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Explainer: understanding the Swiss higher education system

Apart from the federal institutes of technology in Zurich and Lausanne, which rank among the best in the world, and the University of Bern that makes the headlines due to its involvement in space missions, Switzerland has many other universities scattered within its borders. In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University rankings in 2020, Switzerland had more top-200 universities per capita than any other country.

Each year around 258,000 students enrol at a Swiss higher education institution: 61% at a university or federal institute of technology, 30% at a university of applied sciences and 8% at a university of teacher education. Currently, 44% of people in Switzerland aged 25–64 have a tertiary level qualification, obtained at a traditional university or from higher vocational education.

The generally low study fees play a role in attracting students from abroad. The percentage of foreign graduates in Switzerland is higher than in OECD countries. The admission criteria are relatively straightforward: an upper-secondary diploma equivalent to the Swiss baccalaureate, proficiency in the language of instruction and students visas where those apply. Each university has its own admission process.

The ongoing political stalemate surrounding Switzerland’s negotiations with the European Union has hampered academic collaborations with universities abroad. The Swiss government aims to become once again an associate member of both Erasmus Plus and Horizon Europe, two students exchange networks but the discussions are still underway.

Source: Swissinfo



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