A country with four official languages and a federal constitution is always likely to have a diverse higher education landscape and Switzerland is a case in point. While the Swiss Constitution guarantees autonomy to the country's 26 cantons in the area of education, the Federal Government and cantons share responsibilities on higher education.

The Confederation is responsible both for advanced vocational training and for the universities of applied sciences. Additionally, it has authority over the two Federal Institutes of Technology and controls and endorses research through the Swiss National Science Foundation (FNS).

Each of the 10 university cantons has the responsibility for its cantonal university. Cantonal universities receive financial support from the Confederation and from those cantons, which do not have their own university. Furthermore, as in Germany, Austria and most northern European countries, you can find ‘Fachhochschulen’ or Universities of Applied Sciences, which provide more technical education, often including work experience.

Swiss universities are highly international and regularly recruit students and academics from other countries. There is, however, a limit of 25% on the overall number of foreign students that Swiss universities can recruit.

Around 44% of teaching and administration staff are also from abroad, making Swiss universities some of the most international on the planet.

The 12 research-led Swiss Universities are:

Swiss Master’s degrees consist of either 90 or 120 ECTS (human medicine is 180 ECTS) and typically take 18 months to two years to complete.

Accreditation and Recognition

The Centre of Accreditation and Quality Assurance of the Swiss Universities (OAQ) guarantees and promotes quality in teaching and research in Switzerland's universities. Although the OAQ is a member of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education, the ENQA operates independently, and bases its work on international practices and research findings.

Swiss universities are generally respected as being amongst the world’s best.

Private universities and colleges are not usually accredited by OAQ. As most of these offer education in business, accreditation is often through international organisations such as Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).