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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Second-cycle programmes


7.Higher education

7.3Second-cycle programmes

Last update: 27 November 2023

Building on the Bachelor degree programmes, in the second cycle programme the higher education institutions offer Master programmes lasting one-and-a-half to two years (full-time study).

The platform lists the study courses offered by all Swiss higher education institutions.


Branches of study


Building on the Bachelor degree programmes, the 10 cantonal universities and the two Federal Institutes of Technology (FIT) offer more than 700 Master degree programmes in the following disciplines:

  • 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


Universities of applied sciences

Building on the Bachelor degree programmes, the eight cantonal universities of applied sciences and the private university of applied sciences recognised by the Confederation offer more than 100 Master degree programmes in the following specialist areas:

  • Engineering and Information Technology
  • Architecture, Building Engineering and Planning
  • Chemistry and Life Sciences
  • Agriculture and Forestry
  • Business Administration and Services
  • Design
  • Health
  • Social Work
  • Music, Theatre and other Arts
  • Applied Psychology
  • Applied Linguistics
  • Sports

Building on the Bachelor degree programmes, the universities of teacher education, some of which are integrated in universities of applied sciences, offer Master programmes in teacher training:

  • teacher training for the lower secondary level, special needs education (remedial education in early childhood, remedial education teaching).


Admission requirements


Students with a Bachelor degree from a Swiss university are admitted to university Master degree programmes in the same field often without additional conditions. Subject prerequisites and any specific admission requirements are defined on the basis of the objectives of the related Master degree programme.

The universities may make completion of a Master degree programme dependent on proving additional knowledge and skills which have not been acquired in the prior Bachelor degree programme. The individual universities are responsible for fixing the admission requirements for other branches of study and in the case of Bachelor degrees obtained abroad.


Universities of applied sciences

The admission to degree programmes at universities of applied sciences at Master level requires the prior acquisition of a Bachelor degree or a comparable university degree. The universities of applied sciences can also lay down additional admission requirements.


Permeability between University Types

The agreement between swissuniversities (the Rectors’ Conference of the Swiss Universities), the Rectors’ Conference of the Swiss Universities of Applied Sciences (KFH) and the Swiss Conference of Rectors of Universities of Teacher Education (COHEP) of 5 November 2007 as amended on 1 February 2010 contains basic principles on permeability between university types . Holders of Bachelor degrees from a Swiss higher education institution are admitted to study at other types of higher education institutions irrespective of the nature and origin of the prior degree certificate. For the transition to another type of higher education institution, based on the differences between the knowledge and skills acquired in the Bachelor degree programme and the specific requirements of the Master degree programme, the receiving higher education institution sets out which additional subject requirements have to be completed during the Master degree programme (up to a maximum 60 ECTS points).


Course contents

The individual higher education institution or the faculties are responsible for course structure (degree programmes, hours of study per week, credit allocation arrangements, number and weighting of the individual study programmes, 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.).


Teaching methods

In contact studies the class forms are diverse: lectures, seminars, tutorials, colloquia, 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.



Only a few university degree programmes lead to a clearly defined professional field. The degree programmes offer different research focuses which can lead to very different professional fields. University Master degrees also enable active cooperation in research programmes. Within the framework of the Bologna reform process Master degree programmes may also be offered with an interdisciplinary focus or a stronger focus on a scientific activity. The Master degrees offered by the universities of applied sciences represent an advanced leaving certificate qualifying for a profession. Based on the in-depth and specialist knowledge acquired the Master degrees qualify for higher management positions and research tasks.


Student assessment

In the one-and-a-half to two-year Master’s degree programme (full-time study) 90 to 120 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 carried out at the end of the semester. Master’s degree programmes normally conclude with a Master’s thesis. The form and structure of these Master’s theses are regulated in the corresponding study regulations.




The title and abbreviations of the degrees obtained at universities are:

  • Master of Theology, M.Th
  • Master of Law, M.Law
  • Master of Medicine, M.Med
  • Master of Dental Medicine, M.Dent.Med
  • Master of Veterinary Medicine, M.Vet.Med
  • Master of Arts, MA
  • Master of Science, MSc


Universities of applied sciences

The title and abbreviations of the degrees obtained at universities of applied sciences are:

  • Master of Science, MSc
  • Master of Arts, MA