From ETH to the University of Geneva: understanding Switzerland's university system

The tertiary education system in Switzerland is not as straightforward as it is in other countries.

This content was published on November 7, 2018 - 10:30

Have a look at this diagram to see why:

Swiss Conference of Public Education Directors EDK

Here are your options if you want to earn a degree in Switzerland:


Ten (of the 26) cantons have their own universities. In addition, there are two federal institutes of science and technology: "Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich" (ETH Zurich) and the "Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne"(EPFL ). Students can gain Bachelor's and Master's degrees as well as PhDs from these institutions.  

Universities of applied sciences and arts

Switzerland currently has eight public universities of applied sciences and arts that offer Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. Teaching and research have a strong practical focus and the programmes are closely tied to the professional world. 

The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies 

Located in Geneva, the institute offers Master's and PhD programmes as well as undergraduate semester, Summer and Winter programmes in a range of subjects, including international economics and international relations.  

Institutions providing professional education

The dual education system is a long-standing pillar of Swiss education that has attracted the attention from various countries interested in this combination of hands-on vocational training and study. Switzerland may have dropped to fourth place in the World Economic Forum's 2018 "Global Competitiveness Report", but ranks first in the quality of its vocational training. Professional education follows set curricula and qualification procedures that lead to nationally recognised diplomas. At the Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training students can study for a Bachelor of Science or a Master's degree in Vocational Education and Training. 

The Swiss Distance Learning University

It offers accredited Bachelor's and Master's degree programmes in German and French equivalent to those of traditional Swiss universities.

Graduates have what businesses want

The graduation rate at tertiary level stands at just over 47% (2016). Roughly two-thirds of graduates gain a university degree and one-third a degree in professional education. 

In the 2018 "Global Competitiveness Report", Switzerland is number 1 in the category "Skillset of university graduates", putting it ahead of the United States when it comes to the skills businesses look for among university graduates. 

This article was automatically imported from our old content management system. If you see any display errors, please let us know:

Comments under this article have been turned off. You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

Share this story

Join the conversation!

With a SWI account, you have the opportunity to contribute on our website.

You can Login or register here.