Switzerland Higher Education: Overview

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.

I. Vocational Education and Training (VET)

II. University of Applied Sciences (UAS)

III. Traditional Universities

IV. Professional Education and Training (PET) system

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.

VET –>



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