Switzerland’s attitude towards its higher education system traces all the way back to Middle Age guilds. The idea of a community composed of people with certain roles and responsibilities still exists: this can be seen in 1) educational tracking—particularly in their emphasis on professional development in vocational schools and universities of applied sciences and 2) a view that education is a social responsibility—specifically with their public financing of education.
The Swiss education system has a unique, dual approach to education, which provides a route that is not solely academic, but instead combines theoretical courses with on-the-job practical training. Students who prefer more theoretical studies can attend Gymnasium and then University, while students who prefer a more professional and applied track can attend VET and then on to UAS and PET schools.
Crossover is possible, though relatively uncommon, across the A-level and B-level institutions within the Swiss higher education system. For example, a graduate of a UAS can continue to graduate studies in the premier universities, such as ETH Zurich. Approximately 4% of graduates of either type of A-level tertiary institution enter a PET program after they meet the required level of work experience, and while 9% PET graduates transfer into the A-level system in order to increase salary.5 Maintaining the variety of institutions while allowing for mobility within the system helps to provide Switzerland with its flexible and competitive labor market.