Branches of study
The Qualifications Framework for the Swiss Higher Education Sector (nqf.ch-HS) describes and defines the levels of higher education in Switzerland using, inter alia, admission requirements, student workload (ECTS credits) and qualifications.
Swiss higher education includes the levels 1-3, “Bachelor”, “Master” and “Doctorate”, as well as part of continuing professional development. Levels 1–3 are generally consecutive. Each level builds directly on the preceding level, and the prerequisite for admission to the next level is an appropriate degree in a relevant subject area from the preceding level. The Bachelor degree programme requires at least 180 ECTS credits, while the Master degree programme requires between 90 and 120 ECTS credits, and 180 ECTS credits in human medicine.
The platform studyprogrammes.ch lists the study courses offered by all Swiss higher education institutions.
- Theology, Religious Studies
- Law, Criminology
- Economics, Political Science
- Medicine, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Health
- Social Sciences, Social Work
- Linguistics and Literary Studies, Communication
- Historical and Cultural Sciences
- Mathematics and Natural Sciences
- Information Technology
- Engineering and Architecture
- Sports and Human Movement Sciences
- Teacher Education, Special Education Studies, Educational Sciences
The degree programmes define the structure of study. Study programmes are completed in one academic discipline or in a combination of several disciplines (major and minor subject). Degree courses comprising a single subject or several subjects in the same discipline include, for instance, law, medicine or electrical engineering. The degree programmes define whether one major subject or one or more minor subjects are required. The choice of minor subjects may be limited.
Universities of applied sciences
At Bachelor level, the eight universities of applied sciences and the private university of applied sciences recognised by the Confederation offer around 200 practical Bachelor degree programmes in the following disciplines:
- Engineering and Information Technology
- Architecture, Building Engineering and Planning
- Chemistry and Life Sciences
- Agriculture and Forestry
- Business Administration and Services
- Social Work
- Music, Theatre and other Arts
- Applied Psychology
- Applied Linguistics
At Bachelor level the universities of teacher education, some of which are integrated in universities of applied sciences, offer Bachelor programmes in teacher training:
- teacher training for the primary level (including pre-school or the first learning cycle) and the lower secondary level, special needs education (remedial education in early childhood, remedial education teaching, speech therapy and psychomotor therapy).
Decisions on admission to a university degree course fall within the responsibility of the individual universities.
Universities generally admit
- students with a federally recognised baccalaureate or a comparable foreign certificate,
- students with a Federal Vocational Baccalaureate or specialised baccalaureate and a pass in a supplementary examination (Passerellenprüfung)
- students with a Bachelor degree from a university, a university of applied sciences or a university of teacher education.
Students with other qualifications must check with the university admission offices or enrolment offices whether they have to sit admission tests and, if so, in which subjects. At some universities students may be admitted without a baccalaureate. The universities lay down the admission procedure. As a rule, universities require students to be of a certain age and have professional experience; sometimes they also have to sit an aptitude test.
Language of instruction
The language of instruction is the language used in the area in which the particular university is located.
Good knowledge of German, French or Italian, depending on the language of instruction, is a prerequisite for admission. Depending on the field of study English may also be the language of instruction.
At the bilingual University of Fribourg, lectures may be held in both German and in French depending on the field of study, or there are German-language and French-language departments. Bilingual leaving certificates can be completed in several fields of study at the University of Fribourg. Various universities offer bilingual exchange programmes between universities in different language regions.
Latinum, Graecum, Hebraicum: Latin, Greek and Hebrew language requirements
Knowledge of Latin is required by most universities for degree courses in languages and literature and in history subjects. If this knowledge is not demonstrated in the upper secondary level leaving certificate it must be made up and examined at the start of the Bachelor degree programme or later for admission to the Master degree programme, depending on the university. The universities offer Latin courses which prepare for the supplementary examination. For additional requirements in Greek or Hebrew specific courses are also offered for the corresponding supplementary examination.
For study courses in the field of medicine (human medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine and chiropractic science), the Swiss Conference of Higher Education Institutions (Schweizerische Hochschulkonferenz SHK) issues an annual recommendation for a numerus clausus, i.e. a limit on the number of admissions (usually based on the final grade of the university entrance qualification), given the large number of applications for these courses. Where necessary each maintaining body decides on a numerus clausus in accordance with the legal basis regulating that body.
Some maintaining bodies also adopt admission restrictions for arts programmes, or sports and human movement science programmes.
For some subjects, specific previous achievements or supplementary examinations are required for the definitive admission to the degree course, and must be completed either before commencing studies or no later than the first phase of studies. These are compulsory internships in the social sciences, medical and technical fields of study (e.g. social internship, hospital internship, industry internship).
Universities of applied sciences
Universities generally admit without any additional conditions:
- students with a Federal Vocational Baccalaureate and with vocational education and training, related to the chosen field of study,
- students with a federally recognised baccalaureate and at least one year’s professional experience in which practical and theoretical professional skills were taught in a profession related to the field of study,
- students with a specialised baccalaureate in an area related to the desired field of study.
Students with a Federal Vocational Baccalaureate and with vocational education and training not related to the chosen field of study must demonstrate at least one year of professional experience.
The universities of applied sciences may approve admission applications based on other preparatory training by means of specific aptitude tests or admission tests. In the areas of design and music, theatre and other arts the universities of applied sciences hold aptitude tests examining design and artistic abilities before the start of the first semester.
To counter the shortage of skilled workers in mathematics, information technology, natural sciences and technology (MINT), the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER) has supplemented the Ordinance governing admission to study programmes at universities of applied sciences (Verordnung über die Zulassung zu Fachhochstudien) to allow access to certain courses at universities of applied sciences with integrated practice on a trial basis even without one year’s professional experience.
The individual university or the faculties are responsible for course structure (degree programmes, hours of study per week, credit allocation arrangements, definition of learning objectives and competences, terms and extent of course assessments, interdisciplinary courses, relationship between on-campus programme and private study, etc.).
As a rule, the learning content is offered on a modular basis. Modules, or thematically self-contained learning units, may contain different class types (lectures, seminars, tutorials, etc.) which are related in terms of content and timing and cover one or at most two semesters. There are compulsory modules, elective modules (which may be chosen from a specified range of courses) and optional modules. A module is defined in qualitative (content) and quantitative (ECTS points) terms and ends with examinations or other proofs and certificates (written assignments, presentations etc.).
In contact studies the class forms are diverse: lectures, introductory seminar courses, seminars, tutorials, colloquia, tutoring, e-learning. Various courses of studies require compulsory or recommended internships of differing durations. Depending on the specialist area case studies, project work, laboratory activities etc. are part of the training. Private study (reading, composing written assignments, preparing presentations etc.) has an important place in almost all fields of study.
Progression of students
The study and doctoral regulations of the higher education institutions or faculties regulate the admission, organisation and assessments of academic achievement (examinations, written assignments etc.) and the possibility of any repetitions where performance is deemed deficient. Depending on the chosen degree programme certain prerequisites must be met for admission to the next phase of study (e.g. successful completion of an assessment stage, which serves to examine aptitude and ability).
The university Bachelor degree is the prerequisite for admission to a Master degree programme. Since the Master degree is the standard qualification, each Bachelor degree is followed by a Master degree programme. At universities of applied sciences the Bachelor degree is – with the exception of music – the standard qualification. The Bachelor degree qualifying for a profession permits direct entry into professional practice.
In the three-year Bachelor degree programme (full-time study) 180 ECTS points must be completed. A course of study is considered successfully completed once the requisite number of ECTS points has been achieved. Course assessments are generally issued at the end of the semester. Bachelor degree programmes normally conclude with a Bachelor’s thesis. The form and structure of these Bachelor’s theses are regulated in the corresponding study regulations.
The title and abbreviations of the degrees obtained at universities are:
- Bachelor of Theology, B.Th
- Bachelor of Law, B.Law
- Bachelor of Medicine, B.Med
- Bachelor of Dental Medicine, B.Dent.Med
- Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine, B.Vet.Med
- Bachelor of Arts, BA
- Bachelor of Science, BSc
Universities of Applied Sciences
The title and abbreviations of the degrees obtained at universities of applied sciences are:
- Bachelor of Science, BSc
- Bachelor of Arts, BA