Types of Higher Education Institutions in Switzerland

The Higher Education is the tertiary level in Switzerland that includes Tertiary level A Institutions and tertiary level B professional education and training. The Tertiary level A Institutions comprises of the universities that focuses mainly on basic research, the universities of applied sciences which are inclined towards professional practice-oriented studies and carry out applied research and development. The Tertiary level B professional education and training is carried out in the non-university sector and provides training courses for demanding professional activities. Tertiary level B professional education and training includes training courses at colleges of professional education and training (PET colleges) and Federal and Advanced Federal PET Diploma Examinations.

Switzerland has 12 Universities, 8 Universities of Applied Sciences, and 15 Universities of teacher training and is also home to a number of excellent institutes in the fields of international affairs, public governance and hotel management. Undergraduate program in Switzerland is generally in the national language, i.e.German, Italian, or French, and many graduate programs are provided in English language.

Higher Education Institutions

Tertiary Level A Institutions


The cantons administer and supervise the universities. Under the legal framework the universities have broad academic, financial and organizational autonomy with the Swiss University Conference (SUC) being responsible for coordination at the national level . The Universities govern and administer their own affairs and have academic freedom and freedom of research. The Universities includes the cantonal universities and the federal institute of technology. 
  • Federal Institute of Technology: Switzerland has two federal institutes of technology (ETH): one in German-speaking Zurich and other in French-speaking Lausanne. The ETH focuses on delivering high-quality education, research, technological advancement and societal development activities. Science and Engineering and architecture are the basic subjects taught at the ETH.

  • Cantonal Universities: Switzerland has 10 cantonal universities. Five are located in German-speaking Switzerland: in Basel, Bern, Lucerne, St Gallen and Zurich. The Universities of Geneva, Lausanne and Neuchatel are situated in the French portion of Switzerland. The University of Italian-speaking Switzerland is situated in Lugano and there is a bilingual university at Fribourg (German and French). Most of the cantonal universities offer majors in law, mathematics, humanities and sciences, and majority of the universities have their own faculty of medicine.

University of Applied Sciences

The Confederation and the cantons jointly manage and govern the universities of applied sciences. The University of Applied Sciences emphasizes on the practice-oriented and application-oriented education, thereby preparing students for employment requiring the application of scientific findings and applied arts.

On a national level there are seven public University of Applied Sciences (UAS). Four are situated in German-speaking Switzerland- UAS of Central Switzerland, UAS of Eastern Switzerland, UAS of Northwestern Switzerland, UAS of Zurich, one in Western Switzerland-Haute Ecole Specialisee de Suisse occidentale, one in Italian-speaking Switzerland- Scuola Universitaria Professionale della Svizzera italiana and one in Bern, which is bilingual- UAS of Bern: German and French. The universities of applied sciences offers courses in the following areas of study: information technology, general technology, architecture, life sciences, agronomy and forestry, economics, designing, public health, social work, drama and music, the performing arts, applied psychology, applied linguistics and sports.

Universities of applied sciences offer degree programs which lead to professional qualifications. They offer degree programs at Bachelor level and Master level, and a wide range of continuing education and training programs.

University of Teacher Education

The University of Teacher Education provides training of teaching staff for the primary and secondary levels, Baccalaureate schools and Special needs education. The degree programs provide professional qualifications and include scientific, teaching-specific, educational and practical training components. They combine theory and practical study and teachings. University of teacher education offer teacher education and training at Bachelor's and Master's level. The results and performances are given in ECTS credits and the duration of studies depends on the selected degree program.

Tertiary Level B Professional Education and Training

Tertiary level B professional Education and Training includes the vocational and professional non-university sector and is managed federally jointly by the Confederation, cantons and the professional organisation (OdA). Tertiary level B professional education and training enables professionals who have completed vocational education and training (VET) to specialise and enhance their skills and knowledge. The courses of education and training are diverse. 
Tertiary level B professional education and training is split into the two areas: Federal and Advanced Federal PET Diploma Examinations and Colleges of professional education and training (PET colleges).
  • College of Professional Education and Training (PET Colleges): The Colleges of professional Education and Training teach students the skills and abilities required to independently presume the professional and management responsibilities in their field. The Colleges of Professional Education and Training offer federally recognised education and training programs in the areas of Engineering, Hotel, restaurant and catering, tourism and hospitality services, Economics, Agriculture and forestry, Healthcare, Social care and adult education and training, Art and design and Traffic and transport. The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) is in charge for the acknowledgement of the education and training programs of PET Colleges.

  • Federal and Advanced Federal PET Diploma Examinations: The Federal PET Diploma Examinations and Advanced Federal PET Diploma Examinations are for professionals who desire to heighten their knowledge or prepare for higher management roles. The Confederation, via the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI), recognises the examination regulations which are made by professional governing bodies.
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