The Swiss university system
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There are 12 universities and College of Higher Education in Switzerland.

The universities of Basle, Bern, Saint-Gallen and Zurich , l'Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Zurich and the Haute Ecole universitaire de Lucerne are located in the German-speaking region of Switzerland, and thus the language of instruction is German.

The universities of Geneva, Lausanne, Fribourg (some German instruction), Neuchâtel and l'Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne are in French-speaking Switzerland and thus the language of instruction is French (with the exception of Fribourg, where there is some German instruction as well).

The Italian-speaking region of Switzerland has only one university, which was founded in 1996, the l'Università della Svizzera italiana in Lugano.

Several other institutions of higher education also warrant mention: Haute Ecole Pédagogique de Saint-Gall, The Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva (French and English) and l'Institut de Hautes Etudes en Administration Publique in Lausanne.

Language repartition at Swiss universities (© SZfH OCUS)

Most of the universities cover a variety of different fields and house several faculties. For a better understanding of their courses of study, we suggest you consult their Web sites or the summary table provided by the Central Office of Swiss Universities.

The academic year is divided into two semesters: the winter semester begins the last week in October and runs until mid-February; the summer semester runs from mid-March or mid-April through to mid-June or mid-July, depending on the university. All of the semester dates are outlined on the Swiss University Conference site.

The total length of study up to the first academic diploma is generally 4 to 5 years, depending on the program, and 6 years for medical studies. However, given the number of students currently enrolled, it is almost impossible to get enrolled in the faculties of medicine and pharmacy. No places are available for the moment.

Swiss academic degrees are the Licentiate, the Diploma and the PhD. The Licentiate and the Diploma correspond to the American Masters degrees. As a general rule, most Swiss universities ask for a Licentiate, or even a Diploma, as a prerequisite for a PhD. There are two reports available to help you, should you wish to become more familiar with the Swiss university system, the shorter – Swiss Higher Education Survey -, and another more complete – A guide to Swiss Higher Education System and its Qualifications.

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