Switzerland Higher Education: University

Traditional universities are similar in structure and focus to universities elsewhere. Universities offer theoretical studies in disciplines such as law, linguistics, and engineering. Two different types of universities exist within the system: cantonal universities and Federal Institutes of Technology (or FITs). There are 10 cantonal universities in Switzerland, and only the cantons have direct control over policies and procedures of these universities. The confederation government has direct control over the two FITs, ETH Zurich and EPF Lausanne. This includes the ability to, for example, set tuition and control curricula. As the name suggests, these two universities focus on teaching and research in engineering and the sciences. Both of these types of university offer study at the bachelor through the doctorate level. Since the adoption of the bologna process, these universities have instituted a three-tiered system with a three year Bachelor’s, two year Master’s, and three year Doctoral degree.

While this system is similar in many ways to the university system in America, there are several key differences. These differences cover legality, structure, student life, and culture. A large structural difference lies in the specialization of universities. Universities in Switzerland rarely cover a wide range of fields; rather, they tend to focus on a few related areas.

Both Universities of Applied Science and traditional universities offer three year bachelor’s degrees and approximately 2 year master’s degrees. Both types of institution produce graduates with similar salary outcomes. Where a ratio of 1 suggests a salary equal to a worker with no post-compulsory education as defined above, the university and UAS graduates both garner salary ratios of 1.89-1.98 from 2000-2007 [3].

However, UAS differ from traditional Swiss universities in several other important ways. Doctorates are only offered in the traditional university system which, correspondingly, conducts much of fundamental research in Switzerland, but the UAS system offers several competitive advantages in instruction. These include a practice-oriented education, low faculty to student ratios, a more intimate classroom atmosphere, and so on. An apt contrast of aims is that the university system teaches sociologists while the UAS system teaches social workers.

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