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Education system in Switzerland



Primary education lasts from four to six years depending on the canton. Secondary school lasts from seven to nine years, depending on the canton and the length of primary education. It consists of lower secondary education, which is the second part of compulsory education and lasts from three to five years, and upper secondary education which is post-compulsory and varies in length between three and four years. There are various types of upper secondary schools, such as: academic upper secondary schools, which prepare students for University entrance; vocational secondary schools, which prepare students for a wide range of occupations, and general education continuation upper secondary schools, offering further schooling in general education subjects.


In Switzerland, the higher education system at University-level is provided by ten cantonal Universities and two federal Institutes of Technology. However, higher education is also provided by the seven newly created Fachhochschulen and advanced Vocational Colleges. This sector is currently being reformed on a global scale. Private Universities are basically only to be found in the field of post-graduate studies. There is no numerus clausus for subjects studied at University, except for Medicine at the German-speaking Universities. Studies in Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Medicine, Pharmacy, Chemistry and Surveying must follow national requirements and are regulated by the Federal Government.


Non-university level

Professional people extend their general education, upgrade their professional skills and/or qualify in organization and leadership which are necessary for a career at Advanced Vocational Colleges. Studies last for two to three years and lead to a final diploma. Some of the Advanced Vocational Colleges are being transferred to Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS) but studies leading to professional diplomas will be carried out at Advanced Vocational Colleges. The transfer of some of the Advanced Vocational Colleges to Universities of Applied Sciences began in 1997/98. With this transfer a process of quality improvement was launched. Since the transfer of Advanced Vocational Colleges, HTL, HWV, etc. to Universities of Applied Sciences, Switzerland has a dual university system with two types of universities: Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences that include UAS Schools of Pedagogy, UAS Schools of Art and Design, UAS Schools of Music and UAS Schools of Theatre. Studies at the Universities of Applied Sciences last for three to four years and are related to the profession and its environment. The performance of the Universities of Applied Sciences include the following three sectors: lecture (diploma studies); further education; and applied research and development, transfer of science and technology and services.


University level first stage: Grundstudium: The first period of long-cycle study is essentially devoted to broadly-based studies. It takes 2 to 6 semesters and generally ends with intermediate examinations called Vordiplomprufungen, Akzessprufungen, Demi-licence or Propadeutika (Medicine), depending on the subject and the university.

University level second stage: Hauptstudium:

The second stage (Hauptstudium) is devoted to in-depth study often with some specializations. After a further four semesters, a Lizentiat/Licence is conferred in Arts, Law and Science. A further five semesters are required for the Diplom/Diplome in Engineering. In Medicine, a total of twelve semesters is required, whereas in Dentistry, Pharmacy and Veterinary Medicine a total of ten to twelve semesters are needed.In the course of the implementation of the Bologna Declaration, several universities or subjects at individual universities have already adjusted their curriculum to the Bachelor/Master system.

University level third stage: Nachdiplomstudium:

Shorter postgraduate courses leading to the award of a Zertifikat/Certificat or a Diplom/Diplome are offered by Universities and other Institutions of higher education. They are usually part-time courses and have a vocational orientation. The Doctorate in Switzerland is regarded as a stage of Postgraduate education. It is awarded by the 10 cantonal universities and the two Federal Institutes of Technology in areas of study such as Arts, Education, Sciences, Engineering, Theology, Law, Economics, and Medicine. The duration of study varies. In Science, the Doctorate may take a further two to five years and in Engineering between two and four years. In Law, Economics and Social Sciences, it may take from one to three years in the German-speaking Institutions and up to four years in the French. The defence of the Doctoral thesis (Doktorprufung/Examen de Doctorat) may be viva voce or candidates may have to sit for an oral and written examination or have to pass two written examinations and three oral examinations in the chosen major and minor subjects.

University level fourth stage: Medical specialization, Habilitation:

Doctors in Medicine and Dentistry (in the field of Orthodontics) wishing to specialize may prepare a Diplome de specialite after practical work lasting between five and seven years as assistant Physicians. Doctors in Medicine add FMH (Foederatio Medicorum Helveticorum) after their professional title. Doctors in Dentistry are given the title Kieferorthopade SSO/Specialiste SSO orthodentie after four years' Postdoctoral study and an examination. These specializations are currently being revised. 2. The Habilitation is the highest academic Degree awarded only in German-speaking Universities in main fields. After submitting a thesis (Habilitationsschrift), candidates must give a public lecture. The Habilitation qualifies for a Professorship.


Definition of foreign student: A foreign student is a person enrolled at an Institution of higher education in Switzerland, country of which he/she is not a permanent resident.

Quotas: Foreign applicants are unlikely to obtain a place in Medicine, Dentistry or Veterinary Medicine if they do not hold a Swiss School-Leaving Certificate and a residence permit. There are also certain restrictions on the number of places available in certain other subjects

Admission requirements: The basic requirements for admission to a Swiss University are: generally a minimum age of 18, and a State-recognized Swiss School Leaving Certificate, or a foreign equivalent. Each University makes its own decision concerning admission.

Entry regulations: A valid passport is sufficient for students from other West European Countries. Citizens of countries which require a visa should apply to the relevant Swiss diplomatic representation abroad. Students wishing to spend more than three months in Switzerland must apply for a residence permit, which must be accompanied by a valid passport, a certificate of admission issued by the University, and a certificate stating that the applicant has the necessary financial resources to complete his/her studies.

Health requirements: All Universities require their registered students to join a recognized Swiss health insurance scheme.

Language requirements: Adequate knowledge of the language of instruction

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