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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Funding in education


3.Funding in education

Last update: 19 February 2024

Funding in the Swiss education system is structured differently at each level of education. As well as the public sector (Confederation, cantons and communes), business (companies and business associations) and the private sector or educational institutions also share in expenditure. Expenditure categories include the salaries of teachers, lecturers and other school staff, building and maintenance of facilities, teaching materials and consumables, school and advisory services, special education measures, support measures, training contributions, insurance coverage for all those involved in the school, including pupils, teachers, parents, support staff, etc.

The educational institutions are mostly publicly maintained and are therefore predominantly funded by the public sector – exceptions are childcare and continuing education and training institutions, which are mainly privately maintained. Public expenditure on education totalled CHF 37.2 (€[*]34.1) billion in 2016, corresponding to 17.5 % of total public expenditure. The share of state spending in the education sector as a percentage of GDP was 5.6% (FSO 2018). The cantons and communes bear the lion’s share of public expenditure on education, a good CHF 33 (nearly € 31) billion.

[*] 1 € = 1.09 CHF  



Parents or legal guardians have to pay to use childcare. The services are mainly funded by parental contributions. The public sector pays a share of funding. In some French-speaking cantons, employers also participate in the financing via a fund.

Compulsory education (primary and lower secondary level)

In the public sector compulsory education and pre-school are free for pupils (this includes teaching materials and consumables as a rule). The cantons and communes assume the state funding.

Upper secondary level general education

The funding of upper secondary level general education state schools (baccalaureate schools, upper-secondary specialised schools) resides largely with the cantons and their communes.

Vocational and professional education and training (VPET)

(vocational education and training (VET), tertiary level professional education (PE), job-related continuing education and training (CET)

In vocational and professional education and training (VPET) there is an alliance between the Confederation, cantons and the business sector. The cantons are responsible for implementing VPET and pay 75% of the public sector costs. According to the Federal Act on Vocational and Professional Education and Training (Vocational and Professional Education and Training Act, VPETA) the benchmark figure for federal participation in VPET costs in the public sector is 25%. The Confederation pays its share mainly through lump-sum contributions to the cantons for funding VPET. The Confederation also funds innovation projects and services which are in the public interest, as well as VPET research and the Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (SFIVET).

The business sector plays a significant role in the funding of VPET. It participates in particular by providing training places for in-company VET. Tertiary level professional education (PE) is largely funded by students and their employers. Job-related continuing education and training (CET), which takes place outside the formal VPET system, is funded above all by the participants and their employers.

Professional organisations can file a motion with the Federal Council to make a VPET fund binding on all companies in the corresponding sector, so that all companies in a specific sector have to pay solidarity contributions for VPET. There are also cantonal cross-sector VPET funds pertaining to all sectors in the canton.


Higher education

The Confederation and cantons participate in the funding of the higher education institutions according to their responsibilities: the cantons provide the main share of public education for the cantonal universities and universities of applied sciences, while the Confederation makes financial contributions. Universities of teacher education are almost exclusively funded by the cantons. The Confederation is responsible for funding the two Federal Institutes of Technology (ETH). The Confederation also supports higher education institutions through direct research contracts from the Federal Administration (departmental research) and second-party funds, which are awarded to research projects on a competitive basis. Key national funding agencies include the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the Swiss Innovation Agency Innosuisse. Switzerland also participates in the European Union’s framework programmes for research:  As of 2017, Switzerland is fully associated to the entire Horizon 2020 programme.

The training institutions, students and the private sector (research mandates, income from continuing education and training, foundations, etc.) also share in the funding.


Research and development (R&D)

Overall R&D expenditure in 2017 totalled CHF 22.6 (€ 20.7) billion (FSO 2019). Private industry funds the greater part of  R&D.

Continuing education and training (CET)

Continuing education and training is predominantly privately funded.


Public expenditure on education by administrative and educational level

(in CHF millions, in € millions and per cent, 2016**)

Data: Swiss Federal Statistical Office (FSO), 2018

  Total Confederation Cantons and communes

CHF (€) million

CHF (€) million


CHF (€) million


Compulsory education (primary and lower secondary level)

16 579

(15 210,1)

0.1% 16 563

(15 195,4)

Special schools

1 897,6

(1 740,9)
- - 1 897,5

(1 740,8)

Upper secondary level general education

2 344,6

(2 151)

0.1% 2 343

(2 149,5)

Upper secondary level vocational education and training VET [**]

3 604,6

(3 307)

2.3% 3 521,4

(3 230,6)

Tertiary level professional education PE [**]



12,8 % 350



8 060,2

1 108,7

(1 016,5)
13.8% 6 951,4

(6 377,4)


3 724,7

(3 417,2)
2 371,9

(2 176,1)
63.7% 1 352,9

(1 241,2)

Non-allocable costs



1.4% 553,9

Total 37 173,5

(34 104,1)
3 640,4

(3 339,8)
9.8% 33 533,1

(30 764,3)

[*] 1 € = 1.09 CHF

[**] Together with the cantons, the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) has been levying the cantonal net costs of VPET since 2004. These are the costs of the tasks set out in the Federal Act on Vocational and Professional Education and Training (Kostenerhebung der kantonalen Berufsbildung [cost survey of cantonal vocational and professional education and training]). According to SERI cost accounting, the cantons spent CHF 3467 (€ 3180.7) million on vocational and professional education and training as a whole in 2017. SERI cost accounting cannot be used for direct comparisons between the individual educational levels, as it differs from federal financial statistics. The table uses the data from the federal financial statistics.