Video Swiss Education System
This video introduces you to the Swiss education system.
Also: point of contact, social worker, guardian, contact person, mentor
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.
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) are only insured with the Old Age and Survivors Insurance (AHV/AVS) if they are in employment.
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).
An individual who is insured but has 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), should get in touch with the local compensation office in order to receive an insurance card.
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.
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.
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
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.
Professional experience is experience gained on the job market. This could be through work experience or an internship. Alternatively, you may already have worked in a related field. Upon admission, universities of applied sciences will require professional experience in the same field as the degree course of your choice.
Professional experience can last between 6 and 12 months. The length depends on your chosen degree course.
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.
Recommendation of recognition (for foreign higher education qualifications)
A recommendation of recognition is not a formal recognition as such. Instead, it is a comparative grading of the foreign qualification without legal force. Swiss ENIC can issue recommendations of recognition for those who hold a foreign university qualification or equivalent. This only gives access to non-regulated professional activities. A recommendation of recognition is not suitable for job seekers. A recommendation of recognition is not compulsory in order to be admitted to higher education.
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.
- Single major
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 an adviser who operates as point of call. They are responsible for taking decisions that concern you directly, e.g. relating to the benefits you receive.
“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.
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 schools at upper-secondary level which prepare students for non-degree courses at tertiary level. As well as offering a comprehensive education, specialised schools impart knowledge in preparation for a specific occupation, e.g. in health. Having successfully trained at a specialised school, students will obtain the specialised school diploma. They can obtain the specialised baccalaureate after a further year of training.
The specialised baccalaureate offers direct access to degree courses offered at universities of applied sciences.
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