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Education System in Switzerland: Understanding the Swiss Education System

Yocket Editorial Team

Popularly known as a pristine tourist destination in Europe, Switzerland is also a major education hub for study abroad aspirants. The education system in Switzerland is globally renowned for maintaining high academic standards, innovative research outputs and student-centric teaching methods. It is worth mentioning that the Swiss government invests 5.7% of GDP in the education sector of the country.The system functions smoothly through delegated interest and accountability by the administration. The Swiss education system is divided into 26 cantons, and each of them are largely decentralized and administered by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).

In this blog, we dwell at length about Swiss education system, its ranking, structure, etc. with special emphasis on Switzerland education system for international students.

Table of Contents:

  1. An Overview of Education System in Switzerland
  2. What are the Major Levels in Switzerland Education System Structure?
  3. Universities and Federal Institutes of Technology
  4. Universities of Applied Sciences
  5. Universities of Teacher Education

An Overview of Education System in Switzerland

Switzerland has one of the best education systems in the world with a high Switzerland education ranking. According to World Population Review, Switzerland education system ranking is at 6th position for the year 2021.

Education system in Switzerland has been divided into three categories- Primary, Secondary and Tertiary. 

A vivid picture of Switzerland Education System Structure is given below:

Level of Education

Division/ Types

Standard Age

Primary Education


4 to 11 years

Secondary Education

Lower Secondary

Upper Secondary

12 to 19 years

Tertiary Education

University of Applied Sciences

19 to 24 years

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What are the Major Levels in Switzerland Education System Structure?

As it has already been mentioned, the education system in Switzerland is divided into three levels - Primary, Secondary and Tertiary education. Let us now look deeper into each of them one by one:

Primary Education in Switzerland

Primary school in Switzerland begins with kindergarten at the standard age of four and lasts for two years. However, in some cantons, students between the age group of four to eight attend the same class, termed the first learning cycle. Here the students are introduced to the three Rs and taught at least two foreign languages, including English. Other subjects like drawing, music and basic civics are also given importance at this level. 

Secondary Education in Switzerland

Secondary education in Switzerland comprises lower secondary and higher secondary levels. Let us gather more information about each of them:

Lower Secondary Education

Based on their assessment of primary education, the students are promoted to the lower secondary level. This level of educations expanding for a maximum period of three years, focuses on academic progression and personal development. The students learn the art of learning and growing togethers with their peers, and also the skills of adjustment, responsibility and deal with conflicts.

Higher Secondary Education

Higher secondary schooling in Switzerland prepares the students for their higher studies by building the foundation of knowledge in the area of their interest. You may either opt for a baccalaureate school or upper secondary specialised schools for the higher secondary stage. Let us see what each of them has to offer:

  • Baccalaureate School: Baccalaureate school in Switzerland is a learning journey of three to four years. To enrol in a three-year degree program, you must complete one year of pre-baccalaureate studies. In some cantons some baccalaureate schools offer courses of six years duration. It is for children attending a baccalaureate school straight after primary school. Overall, these schools offer baccalaureate certificates through which you may apply to study at any  higher education institute.
  • Upper Secondary Specialized Schools: They offer specialized training for a career in different fields like healthcare, social work, education, pedagogy, art and design, etc. The program lasts for maximum three years, and the students must appear for six subjects to acquire their upper-secondary specialized school certificate and continue their education in PET colleges.
  • Vocational Schools: VET or Vocational Education and Training is an integral part of Swiss education system. The main aim of these schools is to equip the students with knowledge and expertise required in the job market. The dual system of vocational education and training (apprenticeship) is a combination of learning in the workplace and vocational school. More than two thirds of the students in Switzerland opt for vocational schools after completing their compulsory education.

Tertiary Education in Switzerland

The higher education, especially universities and higher vocational training, comes under the tertiary level. Further, higher education in Switzerland consists of three levels- Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD degree courses. In terms of higher studies, Switzerland education system for international students has a respected place in the world.

Understanding Higher Education System in Switzerland

As we have already mentioned, higher education system in Switzerland consists of both undergraduate and graduate studies that are offered in the reputed universities in Switzerland. Let us now discuss the three types of universities to pursue your higher education in Switzerland:

Universities and Federal Institutes of Technology

Universities and federal institutes of technology form the Switzerland education system for international students. 10 universities in Switzerland ranks in QS World University Ranking list 2022. There are altogether 12 universities in Switzerland that offer both bachelors and masters degrees. Out of them 2 are federal institutes of technology. To apply for tertiary education, you must have a bachelors degree or equivalent in the relevant field. The top 5 universities in Switzerland include:

University Name

QS WUR 2022

ETH Zurich - Swiss Federal Institute of Technology




University of Zurich


University of Geneva


University of Bern


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Universities of Applied Sciences

Established during the mid-1990s, universities of applied sciences for another important part of higher education system in Switzerland. These universities specialize in career-oriented training courses, science-based, practice-oriented education and so on. To get admission into universities of applied sciences in Switzerland you must have a bachelor’s degree in any vocational discipline. Some of the best universities in this category include:

  • Bern University of Applied Sciences
  • University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland
  • Zurich University of Applied Sciences

Universities of Teacher Education

The 14 universities of teacher education in Switzerland that are responsible for offering education and training of teachers. In terms of type they are similar to the universities of applied sciences, but are managed differently. Admission here is generally granted on the basis of bachelor’s degree. Some of the best universities in this category include:

  • Zurich University of Teacher Education
  • University of Fribourg, Institute of Teacher Education
  • University of Geneva, Institute of Teacher Education

So that was all about the education system in Switzerland and all aspects related to it. Starting from primary to tertiary level of education, the Swiss government take all possible steps to guarantee the best to their students. Hence, studying in Switzerland is definitely a wise decision for international students. For any guidance to ease  your study abroad journey get in touch with our counselors at Yocket now!


Frequently Asked Questions About Swiss Education System

Is the education system in Switzerland good?

What is the basic Switzerland education system structure?

Is high school education in Switzerland necessary?

What is compulsory education in Switzerland?

What is Switzerland education system ranking?

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