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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Conditions of service for academic staff working in higher education


9.Teachers and education staff

9.5Conditions of service for academic staff working in higher education

Last update: 27 November 2023

The employment conditions for lecturers at the different types of higher education institutions are regulated by specific laws and provisions:

  • the cantonal university acts and corresponding cantonal provisions regulate the requirements for lecturers of cantonal universities;

  • The cantonal universities of applied sciences acts regulate the employment conditions for lecturers at universities of applied sciences.

  • The regulations on recognition in the field of teaching degrees (Anerkennungsreglemente im Bereich der Lehrdiplome) govern the qualification of lecturers and practical teachers in the field of teacher training;

  • The staff of the Federal Institutes of Technology (FIT) are federal employees. Employment contracts are governed by the Federal Personnel Act and the Federal Act on the Federal Institutes of Technology (FIT Act) and other related provisions;

  • The staff of the Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (SFIVET) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Sports Magglingen (SFISM) are also federal employees. Employment contracts are governed by the Federal Personnel Act, the SFIVET and SFISM ordinance and relevant personnel provisions.


Planning policy

There is no demand planning policy at national level. Each university usually takes charge of its own demand planning, in some cases within the framework of swissuniversities, the umbrella organisation of the Swiss universities. Various materials are available to help, such as statistics and indicators on students and teaching staff at Swiss universities from the Swiss Federal Statistical Office (BFS).


Entry to the profession

Vacancies are usually advertised in daily newspapers and on relevant job boards. The recruitment procedure differs depending on the type of higher education institution and the function and activity of the lecturers and university staff, and is undertaken by different bodies or groups of people (e.g. professorships through the appointment procedure of the responsible bodies of the institution in question, assistant professorships on application by the faculty, staff decisions by the administration of the higher education institution).


Professional status

Employees at higher education institutions are employed by the canton under public-law contracts, or in some cases private-law contracts, or employed by the Confederation in the case of the Federal Institutes of Technology (FIT), the Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (SFIVET) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Sports Magglingen (SFISM). Employment may be permanent or temporary depending on the category of lecturer. At university level there are different groups of teaching staff, whereby the titles, functions and working conditions may be different depending on the type of higher education and the institution. Universities have the following different categories of lecturers for instance:

  • professors: full professorships, associate professorships, assistant professorships (tenure track or non-tenure track),

  • other lecturers: senior lecturers, guest lecturers, lecturers,

  • senior assistants, assistants and research assistants.



University lecturer pay is generally based on a cantonal salary ordinance. For lecturers at the Federal Institutes of Technology (FIT), the Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (SFIVET) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Sports Magglingen (SFISM) the Confederation rules apply. Salary depends on the area of activity and the salary category. Professors are classed higher than other lecturers. Administrative and management tasks generally attract extra remuneration. Performance-related pay is not yet widespread.


Working time and holidays

As well as teaching, the work of lecturers includes research, advisory services, and teaching in the context of continuing professional development. The compulsory teaching workloads vary depending on training institution:

the working time of lecturers at universities is guided – with the exception of the higher education institutions managed by the Confederation – by cantonal provisions. Working time is usually 42 hours per week. Depending on their function, weekly teaching obligations are laid down for lecturers. Where they perform additional functions (e.g. management tasks) lecturers may be relieved of some of their teaching obligations. 
The working times of lecturers at universities of teacher education are mainly laid down in terms of annual working hours. The annual working time is on average 1,900 hours. An average of 29 weeks in the academic year are teaching weeks, 18 weeks are teaching-free working weeks and four to eight weeks are holiday. Part-time work in higher education institutions is widespread.

Lecturers at higher education institutions have four to eight weeks holiday depending on the institution and their age. Depending on the institution lecturers receive one extra week’s holiday from a certain age (usually from 50) or two extra weeks (from the age of 60). Lecturers are, under certain conditions, given the opportunity of taking a sabbatical or a free semester, a teaching-free period, which may be used for research, personal development or practical experience.


Promotion, advancement

An academic career generally comprises a doctorate and then a “habilitation”, which is a qualification proving the ability to teach and engage in research in an academic subject in higher education, and increasingly also a ‘“postdoc”, or post-doctoral research post, leading on to a professorship. Promotion or appointment depends on performance and vacancies. There is no automatic right to promotion.

The promotion of young academics is a core task of higher education institutions.

The Rectors’ Conference of the Swiss Universities (swissuniversities) promotes optimal framework conditions and supports the higher education institutions. It coordinates programmes supported with project-related contributions enabling the implementation of projects that promote specific profiles of junior academics at universities, universities of applied sciences and universities of teacher education.

The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) promotes the careers of promising young academics by means of different scholarships and contribution programmes. Under certain conditions, some of these are also open to applicants from abroad:

  • The Eccellenza programme is aimed at highly qualified young researchers who aspire to a permanent professorship.

  • The Ambizione programme is aimed at qualified young researchers at an advanced post-doctoral level who wish to conduct, manage and lead an independently-planned project at a Swiss university.

  • PRIMA grants are aimed at excellent women researchers who show a high potential for obtaining a professorship.

  • A number of SNSF mobility grants enable young researchers to conduct a research visit abroad in order to acquire more in-depth scientific knowledge and enhance their scientific profile. Doc.Mobility grants are geared to doctoral students, Early Postdoc.Mobility grants at post-doctoral academics starting their career, and Postdoc.Mobility grants at advanced post-doctoral academics.

  • The SNSF also supports doctoral students through the excellence funding scheme Doc.CH. This is aimed at promising researchers who wish to write a doctoral thesis in the humanities and social sciences on a topic of their own choice.

  • Practice-to-Science grants support for qualified experts with proven practical experience who wish to join a university of applied sciences or a university of teacher education as an assistant professor.

Other funding instruments:

  • The Federal Commission for Grants for Foreign Students awards excellence grants to foreign students with a first academic degree.

  • Every year, the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation grants financial support for Cotutelles de thèse projects that are based on a cooperation agreement between a Swiss university and a partner university within Europe.

  • The European Research Council promotes, through the ERC Starting Grants, outstanding young researchers who wish to establish or consolidate a research team to conduct independent research within Europe.


Retirement and pensions

For retirement the same rules apply in principle to lecturers as to all employees: in Switzerland women retire at 64, men at 65. Depending on the higher education institution, the retirement age may be postponed for two to five years for compelling reasons. Early retirement and pensions are possible – with corresponding reductions in the pension. There is, however, no automatic entitlement to early retirement.