of Lausanne
  11. University of Lucerne
  12. Università della Svizzera Italiana (Lugano)


Various Universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen)

  1. Lucerne University of Applied Sciences
  2. Zurich University of Applied Sciences
  3. Berne University of Applied Sciences

Known for superior education, Switzerland is an ideal location for higher studies and research. Switzerland is continuously evolving its education system according to Bologna system in order to comply with the globalization and growing partnerships with other countries. The aim is to create a “European arena for higher education” by coordinating the structure and duration of degrees and facilitating the study attainment and performance of students in European universities. 

What is Bologna Process?

Named after Bologna Declaration, signed in the Italian city of Bologna on 19 June, 1999, the Bologna Process aims to create a European Higher Education Area (EHEA) based on international cooperation and academic exchange which would be attractive not only to the European students but to other international students as well. The Bologna process hopes to unify the individual European countries to form an allied and more compatible European higher education system.

Features of the Bologna Process

  • Comparable degrees organized in a three-cycle structure (e.g. bachelor-master-doctorate)
  • Quality assurance in accordance with the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG)
  • Fair recognition of foreign degrees and other higher education qualifications in accordance with the Council of Europe/UNESCO Recognition Convention

The various universities offer courses at Bachelor, Master and Doctoral levels.

Bachelor Programs

The Bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite for admission to the Master’s degree. It can in some cases lead directly to a Master of Advanced Studies. However, a Bachelor’s degree is not sufficient for enrollment in a Doctoral program, which requires the attainment of a Master’s degree as well.

Master Programs

After successfully completing bachelor degree, one can enroll for master’s degree. Each university decides as to whether a Bachelor’s degree obtained in a foreign country gives its holder eligibility to Master’s degree – with or without entrance examinations. The university may set additional requirements, equally applicable to all candidates, for admission to specialized Master’s programs.

Doctoral Programs

A doctorate degree is the highest academic level degree. Research doctorate degrees are generally awarded after 3-5 years of postgraduate research and study, and submission of a thesis. A Master’s degree – is the main prerequisites for admission to a doctoral program. In Switzerland, only the twelve state-run university institutions of academic learning (10 cantonal universities, plus 2 Federal Institutes of Technology) are allowed to award doctoral degrees.

The doctorate degrees are generally awarded after 3 to 5 years of postgraduate research and study, and finally submission of a thesis. Professional doctorates are awarded in the professional disciplines of, for example, law or medicine.

Master of Advanced Studies

High quality education remains as important, be it primary, secondary, higher, or vocational training and education. In present times learning is a lifelong process essential for personal and professional growth.

The Swiss universities run several programs of continuing education in different fields and offer various diplomas. The DAS program offers thorough training in a specific field and gives access to further qualification in one’s profession.

The management programs (MAS/MBA) are the only academic programs which offer degrees. The programs offers comprehensive training in a specific field and can either give access to higher qualification in one’s profession or lead to a new profession

Note: The Master in Advanced Studies does not give right of entry to doctoral programs.

Grading System

In Switzerland, a 6-point grading scale is used where 6 is the highest and descending to 1 being the lowest.

1Very Poor


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