Property buying guide for Switzerland
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Education in Switzerland

Switzerland is popular with international students due to high living and excellent education standards. Public education is free and standards are established by each canton, meaning that each region has its own academic programme and chosen language of instruction. In addition to English as a foreign language, all children study one other language of Switzerland which is not official in their native canton (e.g., German, French or Italian). This is why most local students are fluent in two or three European languages.

Primary and secondary education

The primary and secondary education in Switzerland is divided into three levels:

  • kindergarten (not compulsory everywhere). In "German" cantons, it is obligatory to attend kindergarten for one year.
  • primary school (Primarstufe)
  • secondary school:
    • lower secondary level (Sekundarstufe)
    • upper secondary level: baccalaureate schools (Gymnasiale Maturitätsschulen), specialised baccalaureate programmes (Fachmaturitätsausbildung) or vocational baccalaureate programmes with an apprenticeship (Lehrbegleitende Berufsmaturitätsausbildung)

Primary and secondary education is compulsory and children attend public schools for 11 years. However, the duration of each stages varies depending on the canton. For instance, the lower secondary level studies usually last three years, but in the Italian Swiss town Ticino, it’s four years long.

Only 5% of children attend private schools, which follow a British or American curriculum. The world's most expensive boarding school Institut Le Rosey, attended by many royal families, is located in Switzerland’s canton of Vaud. It has a specific quota: no more than 10% of students of the same nationality. Tuitions fees are €72,000–95,000 per year and even higher for upper secondary school.

Upon completing upper secondary education, most Swiss students (66%) enter vocational education and training (Berufliche Zweitausbildung) or go on to study in baccalaureate schools for adults (Maturitätsschule für Erwachsene), which include an internship in a company, thus facilitating employment.

Higher education

Swiss universities are extremely popular with international students and over 20% of students are foreign citizens according to UNICEF.

Top Swiss universities (2015–2016)

Original name English name
Eidgenössische Technische
Hochschule Zürich (ETH)
Swiss Federal Institute of
Technology Zurich
École Polytechnique Fédérale
de Lausanne (EPFL)
Swiss Federal Institute of
Technology in Lausanne
Universität Zürich University of Zurich
Université de Genève University of Geneva
Universität Basel University of Basel
Université de Lausanne University of Lausanne
Universität Bern University of Bern
Universität St. Gallen The University of St. Gallen (HSG)
Source: QS World University Rankings

Documents required:

Application requirements in different cantons and universities vary. Most often the applicants take tests in language and the main subjects.

  • completed application form (via university website)
  • two photos
  • passport and residency permit copy (if applicable)
  • transcripts from secondary school
  • secondary education certificate
  • language proficiency certificate

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    Property buying guide for Switzerland
    Article 6 of 7
    Tranio’s managers offer advice on buying real estate in Switzerland
    Anna Boyarchukova
    Anna Boyarchukova
    Head of Residential Department
    +44 17 4822 0039
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