Higher education in Switzerland

Higher education in Switzerland

Much like the school system in Switzerland, students attending higher education are heavily streamlined and specialised. This means that there are a diverse number of higher education institutions, each with their own requirements and benefits.

Universities in Switzerland (Universität)

There are now 11 main universities in Switzerland, each funded and run by either the local county (canton), the Swiss government or both. These institutions have a diverse range of subjects, allowing specialisation in the fields of arts, sciences, maths, and medicine.

Many of these universities rank highly in global rankings, with ETH Zurich being the first university outside of the UK and USA to break into The Times' Top 10 best universities in the world. Courses can be taken at the undergraduate, postgraduate, diploma, PhD and doctorate level, each being fully recognised by the international community, with many courses also being offered in English.

The costs of university tuition fees are set by the canton and are typically lower than comparative courses in other nations.

In order to attend a university in Switzerland, Swiss students are expected to provide a completed and highly scoring certificate of maturity (Matura) from their gymnasium or have years of experience in their chosen subject through an apprenticeship. International students can apply using any recognised high school qualification, such as A levels, IB diploma or SAT.

Universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschule)

Due to the design of the Swiss school system, only a small proportion of Swiss citizens attend university. Instead, students are given an apprenticeship for a significant part of their middle school career. Once this stage is complete, many choose to attend a university of applied sciences. These schools develop the skills learnt during an apprenticeship and allow students to expand their skill set within their profession.

Much of the teaching is based on professional skills, specifically relating to your chosen apprenticeship. It is uncommon for expats to choose to attend a university of applied sciences, but courses can still be applied for. Upon graduation from a university of applied sciences, students have the skill set to begin applying for higher-paid jobs in their field. Many graduates find themselves being more employable and possessing more skills than a university graduate in their chosen field.

Types of universities of applied sciences

Although there are many different types of universities of applied sciences in Switzerland, some of the most common types are:

  • Engineering schools
  • Schools of business
  • Schools of administration
  • Schools of hospitality
  • Schools of the arts

Evening school (Abendtechnikum)

A good alternative to a regular university of applied sciences is to attend an evening school. These schools offer the same curriculum as universities of applied sciences, with many universities offering these courses as well. These are for people who want to gain the skills of a university of applied sciences but do not have the time to attend full- or part-time. This can be an effective alternative as the qualifications given at the end are the same but may take longer to earn.

Adult grammar school (Maturitätsschule)

The final category of higher education is an adult grammar school. These are schools that provide a certificate of maturity (Matura) to those above the traditional age for attending middle school. This can be due to a desire to attend university after a manual labour apprenticeship, or for adults who have come to Switzerland without extensive education. Once a course at an adult grammar school is complete, graduates may attend university.

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