The video explains the basics of the Swiss education system. The settings allow you to display subtitles in Arabic, Italian, Persian or Tigrinya.


Important terms in a nutshell.


  • Adviser

    Also: point of contact, social worker, guardian, contact person, mentor
    Sometimes: Coach

    Depending on your legal status and the length of time you have spent in Switzerland as well as your canton of residence, you will receive assistance and/or supervision from different services.
    On this website, we will subsequently refer to any of these individuals as ‘adviser’.
    An adviser is an individual who you can turn to for any problems or queries. They may also take decisions on the benefits you receive, e.g. having your train tickets or language classes reimbursed by social services.

  • AHV/AVS number

    The AHV/AVS number is your personal identifier with the Old Age and Survivors Insurance (AHV/AVS). This corresponds to national insurance.

    • Like Swiss citizens, recognised refugees (B permit) and stateless individuals: are automatically insured with the Old Age and Survivors Insurance (AHV/AVS) upon reaching 20 years of age or once in employment.
    • Temporarily admitted refugees (F permit) or asylum seekers (N permit): receive an AHV number, but are only liable to pay contributions if they are gainfully employed.

    The insurance number is displayed on the health insurance card. It also appears on the national insurance card which includes details for Old Age and Survivors Insurance (AHV/AVS) as well as Disability Insurance (IV/AI).

    If you are insured but you don’t have neither a health insurance card nor a national insurance card stating details of Old Age and Survivors Insurance (AHV/AVS) and Disability Insurance (IV/AI), you should get in touch with the local compensation office in order to receive an insurance card.

    Further information on AHV/IV specifically for recognised refugees and stateless persons can be found here.


  • Baccalaureate school

    Baccalaureate schools are schools at upper-secondary level which lead to the baccalaureate certificate.
    These schools might have various names depending on the canton or region. As well as that, students in different cantons might be schooled for different lengths of time (3 to 5 years).
    Education at baccalaureate schools aims to be comprehensive and general. Subject areas comprise languages and communication, sciences, humanities, arts as well as physical education.
    As students progress through their education, they are able to specialise in subjects of their interest.

    Learn more about baccalaureate schools (available in German, French or Italian)

  • Baccalaureate, Academic baccalaureate

    The baccalaureate concludes education at upper-secondary level in baccalaureate schools. The qualification itself is called baccalaureate, results are documented in the baccalaureate certificate.
    Admission to a Swiss university usually requires a baccalaureate certificate or an equivalent qualification.

    Learn more about the baccalaureate (available in German, French or Italian)


  • Bachelor

    The bachelor’s degree is the title earned at the end of the first cycle of study. This corresponds to 180 ECTS credits, which usually means three years of full-time study.

    • At universities, the bachelor’s degree provides a scientific education in the various fields of study. Students acquire mainly theoretical, methodological and scientific knowledge.
    • At universities of applied sciences (FH) and universities of teacher education (PH), studies are more practice-oriented. A bachelor’s degree here already enables entry into professional life.


  • Certification / officially certified translation / officially certified copy / to certify

    A copy is regarded as certified if it has been issued by an official (e.g. a public office, a notary, a diplomatic or consular representative). This confirms that the official has seen the original document and that the copy corresponds to the original.
    It is essential that you present the original document in order to obtain a certified copy. It is not possible to have photocopies certified.
    A notary or a public office in your municipality can certify by means of a stamp and signature that the copy corresponds to the original document. Having a copy officially certified does not constitute a judgement on the content or authenticity of the original document.


  • Diploma Background Report

    A Diploma Background Report describes your previous educational background. The report indicates how Swiss ENIC would assess a qualification equivalent to yours if all documents were available.
    You can request a Diploma Background Report from Swiss ENIC if you are unable to document the entire length of your previous education. The report may help you explain your qualification to employers or further education providers.

    More information: swissuniversities 


  • Enrolment certificate

    An enrolment certificate is a document confirming that a student has been admitted to a specific university. It is proof that you have studied or were eligible to do so. The document is issued by the university in your country of origin.


  • Federal Vocational Baccalaureate

    VET programmes can be complemented with the Federal Vocational Baccalaureate.
    This pathway complements the comprehensive education obtained at upper-secondary level. The holder of this qualification is eligible for admission to universities of applied sciences.
    This qualification can be taken in addition to a VET programme or subsequently after having completed a VET programme or apprenticeship.

  • Forms of teaching

    As part of their courses, universities or universities of applied sciences offer different forms of teaching and training.
    The most common forms of teaching are lectures, tutorials, workshops and seminars.

    Lectures are usually given by highly-qualified academics, e.g. professors. Postgraduate students tend to lead tutorials. Other forms of teaching can be led by academics with different qualifications.


  • Grade conversion table

    A grade conversion table is a list showing the range of grades featuring in a country’s grading system and providing a comparison with the Swiss system. A grade conversion table is used for reference purposes in Switzerland in order to better understand what a student has achieved abroad.


  • Higher education institution

    Higher education institutions provide training at tertiary level and conduct research.
    Higher education institutions in Switzerland comprise universities of applied sciences, cantonal universities, federal technical universities and universities of teacher education.

  • Humanities

    Humanities is an umbrella term to describe disciplines which using different methods observe amongst others culture, religion and media in order to place and understand them in a broader sociological, historical, political or spiritual context.


  • Major subject

    Major subject is the principal field of study chosen by a student. If the requirements of the major subject account for less than 180 ECTS at Bachelor level, the student chooses a minor subject alongside. This allows students to combine different fields of study.

  • Minor subject

    Second chosen field of study. Minor subjects account for fewer credits than the major subject. They do not tend to exceed 60 ECTS at undergraduate and 40 ECTS at Master’s level.

  • Module catalogue, course catalogue

    A module or course catalogue is a list of all modules and lectures offered by a higher education institution in the course of a term. The list contains the title and description of each module on offer.


  • Professional experience

    Work experience is for example: 

    • an internship, a part-time/full-time job….  


    IMPORTANT: For admission, universities of applied sciences usually require work experience in the same field as the degree programme. The duration is usually between 6 and 12 months and varies depending on the degree programme. Do you have an internship or work certificate that confirms your work experience? Then enclose it with your application.  


  • Qualification

    Qualifications confirm that an individual has acquired skills in a certain field of activity through either training or experience. Certificates, diploma or transcripts are proof that the qualification has been completed.


  • Recognition of Foreign Qualifications

    The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI is responsible for recognising foreign qualifications if they concern regulated professional activities.
    Having a foreign qualification recognised is a sensible option if you are entering the job market. To be admitted for a degree course, the higher education institution in question is responsible for assessing your previous education.

    Recognition of foreign qualifications


  • Recommendation of recognition (for foreign higher education qualifications)

    If you hold a foreign higher education diploma (Bachelor’s / Master’s), Swiss ENIC can issue a recognition recommendation.  I want to have my diploma recognised.   

    IMPORTANT: The recognition recommendation is suitable for finding a job. You do not need a recognition recommendation to be admitted to a university.  


    •  A recognition recommendation is not a recognition of the diploma and is not legally binding.  
    •  Swiss ENIC can only issue recommendations for higher education diplomas leading to a non-regulated profession 
  • Regulated and non-regulated professional activities

    Some professional activities are regulated in Switzerland. This means you need to meet prescribed requirements (e.g. qualifications, skills). You will need to provide proof of your qualification in order to commence work in this field. The link to the following website provides information about regulated professional activities and lists of who is responsible for recognising your qualification.

    More information here (available only in German, French or Italian). If you are interested in a non-regulated professional activity, you can request to obtain a recommendation of recognition from Swiss ENIC.

    Official information from the Swiss authorities.

    Here a list of regulated professional activities – only in German.

  • Retraining and changing career (secondary training)

    If you have already been trained prior to the course you are due to start, there is funding available to support your decision to retrain or change career (secondary training).
    If you did not complete your previous training, your new career path is not considered secondary training and you will not be eligible for funding.


  • School leaving certificate

    Confirms that upper-level secondary education has been completed after a series of exams and continuous assessment.
    In this context, we understand by school leaving certificate that the Swiss baccalaureate or German “Abitur” has been awarded. This certificate confirms in the country where it has been issued that the individual student is now eligible for study at university level.

    Upper-secondary school leaving certificates are accepted and will permit university admission in Switzerland if you have taken six of the below subjects in the course of your three final years in school education. They draw from distinct subject areas and have allowed you to acquire a general and comprehensive education:

    1. First language (mother tongue)
    2. Foreign language
    3. Mathematics
    4. Science (biology, chemistry or physics)
    5. Humanities and social sciences (geography, history, business studies or law)
    6. Another subject of your choice (another foreign language, science or humanity)

  • Sciences

    Sciences is an umbrella term for disciplines which are concerned with observing and studying nature by means of analysis, measurements or comparisons. Sciences intend to prove for instance that our environment is ruled by patterns and regularities.

  • Single major

    A single major is the subject which accounts for the entire duration of your course (modules worth 180 ECTS at undergraduate and 120 ECTS at Master’s level). It is not possible to take up a minor subject alongside a single major.

  • Social services

    Social services help and support individuals who cannot pay for their maintenance. Some services grant benefits known as social assistance.
    Social services operate differently depending on the individual canton. This also applies to social assistance.
    If you receive benefits from a social service, you will usually have been allocated a social worker who operates as point of call. They are responsible for taking decisions that concern you directly, e.g. relating to the benefits you receive.

  • Statutory declaration

    “A statutory declaration is a statement of fact made by a declarant believed to be true.” Some higher education institutions will accept a statutory declaration concerning your previous education if you do not have certificates to prove it.
    This means you set out in writing the content and nature of your qualification, e.g. by means of a Diploma Background Report. You will sign the declaration in the presence of a notary who acts as a witness to affirm that it exclusively contains true content. Your declaration is similar to taking an oath.
    Higher education institutions can decide to admit you based on this declaration if you have acquired the necessary skills and/or knowledge.
    Should the declaration prove to be untrue at a later date, you might be stripped of the qualification even if you successfully and legitimately completed the required assessment.

  • Student union, student association

    A student union or association represents the interests of the student body at a higher education institution. Most student unions or associations offer a wide range of services. These include advice to students as well as advertising accommodation or job opportunities.
    The German term “Studierendenschaft” is also used to mean the entire student body.


  • University

    Universities have two main responsibilities: teaching and research. They have the right to award research degrees to students. This includes PhDs, the highest academic degree.
    There are five universities in German-speaking Switzerland, four universities in French-speaking Switzerland and one university in Italian-speaking Switzerland. These institutions offer degree programmes in the arts and humanities, sciences, law, business and economics or medicine.

  • University of applied sciences

    Universities of applied sciences feature a stronger practical, on-the-job component. Studying is closely linked with a certain profession and the field you are training in. Universities of applied sciences offer programmes at undergraduate and Master’s level.
    Universities of applied sciences also offer further training opportunities such as the Master of Advanced Studies (MAS, formerly Nachdiplomstudien/études post-diplôme/formazione postdiploma). Universities of applied sciences intend for their research activities to be directly put into practice.

  • Upper secondary school-leaving certificate

    A diploma, certificate or other document to prove your previous education. As a general rule, your latest qualification needs to be documented. If you have not completed your last course or programme, you should also be able to precisely document the field of study, your progress and the content of the programme.

  • Upper secondary specialised school, Specialised school diploma, Specialised baccalaureate

    Specialised schools are general education schools and provide specific preparation for the corresponding tertiary-level training in the various vocational fields. In addition to general education, specialised schools impart knowledge related to a specific vocational field (for example: health).

    After graduating from the specialised schools, students receive a specialised school diploma. This gives students direct access to training at a higher technical college, particularly in the professional fields of health, education and social work.

    They can then obtain the specialised baccalaureate, which gives them access to universities of applied sciences and universities of teacher education. To gain entry to a university, students must complete the passerelle.

  • Upper-level secondary education

    Upper-level secondary education succeeds compulsory education and comprises two possible pathways:

    – Vocational Education and Training (VET)
    – General, comprehensive education offered at baccalaureate, vocational or upper secondary specialised schools

    You need to successfully have completed upper-level secondary education with the required qualification to be eligible for university admission.


    Upper-level secondary education: more information here – only in German, French or Italian:


  • Vocational Education and Training (VET)

    Vocational Education and Training (VET, or apprenticeship) is an initial training pathway which usually follows on from compulsory education.
    The aim of VET is to teach the necessary knowledge and skills in order to pursue a specific occupation. VET programmes therefore offer a blend of theory and practice. The apprenticeship can be held with a host company or a dedicated school. A salary is paid during the apprenticeship.
    VET programmes are the most frequently chosen pathway at upper-secondary level in Switzerland. VET qualifications are recognised across Switzerland.

    VET qualifications include:

    • Federal VET Certificate after 2 years of training
    • Federal VET diploma after 3 or 4 years of training


    After a vocational apprenticeship, it is possible to enter the professional world directly or to continue studying. For example, a vocational baccalaureate can be taken during or after the vocational apprenticeship (in order to then attend a university of applied sciences). Adults also have the option of completing a vocational apprenticeship and earning a diploma.

    Guide through the vocational apprenticeship (available in German, French, Italien)


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