Switzerland's higher-education system is made up primarily of traditional universities and universities of applied sciences.

Country Overview

The two things Switzerland is most readily identified with, banking and neutrality, are also what have enabled the country to become one of the wealthiest in the world. The country was not involved in fighting during the two World Wars, yet has maintained a large citizen army. Its system of democracy ensures that people have a direct say in the country’s affairs. About two-thirds of the populace speaks German. Most of the rest speak French and Italian. The country’s banking sector is becoming more open in response to claims that it launders money and finances terrorists. The country joined the United Nations in 2002.


This small, mountainous, landlocked country has a wide variety of climatic conditions because of its great range of altitude. The higher peaks of the Alps rise to over 4,000 m/13,100 ft and are snow-covered throughout the year.

At lower levels in the Alpine valleys and on the central Swiss plateau, summers can be quite warm, but this is the wettest period of the year in Switzerland. Much of the summer rainfall is heavy and is often accompanied by severe thunderstorms.

Like other parts of west-central Europe, Switzerland is open to climatic influences from the Atlantic and from eastern Europe, and the weather at all times of the year is changeable.

The most settled weather occurs when the country is influenced by an anticyclone. In summer this brings warm, sunny weather, but in winter it may bring either cold, sunny weather or easterly winds with cloudy skies. Midwinter, rather than midsummer, is more likely to be a time of settled weather.

The country can be divided into four climatic regions: Canton Ticino or the extreme south, the Alps, the central or Swiss plateau, and the Jura Mountains.

Annual rainfall
Monthly average rainfall: January 64 mm (2.51 inches); April 64 mm (2.51 inches); July 74 mm (2.91 inches); October 86 mm (3.38 inches).





Overview of Higher Education

The system of higher education in Switzerland is made up primarily of traditional universities, which focus on teaching and basic research, and universities of applied sciences, which focus on applied research and development.

The twelve traditional universities include 10 cantonal (member state) universities and two federal institutes of technology. Five of the cantonal universities are German-speaking, three are French-speaking, and one is Italian-speaking. Only one such university is bilingual.

Seven of the universities of applied science are public, and one is private. These universities are an amalgamation of some 70 advanced technical schools that were brought together in the late 1990s.  The country has been bringing university curricula in line with the Bologna Process. Soon the traditional bachelor’s and master’s degrees will replace existing Swiss degrees.

In 2007 about 115,000 students were studying at the traditional universities, and about 65,000 were studying at the universities of applied sciences. About 23 percent were from other countries.

(Sources: BBC, Switzerland State Secretariat for Education and Research, Rectors’ Conference of the Swiss Universities)

Number of Colleges, Universities, Technical Institutes

Number of Colleges, Universities, and Technical Institutes (total): 96

Number of Higher Education Students

Number of students enrolled: 205,000

Number of international students enrolled: 28,016

Contact Information

State Secretariat for Education and Research (SER)

Hallwylstrasse 4, CH-3003 Bern

Web site: http://www.sbf.admin.ch/htm/index_en.php

Phone: +41 31 322 96 91

E-mail: info@sbf.admin.ch

Contact: Mauro Dell'Ambrogio, State Secretary for Education and Research