Switzerland

Switzerland is a country situated in the confluence of Western, Central, and Southern Europe. It is a federal republic composed of 26 cantons, with federal authorities seated in Bern. Based on the Federal Constitution (Article 63a Higher education institutions), the Confederation and the Cantons are jointly responsible for the coordination and guarantee of quality in Swiss higher education. Higher education comprises the universities, universities of applied sciences, and universities of teacher education.

RegionCentral Europe
CapitalBern
LanguageGerman
French
Italian
Romansh
Population8,570,140
Expenditure on higher education4,1 %
Unemployment4,78 %
EuroUniversities in top 1006
EuroUniversities in top 25010
EuroUniversities in top 50013
EuroUniversities in top 100018
Students450,000
Foreigner students7,6 %
Enrollment rate in higher education58,9 %

YearOverallResearch EmploymentInnovationInternationalizationInfrastructureEducational potential
202089,3118,41616,5613,4713,811,08
201989,2518,216,116,3113,7413,811,1
201889,7418,31616,6213,7113,911,21
201790,1418,416,216,7813,9113,711,15
201690,1118,516,416,7213,6413,711,15
201590,918,9316,416,6613,7913,8511,27
Statistics of the higher education

The Federal Act on Funding and Coordination of the Higher Education Sector (HFKG), which entered into force on 1 January 2015, forms the legal basis at federal level. In the cantons, the legal basis is the Intercantonal Agreement on Swiss Higher Education (Higher Education Agreement) of 20 June 2013, which also entered into force on 1 January 2015. All cantons have signed this agreement.

The Federal Act and the Higher Education Agreement enabled the Federal Council and the cantons to conclude an Agreement between the Confederation and the ntons on Cooperation in the Higher Education Sector (ZSAV-HS). This cooperation agreement, which entered into force on 1 January 2015, establishes a number of joint bodies and regulates their competences:

  • The Swiss Conference of Higher Education Institutions (SHK) is the supreme body for university policy. The Confederation and the cantons are represented in it. The SHK is responsible for coordinating the activities of the Confederation and the cantons in the field of higher education throughout Switzerland.
  • The Rectors’ Conference of the Swiss Universities (swissuniversities) presents its views on the activities of the SUC and submits proposals to it on behalf of universities. It represents the interests of Swiss universities at national and international level.
  • The Swiss accreditation council is the joint organisation of the Confederation and the cantons for quality assurance and accreditation in the Swiss higher education landscape.

The HFKG regulates funding and coordination. It concerns coordination throughout Switzerland as a whole, but not specific issues regarding the design of training or of university courses etc. The universities and the maintaining cantons remain autonomous.

The HFKG obliges higher education institutions to periodically check the quality of their teaching and research, and of their services, and to ensure long-term quality assurance and quality development.

Through institutional accreditation, the higher education institution is given the right to use in its name the term “university”, “university of applied sciences” or “university of teacher education”, or a derivative such as in particular “university institute” or “university of applied sciences institute”.

The Ordinance on the Federal Act on Funding and Coordination of the Higher Education Sector (V-HFKG) regulates competences and the procedure governing the entitlement of universities and other higher education institutions to receive funding contributions, and contains implementing provisions on contributions to cover expenditure for construction and use of buildings as well as on contributions to shared infrastructure facilities.

The cantons are responsible for the management and supervision of cantonal universities, universities of applied sciences and universities of teacher education. The Confederation is responsible for the management and supervision of the Federal Institutes of Technology (ETH).

The cantonal university and university of applied sciences acts, the cantonal acts on universities of teacher education, and the Federal Act on the Federal Institutes of Technology (ETH Act) regulate the tasks and organisation of the universities.

Tertiary level professional education

Tertiary level professional education covers the professional non-university sector of the tertiary level (tertiary level B).
 


It awards the qualifications needed for a demanding professional activity with specialist or management responsibility. The courses of education are varied as regards content, requirements and maintaining bodies, and are marked by their consistent orientation to the needs of the labour market.


Tertiary level professional education is managed federally in partnership between the Confederation, the cantons and the professional organisations (OdA). The legal bases are anchored in the national legislation on vocational and professional education and training and in the EAER Ordinance on the Minimum Requirements for the Recognition of Courses of Study and Post-Graduate Programmes at Colleges of higher education.
 


Tertiary level professional education is a specific feature of the Swiss education system. In many other countries, corresponding types of training are carried out at university.

Tertiary level professional education is divided into the following two areas:

  • Examinations for Federal and Advanced Federal Diplomas of Higher Education
  • Colleges of higher education

Academic year


The academic year at higher education institutions is divided into two semesters. Each semester (lecture period) lasts 14 weeks at universities and 14 to 16 weeks at universities of applied sciences.
 


In the autumn semester lectures begin in calendar week 38 and end in calendar week 51, while in the spring semester courses begin in calendar week 8 and end in week 22 (with one week off).

Legislative References

Bundesverfassung der Schweizerischen Eidgenossenschaft [Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation]

Bundesgesetz über die Förderung der Hochschulen und die Koordination im schweizerischen Hochschulbereich (Hochschulförderungs- und –koordinationsgesetz, HFKG) [Federal Act on Funding and Coordination of the Swiss Higher Education Sector]

Verordnung zum Hochschulförderungs- und koordinationsgesetz (V-HFKG) [Ordinance on Funding and Coordination of the Swiss Higher Education Sector]

Interkantonale Vereinbarung über den schweizerischen Hochschulbereich (Hochschulkonkordat) [Intercantonal Agreement on Higher Education]

Vereinbarung zwischen dem Bund und den Kantonen über die Zusammenarbeit im Hochschulbereich (ZSAV-HS) [Agreement between the Confederation and the Cantons on Cooperation in the Field of University Education]

Richtlinien des Hochschulrates für die koordinierte Erneuerung der Lehre an den universitären Hochschulen der Schweiz im Rahmen des Bologna-Prozesses (Bologna-Richtlinien UH) [Guidelines of the Higher Education Council for the coordinated reorganisation of teaching at Swiss universities as part of the Bologna Process (Bologna Guidelines – Universities]

Richtlinien des Hochschulrates für die Umsetzung der Erklärung von Bologna an den Fachhochschulen und den pädagogischen Hochschulen (Bologna-Richtlinien FH und PH)  [Guidelines of the Higher Education Council for the implementation of the Bologna Declaration at universities of applied sciences and universities of teacher education (Bologna Guidelines – universities of applied sciences and universities of teacher education]

Richtlinien des Hochschulrates für die Akkreditierung im Hochschulbereich (Akkreditierungsrichtlinie HFKG) [Guidelines of the Higher Education Council for accreditation within the higher education sector (HEdA Accreditation Guidelines)]

Bundesgesetz über die Berufsbildung (Berufsbildungsgesetz, BBG) 
[Federal Act on Vocational and Professional Education and Training]

Verordnung über die Berufsbildung (Berufsbildungsverordnung, BBV) 
[Federal Act on Vocational and Professional Education and Training]

Verordnung des WBF über Mindestvorschriften für die Anerkennung von Bildungsgängen und Nachdiplomstudien der höheren Fachschulen [EAER Ordinance on the Minimum Requirements for the Recognition of Courses of Study and Post-Graduate Programmes at Professional Colleges]

Bachelor

Branches of Study

The Qualifications Framework for the Swiss Higher Education Sector (nqf.ch-HS) of the Rectors’ Conference of the Swiss Universities (swissuniversities) describes and defines the stages of higher education in Switzerland using generic descriptors, admission requirements, student workload (ECTS credits) and qualifications. The nqf.ch-HS gives an overview of Swiss higher education. It includes cycles 1-3, “Bachelor”, “Master” and “Doctorate”, as well as part of further education at tertiary level. Cycles 1–3 are generally consecutive, and the prerequisite for admission to the next level is a subject-specific degree in the preceding cycle.

The Bachelor degree programme requires at least 180 ECTS credits, while the Master degree programme requires between 90 and 120 ECTS credits, and 180 ECTS credits in medicine.

Second Cycle Programmes

Universities


The 10 cantonal universities and the two Federal Institutes of Technology (ETH) offer more than 500 Bachelor degree programmes in the following specialist areas:

  • Theology, Religious Studies
  • Law, Criminology
  • Economics, Political Science
  • Medicine, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Health
  • Social sciences, Social work
  • Linguistics and Literary Studies, Communication
  • Historical and Cultural Sciences
  • Mathematics and Natural Sciences
  • Information Technology
  • Engineering and Architecture
  • Sports Sciences
  • Teacher Education, Special Education Studies, Educational science

The degree programmes define the structure of study. Study programmes are completed in one academic discipline or in a combination of several disciplines (major and minor subject). Degree courses comprising a single subject or several subjects in the same specialist area include law, medicine or electrical engineering. The degree programmes define whether one major subject or one or more minor subjects are required. The choice of minor subjects may be limited.

Universities of Applied Sciences


The seven cantonal universities of applied sciences and the private university of applied sciences recognised by the Confederation offer around 300 practical Bachelor degree programmes in the following specialist areas:

  • Engineering and Information technology
  • Architecture, Building Engineering and Planning
  • Chemistry and Life Sciences
  • Agriculture and Forestry
  • Business, Management and Services
  • Design
  • Health
  • Social Work
  • Music, Theatre and other Arts
  • Applied Psychology
  • Applied Linguistics
  • Sports

At Bachelor level the universities of teacher education, some of which are integrated in universities of applied sciences, offer Bachelor programmes in teacher training: qualified pre-school and primary school level teachers and lower secondary school teachers, special needs education (remedial education in early childhood, remedial education teaching, speech therapy and psychomotor therapy). 

Admission Requirements

Universities


Decisions on admission to a university degree course fall within the responsibility of the individual universities. 


Universities generally admit

  • students with a federally recognised baccalaureate or a comparable foreign certificate
  • students with a Federal Vocational Baccalaureate or Specialised Baccalaureate and a pass in a supplementary examination (Passerellenprüfung)
  • students with a Bachelor degree from a university, a university of applied sciences or a university of teacher education

without any additional conditions.

Students with other qualifications must check with the university admission offices or enrolment offices whether they have to sit admission tests and, if so, in which subjects. At some universities students may be admitted without a baccalaureate. The universities lay down the admission procedure. As a rule, universities require students to be of a certain age and have professional experience; sometimes they also have to sit an aptitude test.

Language skills

Language of instruction


The language of instruction is the language used in the area in which the particular university is located. Good knowledge of German, French or Italian, depending on the language of instruction, is a prerequisite for admission. Depending on the field of study English may also be the language of instruction.

At the bilingual University of Fribourg, lectures may be held in both German and in French depending on the field of study, or there are German-language and French-language departments. Bilingual leaving certificates can be completed in several fields of study at the University of Fribourg. Various universities offer bilingual exchange programmes between universities in different language regions.

Latinum, Graecum, Hebraicum


Knowledge of Latin is required by most universities for degree courses in languages and literature and in history subjects. If this knowledge is not demonstrated in the upper secondary level leaving certificate it must be made up and examined at the start of the Bachelor degree programme or later for admission to the Master degree programme, depending on the university. The universities offer Latin courses which prepare for the supplementary examination. For additional requirements in Greek or Hebrew specific courses are also offered for the corresponding supplementary examination.

Numerus clausus

For study courses in the field of medicine (medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine and chiropractic training), the Swiss  Conference of Higher Education Institutions (SHK) issues an annual recommendation for a numerus clausus, based on the number of registrations. Where necessary each maintaining body decides on a numerus clausus in accordance with the legal basis regulating that body. Some maintaining bodies also adopt admission restrictions for arts programmes and sports science programmes. 

Work placements

For some subjects, specific previous achievements or supplementary examinations are required for the definitive admission to the degree course, and must be completed either before commencing studies or no later than the first phase of studies. These involve compulsory work placements in the social sciences, medical and technical fields of study (e.g. social work placement, hospital work placement, industry work placement).

Universities of Applied Sciences


Universities of applied sciences generally admit without any additional conditions.


  • students with a Federal Vocational Baccalaureate and with vocational education and training, related to the chosen field of study
  • students with a federally recognised baccalaureate and at least one year’s professional experience in which practical and theoretical professional skills were taught in a profession related to the field of study
  • students with a specialised baccalaureate in an occupation related to the desired field of study.

Students with a Federal Vocational Baccalaureate and with vocational education and training not related to the chosen field of study must demonstrate at least one year of professional experience.

The universities of applied sciences may approve admission applications based on other preparatory training by means of specific aptitude tests or admission tests. In the areas of design and music, theatre and other arts the universities of applied sciences hold aptitude tests examining design and artistic abilities before the start of the first semester.

To counter the shortage of skilled workers in mathematics, information technology, natural sciences and technology (MINT), the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER) has allowed access to certain courses at universities of applied sciences with integrated practice on a trial basis even without one year’s professional experience.

Curriculum

The individual university or the faculties are responsible for course structure (degree programmes, hours of study per week, credit allocation arrangements, definition of learning objectives and competences, terms and extent of course assessments, interdisciplinary courses, relationship between on-campus programme and private study, etc.). 



As a rule, the learning content is offered on a modular basis. Modules, or thematically self-contained learning units, may contain different class types (lectures, seminars, tutorials, etc.) which are related in terms of content and timing and cover one or at most two semesters. There are compulsory modules, elective modules (which may be chosen from a specified range of courses) and optional modules. A module is defined in qualitative (content) and quantitative (ECTS points) terms and ends with examinations or other proofs and certificates (written assignments, presentations etc.).

Teaching Methods

In contact studies the class forms are diverse: lectures, introductory seminar courses, seminars, tutorials, colloquia, tutoring, e-learning. Various courses of studies require compulsory or recommended work placements of differing durations. Depending on the specialist area case studies, project work, laboratory activities etc. are part of the training. Private study (reading, composing written assignments, preparing presentations etc.) has an important place in almost all fields of study.

Progression of Students

The study and graduation regulations of the universities or faculties regulate the admission, organisation and assessments of academic achievement (examinations, written assignments etc.) and the possibility of any repetitions where performance is deemed deficient.

Depending on the chosen degree programme certain prerequisites must be met for admission to the next phase of study (e.g. successful completion of an assessment stage, which serves to examine aptitude and ability).

Employability

The university Bachelor degree is the prerequisite for admission to a Master degree programme. Since the Master degree is the standard qualification, each Bachelor degree is followed by a Master degree programme.
 


At universities of applied sciences the Bachelor degree is – with the exception of music – the standard qualification. The Bachelor degree qualifying for a profession permits direct entry into professional practice.

Student Assessment

In the three-year Bachelor degree programme (full-time study) 180 ECTS points must be completed. A course of study is considered successfully completed once the requisite number of ECTS points has been achieved. Course assessments are generally issued at the end of the semester. Bachelor degree programmes normally conclude with a Bachelor’s thesis. The form and structure of these Bachelor’s theses are regulated in the corresponding study regulations.

Certification

Universities 

The title and abbreviations of the degrees obtained at universities are:

  • Bachelor of Theology B Th
  • Bachelor of Law B Law
  • Bachelor of Medicine B Med
  • Bachelor of Dental Medicine B Dent Med
  • Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine B Vet Med
  • Bachelor of Arts B A
  • Bachelor of Science B Sc

Universities of Applied Sciences

The title and abbreviations of the degrees obtained at universities of applied sciences are:  

  • Bachelor of Science B Sc
  • Bachelor of Arts B A

Legislative References

Bundesgesetz über die Förderung der Hochschulen und die Koordination im schweizerischen Hochschulbereich (Hochschulförderungs- und –koordinationsgesetz, HFKG) [Federal Act on Funding and Coordination of the Swiss Higher Education Sector]

Verordnung zum Hochschulförderungs- und koordinationsgesetz (V-HFKG) [Ordinance on Funding and Coordination of the Swiss Higher Education Sector]

Interkantonale Vereinbarung über den schweizerischen Hochschulbereich (Hochschulkonkordat) [Intercantonal Agreement on Higher Education]

Vereinbarung zwischen dem Bund und den Kantonen über die Zusammenarbeit im Hochschulbereich (ZSAV-HS) [Agreement between the Confederation and the Cantons on Cooperation in the Field of University Education]

Branches of Study

Universities


The 10 cantonal universities and the two Federal Institutes of Technology (ETH) offer Master degree programmes in the following disciplines:

  • Theology, Religious Studies
  • Law, Criminology
  • Economics, Political Science
  • Medicine, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Health
  • Social sciences, Social work
  • Linguistics and Literary Studies, Communication
  • Historical and Cultural Sciences
  • Mathematics and Natural Sciences
  • Information Technology
  • Engineering and Architecture
  • Sports Sciences
  • Teacher Education, Special Education Studies, Educational science

Universities of Applied Sciences


The seven universities of applied sciences and the private university of applied sciences recognised by the Confederation offer Master degree programmes in the following specialist areas:

  • Engineering and Information technology
  • Architecture, Building Engineering and Planning
  • Chemistry and Life Sciences
  • Agriculture and Forestry
  • Business, Management and Services
  • Design
  • Health
  • Social Work
  • Music, Theatre and other Arts
  • Applied Psychology
  • Applied Linguistics
  • Sports

The universities of teacher education, some of which are integrated in universities of applied sciences, offer Master programmes in teacher training: qualified lower secondary school teachers, special needs education (remedial education in early childhood, remedial education teaching).

Admission Requirements

Universities


Students with a Bachelor degree from a Swiss university are admitted to university Master degree programmes in the same field often without additional conditions. Subject prerequisites and any specific admission requirements are defined on the basis of the objectives of the related Master degree programme.
 


The universities may make completion of a Master degree programme dependent on proving additional knowledge and skills which have not been acquired in the prior Bachelor degree programme. 



The individual universities are responsible for fixing the admission requirements for other branches of study and in the case of Bachelor degrees obtained abroad.

Universities of Applied Sciences


The admission to degree programmes at universities of applied sciences at Master level requires the prior acquisition of a Bachelor degree or a comparable university degree. The universities of applied sciences can also lay down additional admission requirements.

Permeability between university types


The agreementbetween the Rectors’ Conference of the Swiss Universities (RCSU), the Rectors’ Conference of the Swiss Universities of Applied Sciences (KFH) and the Swiss Conference of Rectors of Universities of Teacher Education (COHEP) of 5 November 2007 as amended on 1 February 2010 contains basic principles on permeability between university types.


Holders of Bachelor degrees from a Swiss university are admitted to study at other university types irrespective of the type and origin of the prior degree certificate.


For the transition to another university type, based on the differences between the knowledge and skills acquired in the Bachelor degree programme and the specific requirements of the Master degree programme, the receiving university sets out which subject requirements have to be completed during the Master degree programme (up to a maximum 60 ECTS points).

Curriculum

The individual university or the faculties are responsible for course structure (degree programmes, hours of study per week, credit allocation arrangements, number and weighting of the individual study programmes, definition of learning objectives and competences, terms and extent of course assessments, interdisciplinary courses, relationship between on-campus programme and private study, etc.). 


As a rule, the learning content is offered on a modular basis. Modules, or thematically self-contained learning units, may contain different class types (lectures, seminars, tutorials, etc.) which are related in terms of content and timing and cover one or at most two semesters. There are compulsory modules, elective modules (which may be chosen from a specified range of courses) and optional modules. A module is defined in qualitative (content) and quantitative (ECTS points) terms and ends with examinations or other proofs and certificates (written assignments, presentations etc.).

Teaching Methods

In contact studies the class forms are diverse: lectures, seminars, tutorials, colloquia,  e-learning. Various courses of studies require compulsory or recommended work placements of differing durations. Depending on the specialist area case studies, project work, laboratory activities etc. are part of the training. Private study (reading, composing written assignments, preparing presentations etc.) has an important place in almost all fields of study.

Progression of Students

The study regulations and doctoral regulations of the universities or faculties regulate the admission, organisation and assessments of academic achievement (examinations, written assignments etc.) and the possibility of any repetitions where performance is deemed deficient.

Employability

Only a few university degree programmes lead to a clearly defined professional field. The degree programmes offer different research focuses which can lead to very different professional fields. University Master degrees also enable active cooperation in research programmes. Within the framework of the Bologna reform process Master degree programmes may also be offered with an interdisciplinary focus or a stronger focus on a scientific activity. 


The Master degrees offered by the universities of applied sciences represent an advanced leaving certificate qualifying for a profession. Based on the in-depth and specialist knowledge acquired the Master degrees qualify for higher management positions and research tasks.

Student Assessment

In the one-and-a-half to two-year Master’s degree programme (full-time study) 90 to 120 ECTS points must be completed. A course of study is considered successfully completed once the requisite number of ECTS points has been achieved. Course assessments are generally carried out at the end of the semester. Master’s degree programmes normally conclude with a Master’s thesis. The form and structure of these Master’s theses are regulated in the corresponding study regulations.

Certification

Universities


The title and abbreviations of the degrees obtained at universities are:

  • Master of Theology M Th
  • Master of Law M Law
  • Master of Medicine M Med
  • Master of Dental Medicine M Dent Med
  • Master of Veterinary Medicine M Vet Med
  • Master of Arts M A
  • Master of Science M Sc

Universities of Applied Sciences



The title and abbreviations of the degrees obtained at universities of applied sciences are:

  • Master of Science M Sc
  • Master of Arts M A

Legislative References

Bundesgesetz über die Förderung der Hochschulen und die Koordination im schweizerischen Hochschulbereich (Hochschulförderungs- und –koordinationsgesetz, HFKG) [Federal Act on Funding and Coordination of the Swiss Higher Education Sector]

Verordnung zum Hochschulförderungs- und koordinationsgesetz (V-HFKG) [Ordinance on Funding and Coordination of the Swiss Higher Education Sector]

Interkantonale Vereinbarung über den schweizerischen Hochschulbereich (Hochschulkonkordat) [Ordinance on Funding and Coordination of the Swiss Higher Education Sector]

Vereinbarung zwischen dem Bund und den Kantonen über die Zusammenarbeit im Hochschulbereich (ZSAV-HS) [Agreement between the Confederation and the Cantons on Cooperation in the Field of University Education]

Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Organisation of Doctoral Studies

Doctorates are structured by the individual universities taking into account institutional and disciplinary factors. In a traditional doctorate, doctoral students plan and write their doctoral thesis supervised by a thesis adviser. Structured doctorate training describes more recent types of doctorate, which takes different forms (graduate school or graduate programmes). Structured doctorate training is often based on cooperation between institutions.
 
No credit is defined for the doctoral level. ECTS credit points may be allocated for curricular elements. Doctorates generally take 3–5 years.

Admission Requirements

Admission to the doctorate is the responsibility of the universities and is based on a dossier of individual qualifications (e.g. distinction achieved in Master degree). As a rule a Master degree forms the prerequisite for admission to a doctorate. The doctorate is designed on the basis of university Master studies. Prospective students with a Master degree from another type of higher education institution may also commence doctoral studies; certain conditions may be required.

Status of Doctoral Students/Candidates

Depending on the university or faculty doctoral students may be researchers or students. Their status also depends on funding or payment. Doctoral students may work as assistants at a university institute or in a research project. The employment grade, term of employment and rights and obligations are regulated differently. 
Doctorates are often funded through employment as an assistant at a university/faculty or through project, programme or personal funding from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), or through other sources or third-party funding.

Supervision Arrangements

Alongside supervision by a supervisor there are other supervision models such as for instance co-direction, or supervision by several persons, or by several persons from different institutions (structured doctoral training).

Employability

The doctorate prepares for a research-oriented work in the university and non-university sector and enables assumption of demanding professional tasks and functions of varied kinds.

Assessment

Universities are responsible for the organisation of leaving certificates. The award of a doctorate is subject to an independent scientific paper – the doctoral thesis – and often an oral examination. Additional accomplishments (e.g. course attendance, colloquium, seminar, summer schools) may also be required, or there may be a need for a public defence of the thesis. The dissertation usually consists of a monograph. A cumulative doctoral thesis incorporates articles which have already been published or submitted for publication.

Certification

The universities award a standard doctoral degree which confers the right to carry the title Dr. (…) laid down by the universities. As an English translation the term PhD is used.

Organisational Variation

The promotion of academic and scientific talent is one of the core missions of Swiss higher education institutions. Higher education institutions are working to further develop doctoral level and third-cycle education, in order to improve the quality and attractiveness of doctoral level education and create good career prospects for doctoral candidates, as well as promote research and diversify education in line with demand.

The project “PhD programmes and development of third-cycle education (2017-2020)” provides a framework for the promotion of doctoral programmes at universities, as well as doctoral studies based on cooperation between universities/academies and universities of applied sciences or universities of teacher education. With innovative networks and forms of collaboration spanning the various types of higher education institutions, higher education institutions want to realise the full potential of Swiss universities while at the same time promoting the specific profiles of universities, universities of applied sciences and universities of teacher education.

Young scientists are also funded through the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNFS). The SNFS provides various instruments for the promotion of young scientists at different stages in their careers. These instruments are open to researchers with a link to Switzerland as well as to all research disciplines and topics, and there are one or more submission deadlines each year.

Mobility and Internationalisation

Switzerland is not a member of the European Union (EU). Relations between Switzerland and the EU are governed by bilateral agreements. 1999 saw the conclusion of Bilateral Agreements I between Switzerland and the EU, and in 2004 the Schengen/Dublin Agreement was signed as part of the second round of bilateral agreements with the EU.

The bilateral agreements are important to the education system as regards the free movement of persons (recognition of training qualifications for the exercise of a professional activity) and for participation in EU framework programmes for research and education programmes.

Since 1 January 2011 Switzerland has been taking part in the European education, vocational training and youth programmes which grant the Swiss equal access to all mobility and cooperation projects within the framework of these programmes. For the period from 2007 to 2013 Switzerland and the European Union have adopted an education agreement on the participation of Switzerland in the “Lifelong Learning” action programme and in the “Youth in Action” programme.

From 1 January 2014 the new EU programme Erasmus+ (2014 to 2020) replaces the two previous programmes “Lifelong Learning” and “Youth in Action”. The programme will continue to be aimed at the four educational levels schools, vocational and professional education and training, higher education, and adult education, as well as at extracurricular youth work. Each level offers three types of project: mobility, cooperation and support for political processes.

The offers of the new programme Erasmus+ are open to schools and other education and vocational education and training institutions in Switzerland and their staff and managers at all levels.

The EU programme Erasmus+ incorporates the following programmes:

  • Comenius: the European programme for school education as a whole facilitates individual mobility for learning purposes and supports pupils, teachers and other education staff in Europe in acquiring cultural and linguistic qualifications and competences in addition to their knowledge of specific school subjects – abilities which are necessary for personal development and future employment.
  • Leonardo da Vinci: the European programme for vocational education and training enables VET institutions to organise mobility and cooperation projects, and thus work together with partners from across Europe.
  • Erasmus: the European programme for higher education supports higher education institutions in carrying out mobility projects for students and staff, and also in cooperation projects with foreign partner institutions.
  • Grundtvig: the European programme for adult education supports people and institutions in the field of adult education, specifically with regard to in-service training internationally within Europe and projects between partner organisations from different European countries. 
  • Youth in Action: the European programme for young people, young adults up to the age of 30, youth organisations and people active in extracurricular youth work promotes non-formal education and exchanges in and with Europe.
  • Transversal: the European programme promoting cooperation and transparency supports study visits, networking activities and projects relevant to all levels of education and covering the areas policy cooperation, languages, information and communication technologies, and dissemination and exploitation of project results.
  • Euroguidance: the European programme for educational and careers guidance practitioners supports the continuing education and training and networking of all individuals and specialists active in educational and careers guidance.

Under the education agreement Switzerland has set up a national agency responsible for programme implementation. Under the name GO, the ch Stiftung für eidgenössische Zusammenarbeit [ch Foundation for Federal Cooperation] operates the Swiss Competence Centre for Exchange and , which supervises all exchange programmes in Switzerland and inside and outside Europe and receives project proposals and applications for financial support.

The Federal Constitution, the Federal Act on international cooperation in the field of education, vocational training, youth, and promotion of mobility and the Federal Act on the National Languages and Understanding between the Linguistic Communities form the basis for promoting exchange.

In the field of compulsory education the cantons which have signed the Interkantonale Vereinbarung über die Harmonisierung der obligatorischen Schule [Intercantonal Agreement on Harmonisation of Compulsory Education (HarmoS Agreement)] are endeavouring to eliminate educational obstacles to the national and international mobility of the Swiss people. According to the Federal Act on Vocational and Professional Education and Training (VPETA) the Federal Council can, under its own authority, enter into international agreements to promote international cooperation and mobility in vocational training (Article 68 VPETA).

In the higher education sector, under the Federal Act on the promotion of higher education institutions and coordination in the Swiss higher education sector (HFKG) the Federal Council can enter into international treaties on international cooperation and promoting international mobility and on participation in international promotion programmes and projects (Article 66).

Legislative References

Bundesverfassung der Schweizerischen Eidgenossenschaft [Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation]

Bundesgesetz über die Landessprachen und die Verständigung zwischen den Sprachgemeinschaften  [Federal Act on the National Languages and Understanding between the Linguistic Communities]

Bundesgesetz über die internationale Zusammenarbeit im Bereich der Bildung, der Berufsbildung, der Jugend und der Mobilitätsförderung [Federal Act on international cooperation in the field of education, vocational training, youth, and promotion of mobility]

Bildungsabkommen über die Beteiligung der Schweiz am Aktionsprogramm “Lebenslanges Lernen” und am Programm “Jugend in Aktion” [Agreement between the European Union and the Swiss Confederation establishing the terms and conditions for the participation of the Swiss Confederation in the Youth in Action programme and in the action programme in the field of lifelong learning]

Bundesgesetz über die Berufsbildung [Federal Act on Vocational and Professional Education and Training]

Interkantonale Vereinbarung über die Harmonisierung der obligatorischen Schule [Intercantonal Agreement on Harmonisation of Compulsory Education]

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.