How valuable are Swiss skill qualifications abroad?

How valuable are Swiss skill qualifications abroad?

Despite forming an integral part of education in Switzerland, vocational qualifications have struggled to gain the same recognition abroad as a degree from university. Now, new plans put forward by the government seeks to give both branches of higher education the same level of prestige.

Vocational qualifications difficult to understand outside of Switzerland

As in many other European nations, Switzerland has a strong tradition of vocational training in lieu of a university education. Over two-thirds of Swiss students choose to attend a vocational college, specialising in many highly paid and highly rewarding jobs.

However, issues can arise when holders of these qualifications travel abroad, as some international companies do not value them as highly as they should. Urs Gassmann, Managing Director of the Swiss association of graduates of Colleges of Higher Education (ODEC), said that the qualifications Swiss workers bring “don’t mean anything to English speakers.”

What makes things more complicated for employers is the unique nature of some Swiss qualifications. Around a quarter of young people choose to take an advanced diploma or attend a college of higher education. While these courses give Switzerland a “highly skilled workforce” according to Swissinfo, the colleges are unrecognised as academic institutions, despite offering recognised qualifications.

Swiss graduates to receive professional titles like Bachelor and Master

In an attempt to overcome the issue, members of the Swiss government have decided to propose a system of “modern titles” to make vocational titles with the "equivalence of other title designations both at home and abroad." For instance, a "Professional Bachelor" would be a vocational qualification on a level with an academic bachelor's degree, likewise a "Professional Master" would be equivalent to a master's degree. 

This would give vocational graduates the same “status” as those who went to university, levelling the playing field and making Swiss vocational graduates more appealing to employers abroad.

The proposal by National Councillor, Matthias Aebischer, made the case that Swiss students are being disadvantaged because of the lack of an official title. The idea has been submitted for debate in the Federal Assembly. The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) has also commissioned a report into higher education, expected at the end of the year.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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