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Switzerland

Chapter 1: Higher Education System

Section 1.1: Schematic Description of the Higher Education System

Section 1.1 Switzerland

https://www.studyinswitzerland.plus/education-system/

Section 1.2: Description of Higher Education System

The Swiss higher education landscape is comprised of a diverse and comprehensive range of high-quality cantonal universities, federal institutes of technology, universities of applied sciences & arts and universities of teacher education. It follows the tiered study model of Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. In addition, the cantonal universities and federal institutes of technology also award PhDs.

180 credits are assigned for a bachelor degree. This therefore takes three years of full-time study. A master’s degree is worth 90 or 120 credits and takes 1.5–2 years of full-time study.

Section 1.3: Number of Higher Education Institutions

  • 12 universities (including the 2 federal institutes of technology)
  • 8 public funded and 1 private universities of Applied Sciences and Arts
  • 14 universities of Teacher Education (further teacher education programmes are offered at some universities or universities of Applied Sciences)

Section 1.4: Number of Students in Higher Education

Academic year 2019-2020

  • Total number of students: 258 076 (25.7% are foreign students and 20.1% are foreign students with foreign school education)
  • Students at universities and institutes of technology: 156 669 (31.0% are foreign students and 25.9% are foreign students with foreign school education)
  • Students at universities of applied sciences and arts: 79 821 (19.3% are foreign students and 12.7% are foreign students with foreign school education)
  • Students at universities of teacher education: 21 586 (10.4% are foreign students and 5.5% are foreign students with foreign school education).

Section 1.5: Structure of Academic Year

The academic year in Switzerland is split into two semesters (terms): autumn and spring. The autumn semester generally runs from week 37/38 to week 50/51 (universities of applies sciences: 3/4); the spring semester from week 8/9 to week 22-24.

Section 1.6: National Qualifications Framework (or Similar)

The Qualifications Framework of the Swiss Higher Education Area nqf.ch-HS (https://www.swissuniversities.ch/en/topics/studying/qualifications-framework-nqfch-hs) describes and defines the higher education levels and qualifications in Switzerland on the basis of the following elements:

  • generic descriptors
  • admission criteria
  • ECTS credits
  • academic degrees

Section 1.6 Switzerland

Section 1.7: Learning Outcomes in Higher Education

Learning outcomes are «can do statements», i.e. statements about what a person is expected to know, understand and/or be able to do at the end of a learning process. They are formulated by those in charge of the courses of study at the level of the individual study programme, module or lesson.

The national qualifications framework for universities with the generic Dublin descriptors for the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree levels as well as continuing education (Certificate of Advanced Studies CAS, Diploma of Advanced Studies DAS, Master of Advanced Studies MAS) provide guidance for universities to describe their courses of study and to formulate learning outcomes.

Section 1.8: Admission Requirements to Higher Education

Switzerland does not have a centralised admission procedure. Each university is autonomous and sets its own admissions criteria.

Here is some general information on admission to universities:

  • Admission to a bachelor programme: the main requirement is an upper secondary school-leaving certificate considered to be equivalent to the Swiss Matura/Maturité/Maturità. Most Swiss universities apply a numerus clausus policy in the fields of human and veterinary medicine, dentistry and chiropractic studies. Swiss universities of applied sciences and arts usually apply an aptitude test for several disciplines (e.g. arts, social sciences, health and sports).
  • Admission to a master’s programme: the main requirement is a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university in a specific field of study.
  • Admission to a doctoral programme: the main requirement is a master’s degree from an accredited university in a relevant field of study.
  • Language requirements: good knowledge of the language of instruction is the prerequisite for successful studies.

Section 1.9: Grading System

The grading system lies within the responsibility of the respective higher education institution. Deviations from the tables listed below are therefore possible.
Most of the Swiss higher education institutions apply a grading system with marks ranging from 1 to 6 (where 6 is the best and 1 the worst grade). A scale ranging from 1 to 10 is also used in a few cases.

https://www.swissuniversities.ch/en/higher-education-area/swiss-education-system/grading-system/ 

1 - 6 (6 = max/4 = pass)

Grades
Latin
DE
FR
IT
EN
6
summa cum laude
hervorragend
excellent
eccellente
excellent
5 1/2
insigni cum laude
sehr gut
très bien
molto bene
very good
5
magna cum laude
gut
bien
bene
good
4 1/2
cum laude
befriedigend
 satisfaisant
sufficiente
satisfactory
4
rite
ausreichend
passable
bastante
pass
3 1/2
 
ungenügend
insuffisant
insufficiente
fail
3
 
2 1/2
 
2
 
1 ½
 
1
 

1 - 10 (10 = max/6 = pass)


Grade Interpretation

 
DE
FR
IT
EN
10
sehr gut
très bien             
molto bene
very good
9
 
 
 
 
8
gut
bien
bene
good
7
 
 
 
 
6
genügend
suffisant
sufficiente
fair/pass
5
ungenügend
insuffisant
insufficiente
poor/fail
4
schlecht/schwach/sehr schwach
mauvais
molto debole (nullo)
fail
3
2
1

Section 1.10: Tuition Fee System for International Students

At the Swiss public universities, tuition fees are relatively low.

Some universities charge slightly higher tuition fees for international students. For practically all universities, you may pay between CHF 500 and CHF 2,000 per semester. Note that there can be smaller additional fees: registration fee; examination fee; semester fee; fee for social and cultural institutions, university sports, use of library; fee for students association, etc.

Section 1.11: Graduation Requirements and/or Qualification Awarding Requirements

Not applicable.

Section 1.12: Relevant Current and Prospective Reforms in Higher Education

Not applicable.

 

Chapter 2: Quality Assurance in Higher Education

Section 2.1: Quality Assurance Body in Higher Education

Switzerland has one external quality assurance body, the Swiss Accreditation Council. http://akkreditierungsrat.ch/en/
There is a Swiss Agency for Accreditation and Quality Assurance (AAQ), which is under the authority of the Swiss Accreditation Council. The AAQ carries out institutional accreditation procedures in Swiss higher education institutions in accordance with the Federal Act on Funding and Coordination of the Higher Education Sector (HEdA).

Furthermore, the Swiss law on medical and psychology professions assigns to the AAQ the role of accreditation body for training and advanced training in medicine and for advanced training in psychotherapy.

The AAQ has an international network and is entitled to conduct procedures in Germany and Austria. International evaluations are also carried out in some specific cases.

Section 2.2: Quality Assurance System

Study programme
Institution
Further explanation 
Voluntary
X
 
 
Compulsory
 
X
 
Regularity
6-7 years
6-7 years
 
External
X
X
 
Internal
X
X
 
Further information: Compulsory = Institutional accreditation is a requirement for the right to use a reserved designation– in other words, institutional accreditation is mandatory if an institution wishes to call itself a "University", "University of Applied Sciences & Arts" or "University of Teacher Education". It is also a requirement for universities regulated by public law in order to be eligible for federal contributions.

Section 2.3: Link Programme Authorisation with Quality Assurance

Programme accreditation pursuant to the Higher Education Act HEdA is voluntary. It may only be requested by higher education institutions that have institutional accreditation.
Here is the list of accredited institutions and programmes. Universities regulated by public law have until 2022 to get accredited.
http://akkreditierungsrat.ch/en/accreditation-decisions/institutional-accreditation/ 

 

Chapter 3: Credit System in Higher Education

Section 3.1: Description of Credit System

Switzerland uses the “European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System” (ECTS). It is designed to award credit points according to the achievement of learning outcomes.
The ECTS credit point system allows students to have their achievements easily recognized in other countries; it also assures a certain degree of comparability between diplomas at European level.

Section 3.2: Credit Transfer System(s)

ECTS.

Section 3.3: Additional Information

Students can be exempted from a course based on credits acquired elsewhere (another programme or institution) and on competencies acquired outside the formal learning context (validation of prior leaning) according to the rules of the respective higher education institutions.

Section 3.4: Application of Credit System in Higher Education Institutions Obligatory?

Yes.

Section 3.5: Number of Credits per Academic Year/Semester

60 credits are assigned to one year of full-time study.

Section 3.6: Number of Credits per Higher Education Cycle

  • 180 credits are assigned for a bachelor degree.
  • A master’s degree is worth 90 or 120 credits.
  • Credits can be given for some curricular elements at PhD-level.

Section 3.7: Description of Credit Unit

One ECTS credit point equals on average between 25 and 30 hours (workload). 60 credits are assigned to one year of full-time study.

Section 3.8: Link between Learning Outcomes and Credits

Yes, ECTS credits are only awarded to students after the successful assessment of the achieved learning outcomes. Learning outcomes are assessed, for instance, by means of oral examinations, written examinations, papers or written assignments etc.

Last updated in 2020
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