ETH Zurich, Alessandro Della BellaETH Zurich, Alessandro Della Bella © FDFA


Switzerland’s University System is based on three pillars: (1) Fundamental Research, (2) Applied Sciences and Arts, and (3) Teacher Education. Each university type serves a specific purpose in the Swiss education, research and innovation sector.


1. Universities (UNIs)

The educational remit of Switzerland’s universities is to offer degree programmes at a high scientific and theory-based level and to undertake basic research. Many degree programmes are offered only at these traditional universities, such as all humanities degrees, many science degrees and some engineering degrees.

The Swiss university landscape consists of 10 cantonal universities and two federal institutes of technology, with the oldest institution having been founded in 1460 (University of Basel) and the youngest in 2000 (University of Lucerne). The 12 institutions are located across the German- , French- and Italian-speaking regions as follows:

  • Five universities are located in German-speaking Switzerland (the universities of Basel, Lucerne, St.Gallen, Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich)
  • Two are in bilingual cantons (the universities of Bern and Fribourg)
  • Four are in French-speaking Switzerland (the universities of Geneva, Lausanne and Neuchâtel, as well as the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne) and
  • One is in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino (Università della Svizzera italiana)

All institutions are recognized and publicly funded. Most of the larger Swiss universities cover all subjects and have medical schools, while others belong to the group of technical universities or universities of business and economics. They all offer degree programmes at bachelor, master and PhD level as well as in continuing/further education.


2. Universities of Applied Sciences and Arts (UASAs)

The remit of the Universities of Applied Sciences and Arts is to provide scientific and professional education, to conduct applied research and to promote cooperation with practice and industry. Some degree programmes, such as landscape architecture and various health sciences, are available only at Universities of Applied Sciences and Arts. The same applies to degrees in music, theatre, film, art and design.

The one private and eight public Swiss Universities of Applied Sciences and Arts are closely linked to the economy, culture and society. They promote close partnerships with companies, institutions and other organizations in the educational sector. Professors and lecturers come directly from the field, bringing along comprehensive scientific qualifications. The Swiss Universities of Applied Sciences and Arts guarantee highly practice-relevant degrees and continuing education.

The study programmes build upon the pre-existing practical competencies of their students. They offer a scientific reflection and further development by connecting theoretical content with the concrete practical work experience students have already gained.


3. Universities of Teacher Education (UTEs)


Universities of Teacher Education offer practice-oriented training such as pre-primary education, primary education, secondary education I and II, special needs education or continuing education for teachers. Various subject areas form the basis of its academic and scientific work; they also participate in the work of the international scientific community in this regard. The 20 Universities of Teacher Education count around 21,000 students.