Tertiary education comprises the following form:
- Higher (academic) Education - ISCED 5 (academic)
- Higher professional education and training - ISCED 5 (professional)
Chapters 7.1-3 deal with the courses at higher education level. Higher professional education and training (PET) is described in chapter 7.4. Liechtenstein has no higher professional training institutes. Students from Liechtenstein pursue courses at institutions in Switzerland and Austria.
Since the entry into force of the Higher Education Law relating to higher education and research institutes, the Principality of Liechtenstein has possessed a formal higher education system. Liechtenstein’s higher education landscape comprises currently two recognised institutions: the University of Liechtenstein and the Private University in the Principality of Liechtenstein (UFL). In addition, there is the Liechtenstein Institute - a research institution.
In association with the Swiss cantons St.Gallen, Schwyz, Glarus, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Appenzell Innerrhoden and Thurgau, Liechtenstein is part of the responsible body of the OST - Eastern Switzerland University of Applied Sciences and in association with the Swiss cantons Aargau, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Appenzell Innerrhoden, Glarus, Graubünden, Obwalden, Schaffhausen, Schwyz, Solothurn, St. Gallen, Thurgau, Zürich and Zug of the University of Teacher Education in Special Needs in Zurich.
All higher education institutions have to be formally approved by the government, including those based in Liechtenstein which offer distance learning (cf. Chapter 11.2, quality assurance in the higher education sector). The state is responsible for supervising the higher education institutions. It sets the legislative parameters.
With its signing of the Bologna Declaration in 1999, Liechtenstein committed itself to the common process of creating a unitary European Higher Education Area and to adopting the decisions of all subsequent conferences. In the 2004 revised version of the Higher Education Law, the measures introduced within the framework of the Bologna reforms were incorporated.
The Law on Higher Education governs the responsibilities and the status of higher education institutions; their accreditation, operation and financing, as well as their inspection and supervision and cooperation in higher education. Other aspects determined by law include the right of self-management (staff management, curriculum development, rules of procedure for examinations and studies etc.), plus the freedom of research and teaching within the framework of the law and of ethical accountability.
The Ordinance on Higher Education of 2011 governs, as a supplement to the Higher Education Law, the National Qualification Framework, the accreditation process and the associated quality standards for institutions and study programmes, the “sur dossier” admission process, the procedure for recognising foreign qualifications, and the protection of titles and degrees. The National Qualifications Framework for Higher Education in Liechtenstein (NQFL-HS) entered into force in 2013.
Due to the limited offer of courses and student places, there are agreements with Switzerland and Austria which guarantee access to Swiss and Austrian higher education institutions for students from Liechtenstein.
Higher professional education and training
Higher or advanced professional education and training (PET) covers that sector of tertiary education which relates specifically to professional education and is not part of the bologna system. It is basically governed by the relevant provisions of the Law and Ordinance on Vocational Education and Training.
Within the higher professional education and training area qualifications are awarded which are needed for challenging employment positions requiring specific professional expertise or management skills. Higher professional education and training is acquired either by means of a professional, a higher professional examination or via a course of study at a college of professional education and training (PET college). The occupational examinations and the higher professional examinations presume prior relevant professional experience and knowledge.
The colleges of higher professional education and training offer courses oriented towards practical skills. They are designed to develop methodical, joined-up thinking, the analysis of task-related challenges and the practical application of acquired skills.
The government - or the Office for Vocational Education and Training, which is the operative body - is responsible for accrediting and monitoring higher professional education and training. It governs the conditions for accreditation, the learning content, the qualification procedures, certification and titles, and the procedure for accreditation. A precondition for admission to a recognised course of training at a higher professional education and training institute is relevant for professional experience - unless this is included in the training course. Including periods of practical work experience, the full-time training lasts at least two years; in-service training lasts at least three years.
Liechtenstein does not have any higher professional education and training institutions, but ensures admission to corresponding institutions in neighbouring countries through agreements and funding arrangements. Students from Liechtenstein mainly attend institutions in Switzerland and Austria. The admission of Liechtenstein students to corresponding training courses is secured on the basis of intergovernmental agreements. By joining the Interkantonale Fachschulvereinbarung (Inter-Cantonal Higher Professional Education and Training Agreement), Liechtenstein has the same rights and obligations as the other agreement partners. The agreement regulates access, status of students and payments made by the students' cantons of residence to the providers of the higher professional education and training institutions.
There are no laws governing the division of the academic year. In setting the dates of their semesters, the institutions of higher education follow the Swiss or Austrian guidelines. The academic year is divided into two semesters (autumn and spring).