Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein is a German-speaking microstate situated in the Alps and in the southwest of Central Europe. Since the entry into force of the law of 25 November 1992 (Higher Education Law) relating to higher education and research institutes, the Principality of Liechtenstein has possessed a formal higher education system. Liechtenstein’s higher education landscape comprises currently two recognised institutions: the University of Liechtenstein and the two private institutions and the Private University in the Principality of Liechtenstein (UFL). In addition, there is the Liechtenstein Institute – a research institution. In association with a number of Swiss cantons, Liechtenstein is part of responsible body of the University of Applied Sciences Ostschweiz (OST) and also of the University of Applied Sciences for Special Needs Education in Zurich.

RegionCentral Europe
CapitalVaduz
LanguageGerman
Population38,557
Expenditure on higher education1,1 %
Unemployment1,6 %
EuroUniversities in top 1000
EuroUniversities in top 2500
EuroUniversities in top 5000
EuroUniversities in top 10000
Students36,000
Foreigner students1,7 %
Enrollment rate in higher education77,2 %

All higher education institutions have to be formally approved by the government, including those based in Liechtenstein which offer distance learning (cf. Chapter 11.2, quality assurance in the higher education sector). The state is responsible for supervising the higher education institutions. It sets the legislative parameters. The law and the Ordinance on Higher Education govern the responsibilities and the status of higher education institutions; their accreditation, operation and financing, as well as their inspection and supervision and cooperation in higher education.

Other aspects determined by law include the right of self-management (staff management, curriculum development, rules of procedure for examinations and studies etc.), plus the freedom of research and teaching within the framework of the law and of ethical accountability.

With its signing of the Bologna Declaration in 1999, Liechtenstein committed itself to the common process of creating a unitary European Higher Education Area and to adopting the decisions of all subsequent conferences. In the 2004 revised version of the Higher Education Law, the measures introduced within the framework of the Bologna reforms were incorporated in the “Law of 25 November 2004 on Higher Education” (HSG). This made the measures mandatory for all public and private higher education institutions. In Liechtenstein, not least due to its small size, it was possible to implement the Bologna instruments (ECTS, cycles, Diploma Supplement) quickly. In 2011 a Higher Education Ordinance was issued which, as a supplement to the Higher Education Law, governs the NQF, the accreditation process and the associated quality standards for institutions and study programmes, the “sur dossier” admission process, the procedure for recognising foreign qualifications, and the protection of titles and degrees. The National Qualifications Framework for Higher Education in Liechtenstein (NQFL-HS) entered into force in 2013. The existing higher education institutions offer a very limited palette of courses and student places which is far from matching the demand. For this reason, there are agreements with Switzerland and Austria which guarantee access to Swiss and Austrian higher education institutions for students from Liechtenstein.

Higher professional education and training

Higher or advanced Professional Education and Training (PET) covers that sector of tertiary education (Tertiary 5B) which relates specifically to professional education and ist not part of the bologna system. It is basically governed by the relevant provisions of the Liechtenstein Law on Vocational Education and Training.

Within the higher professional education area qualifications are awarded which are needed for challenging employment positions requiring specific professional expertise or management skills. Higher professional education and training is acquired either by means of a professional,  a higher professional examination or via a course of study at a College of Professional Education and Training (PET College). The occupational examinations and the higher professional examinations presume prior relevant professional experience and knowledge.

The colleges of higher professional education and training offer courses oriented towards practical skills. They are designed to develop methodical, joined-up thinking, the analysis of task-related challenges and the practical application of acquired skills.

The government – or the Office for Vocational Education and Training, which is the operative body – is responsible for accrediting and monitoring higher professional education and training. It governs  the conditions for accreditation, the learning content, the qualification procedures, certification and titles, and the procedure for accreditation. A precondition for admission to a recognised course of training at a higher professional education and training institute is relevant for professional experience – unless this is included in the training course. Including periods of practical work experience, the full-time training lasts at least two years; in-service training lasts at least three years.

Liechtenstein has no institutions of higher professional education and training of its own. However, it ensures access to relevant institutions in neighbouring countries through inter-state agreements and financing arrangements. Students from Liechtenstein mainly carry out their studies in Switzerland and Austria.

Inter-state agreements guarantee access for Liechtenstein students to appropriate study courses in Switzerland.

Liechtenstein was a signatory to the Inter-Cantonal Higher Professional Education and Training Agreement of 27 August 1998, giving it the same rights and responsibilities as the other signatories (www.edk.ch). The agreement covers the higher professional education and training sector , governing access, the status of the students and the payments made to the institutions by the cantons in which the students reside (www.edk.ch).

Academic year

There are no laws governing the division of the academic year. In setting the dates of their semesters, the institutions of higher education follow the Swiss or Austrian guidelines. The academic year is divided into two semesters (autumn and spring).

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Bachelor

The following description applies only to the tertiary educational programmes of type ISCED 5A (cf. Introduction, Chapter 7).

The bachelor programme lasts for a minimum of three years (180 ECTS) and provides preparatory educational study and basic qualifications for subsequent employment types requiring the application of academic-scientific knowledge and methods.

Branches of study

The University of Liechtenstein offers bachelor programmes in architecture and economics. The Private University in the Principality of Liechtenstein do not offer bachelor programmes.

Admission requirements

Article 24 of the Higher Education Law of 25 November 2004 (HSG) stipulates the following requirements for admission to a bachelor programme:

  • Knowledge of German (exchange programme students are exempt from this requirement)
  • Matura (baccalaureat) or Berufsmatura (vocational baccalaureate)

Admission may also be made dependent on other study-specific criteria (e.g. artistic ability). Higher Education etrance qualifications from other countries are equivalent to Liechtenstein certificates in compliance with reciprocal inter-state agreements. Other types of certification have to be subjected to an equivalence check.  Exceptionally, admission can be granted without the Matura or comparable entry qualification if applicants can provide other evidence that they are capable of studying and suited to the course they wish to pursue (“sur dossier” admission).

An applicant can be admitted to the Bachelor programme without a Matura, Berufsmatura or equivalent school leaving certificate if they satisfy the following conditions:

  1. Completion of a minimum three years of education at Secondary Level II;
  2. Six years of employment, of which at least three years must have been in the field or   discipline in which they wish to pursue a study; and
  3. Proof of their ability to study by passing an entrance examination at the Matura level.

The procedure for “sur dossier” admission is determined by the universities.

Curriculum

The structure and content of the courses are independently determined by the individual higher education institution and set out in study guides and rules as well as in study plans and module handbooks. There are no national standards.

The study guides state which modules (including ECTS points) have to be completed in order to be awarded a final degree. They indicate the subjects that are either compulsory, compulsory optional or fully optional. The study guides and module handbooks serve on the one hand to orient the students and on the other to provide the basis for planning the syllabus for each subject area. Study guides and/or specific examination guides set out the preconditions for examinations, the examination procedure and the examination subjects.

Teaching methods

The types of teaching method and activities used (lectures, proseminars, seminars, drills, colloquia, tutorials, E-Learning etc.) are very varied and are selected independently by the universities themselves. Some courses require obligatory or recommended internships/work experience of varying lengths. Depending on the subject, case studies, project work and the like may form a part of the course. Self study (reading, composing written assignments, preparing seminar papers etc.) is a part of all courses.

Progression of students

The higher education and/or faculties’ study rules and doctoral degree regulations govern the admission, organisation and evaluation of performance checks (examinations, written work etc.), the option to repeat courses if necessary in the event of inadequate performance, and the maximum allowable length of study. The study rules of the University of Liechtenstein place an upper limit of 12 semesters for the bachelor level.

Employability

In respect of bachelor level courses, the Higher Education Law explicitly expresses the goal of qualifying students for professional employment, in addition to the academic aims. Implementation of this goal – including the creation and development of the syllabus – is the responsibility of the higher education institutions. Assessment falls within the framework of the quality assurance measures.

In order to facilitate and/or practically implement entry into a career, higher education institutions may insist on measures such as (mandatory) work placements and integrate these into the academic studies. Other forms of assistance, such as a Careers Service, may also be offered. There is no national plan for such measures. Interventions such as these are the responsibility of the higher education institutions themselves.

The successful completion of a Bachelors course is the precondition for entry into a Masters programme.

Student assessment

Performance assessment is based on the study and examination rules of the individual higher education institutions and is therefore the responsibility of the institutions themselves within the framework of the requirements of the Higher Education Law. At the University of Liechtenstein, students’ performance is assessed using the numerical marking system used in Switzerland and Liechtenstein (1 (lowest mark) to 6 (highest mark)) and/or with ECTS grades. The Higher Education Law governs the application of the European Transfer Credit System (ECTS) for all courses and defines a credit point as follows:

1 ECTS = 30 hours of work (lessons + individual student learning time).

The higher education institution’s study plans and module descriptions state the number of ECTS credits for each module. In addition to providing for a description of the study courses and their modules, the law also refers to the learning outcomes. The National Qualification Framework orients itself on the Dublin Descriptors for describing learning outcomes. The performances achieved are set out in the Diploma Supplement.

Certification

The higher education institutions are responsible for the conferral of higher education qualifications and degrees. These are fundamentally governed by the law.

The following degrees are awarded for courses at the Bachelor level which have been pursued since the entry into force of the Higher Education Law of 25 November 2004:

  • Bachelor of Arts in (+ subject);180 ECTS (min. 3 years)
  • Bachelor of Science in (+ subject); 180 ECTS (min. 3 years)

The Higher Education Law obliges all higher eudcation institutions to provide free Diploma Supplements (in German and English).

Second Cycle Programmes

The Masters degree programme is a course of study lasting at least two years (120 ECTS). It serves to deepen and supplement the pre-career academic/scientific education and to provide qualifications for professional work. It builds on a relevant Bachelor level course or on other higher education studies that are at least equivalent.

Branches of study

The University of Liechtenstein offers Master level programmes in Economics and Architecture. The Private University in the Principality of Liechtenstein offer no programmes at Master level.

Admission requirements

Admission to a Masters programme presupposes the successful conclusion of a relevant Bachelor qualification or of another higher education qualification that is of at least equivalent status. The subject preconditions and any eventual specific admission requirements are determined by the aims of the individual Masters programme. The setting of the conditions for admission for other subjects and for Bachelor degrees acquired in other countries lies within the competences of the individual higher education institutions.

Curriculum

The structure and content of the courses are independently determined by the individual higher education institution and set out in study guides and rules as well as in study plans and module handbooks. There are no national standards. The study guides state which modules (including ECTS points) have to be completed in order to be awarded a final degree. They indicate the subjects that are either compulsory, compulsory optional or fully optional. The study guides and module handbooks serve on the one hand to orient the students and on the other to provide the basis for planning the syllabus for each subject area. Study guides and/or specific examination guides set out the preconditions for examinations, the examination procedure and the examination subjects.

Teaching methods

The types of teaching method and activities used (lectures, proseminars, seminars, drills, colloquia, tutorials, E-Learning etc.) are very varied and are selected independently by the universities themselves. Some courses require obligatory or recommended internships/work experience of varying lengths. Depending on the subject, case studies, project work and the like may form a part of the course. Self study (reading, composing written assignments, preparing seminar papers etc.) is a part of all courses.

Progression of students

The higher education institutions’ and/or faculties’ study rules and doctoral degree regulations govern the admission, organisation and evaluation of performance checks (examinations, written work etc.), the option to repeat courses if necessary in the event of indequate performance, and the maximum allowable length of study. The study rules of the University of Liechtenstein place an upper limit of 8 semesters for the Masters level.

The Higher Education Law governs the application of the European Transfer Credit System (ECTS) for all courses and defines a credit point as follows: 1 ECTS = 30 hours of work (lessons + individual student learning time). The university study plans and module descriptions state the number of ECTS credits for each module.

In addition to providing for a description of the study courses and their modules, the law also refers to the learning outcomes. The National Qualification Framework orients itself on the Dublin Descriptors for describing learning outcomes.

The performances achieved are set out in the Diploma Supplement.

Employability

The Masters programme leads to an academic degree which qualifies a student for a professional career in either a specific working environment or an open one. Depending on the individual higher education institution and its orientation, programmes can be applied or more strongly research-oriented. The Masters degree qualifies its holder for an academic career and is the precondition for admission to a Doctoral programme.

Student assessment

Performance assessment is based on the study and examination rules of the individual higher education institutions and is therefore the responsibility of the institutions themselves within the framework of the requirements of the Higher Education Law. At the University of Liechtenstein, students’ performance is assessed using the numerical marking system used in Switzerland and Liechtenstein (1 (lowest mark) to 6 (highest mark)) and/or with ECTS grades. The Higher Education Law governs the application of the European Transfer Credit System (ECTS) for all courses and defines a credit point as follows: 1 ECTS = 30 hours of work (lessons + individual student learning time). The higher education institutions’ study plans and module descriptions state the number of ECTS credits for each module. In addition to providing for a description of the study courses and their modules, the law also refers to the learning outcomes. The National Qualification Framework orients itself on the Dublin Descriptors for describing learning outcomes.

The performances achieved are set out in the Diploma Supplement.

Certification

The awarding of higher education qualifications and degrees is the responsibility of the higher education institutions. The Higher Education Law sets out the following awards at the Masters level.

  • Master of Arts in (+ subject), MA, 120 ECTS (min. 2 years)
  • Master of Science in (+ subject), MSc, 120 ECTS (min. 2 years)

The Higher Education Law obliges all higher education institutions to provide free Diploma Supplements (in German and English).

Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

The postgraduate/doctorate programme is a minimum three-year course of study designed to further develop the skills for independent academic work, as well as developing and promoting the next generation of academic staff. It is based on the possession of a relevant Masters degree or of another type of higher education qualification that is of at least equivalent standard. Postgraduate programmes take place within the context of a Graduate School. At the postgraduate level there are no specifications in relation to the acquisition of ECTS credits.

Organisation of doctoral studies

The following postgraduate programmes are offered at the University of Liechtenstein, the Private University in the Principality of Liechtenstein and the International Academy of Philosophy in the Principality of Liechtenstein (until January 31, 2020:

  • Doctorate in Medical Science (Dr. scient. Med)
  • Doctorate in Law (Dr. iur)
  • PhD in Philosophy (Dr. phil.)
  • Postgraduate study in Architecture and Spatial Development
  • Postgraduate study in Economics

The Liechtenstein Institute offers research possibilities for students who are working towards a postgraduate degree, on a topic relevant to Liechtenstein, in collaboration with a higher education intitutions. The research activity and/or post is financed by the Liechtenstein Institute.

In all cases, the postgraduate/doctorate programmes are academic programmes.

Admission requirements

Admission to a postgraduate course of study presumes the successful conclusion of a relevant course of study at Masters level or of a different type of higher education study that is of equivalent status. Admissions are the responsibility of the individual higher education institution..

Status of doctoral students/candidates

Depending on the higher education institution or faculty, those pursuing a postgraduate degree are either researchers or students. Their status is dependent on how they are financed and/or remunerated. Students can be assistants at a university institution or be engaged on a research project. The status and duration of their employment, as also their rights and duties, are determined in various ways. The financing of a postgraduate course of study is usually by means of a placement as an academic/scientific member of staff at a university. It can also result from cooperations with companies, whereby students are financed by the companies or are employed part-time by them. In these cases, the academic work tends to be focused on applications that are of importance to the company.

Postgraduate students who are able to finance themselves or who receive a grant from a foundation, an organisation or a company, can be admitted as “external doctoral candidates”. The higher education institutions department can make a post available to the candidate, on a longer-term or part-time basis, in order to enable the student to integrate into the academic environment of the department or higher education institutions.

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Supervision arrangements

There is a variety of supervision rules determined and administered independently by the higher education institution.

Employability

The doctorate prepares students for research-oriented work both within and outside of the higher education sector and equips them to take on many different kinds of demanding professional responsibilities and functions.

Assessment

The awarding of higher education qualifications and degrees is the responsibility of the higher education institutions. The Higher Education Law sets out the following awards at the postgraduate level: Ph.D, Dr., minimum 3 years (6 semesters) The universities award a standard doctoral degree which entitles the possessor to use the title of Dr. established by the higher education institutions.

Organisational variation

There are no other or supplementary organisational models or study programmes at this level.

Mobility in Higher Education

Agreements with Switzerland and Austria

Due to Liechtenstein’s small size programmes particularly in higher education are limited. The mobility in tertiary education is therefore very high and agreements for the recognition of admission particularly important.

Since 1974 there is an agreement with Switzerland to check and recognize the Liechtenstein Matura by the same criteria as in Switzerland. Since 1978, agreements with Switzerland on participation in the education programmes of secondary and vocational schools exist. By joining the “inter-cantonal agreement on Higher Education” in 1981, the equalisation of students from Liechtenstein and Swiss students is guaranteed and within this the compensation for students from Liechtenstein regulated.

Already since 1977 respectively 1983 there is an agreement with Austria on the admission of graduates of the Liechtenstein Gymnasium to Austrian universities. Other agreements in the field of equivalence and recognition followed and concerning current developments in higher education of both countries got summarized and complemented in the “agreement on equivalencies in the field of qualifications and higher education” in 1997.
Concerning higher education Liechtenstein takes part in the Bologna process. Bologna aims to ensure transparency and mobility on national and international level in order to strengthen its educational location and competitiveness.

Concerning vocational secondary schools and in tertiary vocational education there are cooperations with neighboring countries, especially Switzerland, too. In summer 1999, Liechtenstein joined the “Intercantonal Fachschul agreement” to ensure the access and admission for students from Liechtenstein.

By joining the Regional School Agreement EDK-Ost (RSA) the access and the financial support of the cantons for programmes on tertiary level (training and further training of pedagogical universities of EDK-Ost for already trained teachers) got regulated. Within this regional school agreement the admission (with the agreed conditions) of students from neighboring Swiss cantons to the vocational baccalaureate school Liechtenstein is ensured as well.

Mobility of students

The University of Liechtenstein has a partner network with different universities worldwide which can be attended by students within a mobility programme. Liechtenstein citizens or people living in Liechtenstein who are studying in Switzerland or in a country participating in the EU education programme get, in case of taking part in the Erasmus mobility programme, the same contributions as the students in Liechtenstein.
The international office at the University of Liechtenstein deals with mobility issues and the needs of foreign students and university staff.
Many of the study exchanges are realized within the mobility funds of the EEA Financial Mechanism.

Mobility of lecturer and professors

Higher education institutions offer their lecturers and professor the opportunity to work as visiting professors at international universities. The universities are in charge for the programme, duration, remuneration and application procedures. Usually the lecturers are advised to apply as guest lecturers at partner universities.

European Higher Education Organization is a public organization carrying out academic, educational and information activities on higher education in Europe.

The EHEO general plan stresses that:

  • Higher education systems require adequate funding and, as an investment in economic growth, public spending in higher education should be protected.
  • The challenges faced by higher education require more flexible governance and funding systems, which balance greater autonomy for education institutions with accountability to stakeholders.

Thus, EHEO plans:

  • improve academic and scientific interaction of universities;
  • protect the interests of universities;
  • interact more closely with public authorities of European countries;
  • popularize European higher education in the world;
  • develop academic mobility;
  • seek funding for European universities.