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Study in Switzerland: Education in Switzerland

The Swiss education system is internationally renowned for its high academic standards, well-regarded research outputs and student-centered teaching methods. Tertiary education in Switzerland follows the Bologna Process and is divided into three program cycles with Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate degrees. 

In terms of administration, the Swiss education system is largely decentralized and each of the 26 cantons is primarily administered by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI)

In Switzerland you can also find public and private Universities of Applied Sciences, Higher Education Institutions like the prestigious IHEID in Geneva, Higher Education Institutions of Arts and Music and Universities of Teacher Education. A list of Swiss institutions can be found here

The ten cantonal universities offer diverse programs in areas like economics, mathematics, natural sciences, humanities or social sciences. Switzerland is one of the top leaders in hotel management education, as eight out of ten best hotel management schools in the world like the Les Roches International are located in the country.

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The Swiss economy is highly technologically advanced and relies on financial and hotel services, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and electronics. As a result, an MBA in Switzerland is also a great study path that will lead you to prestigious career opportunities in these sectors, offering you at the same time entrance to an extensive business network. 

The language of instruction depends on the location of the institution. As a result, it can be either Italian, French or German. For the Italian language you can prove your language proficiency through the CILS/CELI test, for the French language through the DELF/DALF test and for the German through the ÖSD, TestDaf or Goethe Institut tests. Your English proficiency can be certified by either the TOEFL or IELTS examination. 

The Swiss education system is based on a 6-point grading scale:

International Scale   Swiss Scale  

A: Excellent/Hervorragend/Excellent/Eccellente


B: Very good/Sehr gut/Très bien/Molto bene


C: Good/Gut/Bien/Bene

D: Satisfactory/Befriedigend/Satisfaisant/Sufficiente 


E: Sufficient/Ausreichend/Passable/Bastante

Bachelor Studies in Switzerland

Higher education in Switzerland consists of 10 cantonal (regional) universities and two federal institutes of technology. The oldest institution, the University of Bern, has roots dating back to 1460, while the youngest institution, the University of Lucerne, opened just in 2000. 

Switzerland follows the Bologna process based on European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS credits) enabling international students to easily transfer the qualifications they earn in Switzerland to their home institutions. 

Bachelor’s programs in Switzerland are completed within three years of full-time studies awarding 180 ECTS credits. However, there are specific programs like medicine or pharmacy that last up to five or six years. Completing a Bachelor’s degree in Switzerland is a prerequisite for admittance to studies at a Master’s level. 

The language of instruction on a Bachelor’s level depends on the location of the university. During a Swiss Bachelor’s, you are required to attend compulsory courses in your field (major), additional courses in another field of your choice (minor) and also free elective courses. The last year of your Bachelor’s is dedicated to the writing of your dissertation. 

Swiss Master degrees

Master’s studies are completed within one or two years of full-time studies awarding 90-120 ECTS credits. A Master’s degree is required for entering the highest academic level of a Doctorate degree. A Master’s degree in Switzerland is a great choice for you as an international student without prior knowledge of French, Italian or German, as you can find multiple English-taught Master programs. 

Throughout your Master’s you will acquire advanced knowledge in your field through the completion of various modules and practical tasks. You are required to study both independently and in groups and also write your dissertation at the end of your studies.

Pursuing a Doctorate in Switzerland: All you need to know

Doctorate studies in Switzerland can be awarded only by traditional universities and are primarily research-based, involving independent work towards a PhD thesis with the guidance of a supervisor. Doctorate degrees can be completed between three and five years and lead to the acquisition of 240 ECTS credits.

There are two types of Doctorate degrees in Switzerland:

  • Traditional or general PhDs: They take place within a single university under the guidance of one or more supervisors. The focus is on research and you will spend most of your study time working on your doctoral thesis.
  • Structured PhDs: They involve more practical training and also involve collaboration and partnerships between different institutions such as the universities of applied sciences.

The academic year in Switzerland lasts from September to May, divided into two teaching semesters: From September to December and February to May. You can find programs in four different languages: English, French, Italian and German. Contact the institutions of your choice for more relevant information regarding the language of instruction. 

Universities of Applied Sciences and Arts

There are eight public Swiss universities of Applied Sciences and Arts and one private, all closely linked to the Swiss economy, culture and society. Their goal is to establish educational partnerships with companies, institutions and other organizations. 

These institutions have similar goals to traditional universities, but are more practically-oriented and have faculty members coming directly from the field with concrete experience and expertise. They operate under the mantra of “Different But Equivalent.”

The study programmes are built upon the existing practical competencies of their students and connect theory and practice in order to assist students enter the Swiss labour market.

Universities of Teacher Education

Universities of teacher education are responsible for the education and training of teachers in the Swiss primary, lower secondary and upper secondary level schools. There are currently 20 universities of teacher education in Switzerland, all of them involved in continuous research, education, training and coaching of prospective teaching professionals. Their goal is the continuation of excellence of the Swiss educational system by the incorporation of the latest educational trends and technologies.

Study in Switzerland - Overview

Over 20,000 international students choose Switzerland as their study abroad destination every year. Click here to learn why.

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Student Visas

Despite its location in the heart of continental Europe, Switzerland is not an official part of the European Union and every international student will require a student visa to study. Find out documentation you need and the processes you should follow depending on your country of origin.

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Housing & Living Costs

Finding budget friendly housing in Switzerland can take a bit of careful planning but look through your options to find the best accommodation for you and your piggy bank!

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Tuition Fees & Scholarships

Tuition fees in Switzerland vary greatly, depending on if you’re planning to attend a public or private institution, your program of study, and your level of study. There are several different scholarships available from specific institutions and from the Swiss government.

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Language & Culture

Switzerland has four official languages and boasts a wide range of diverse cultural traditions in the different linguistic regions. You can study in three of the official languages or find one of the many programs offered in English! Efficiency is a priority, and Switzerland is highly organized with a strong tradition of popular democracy.

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Application Process

There is no centralized system for admissions to Swiss universities. Application processes can differ from institution to institution, get started early to leave time for ironing out those all-important details.

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Ready to look at education in Switzerland? Use our search engine to find and compare top programs in Switzerland.

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Last update: 20 Jan 2022

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