Education – facts and figures

Switzerland invests 5.7% of GDP in education. The Swiss system is split into three parts: primary, secondary and tertiary. Compulsory education is usually completed after 9–10 years, after which 90% of young people continue into further education. At the tertiary level, on average Swiss universities perform very well in international university rankings.

Students in the library of the University of Bern.
Scene from a library at the University of Bern. In Switzerland, students usually attend university between the ages of 19 and 24. © FDFA

The vast majority of children complete their compulsory schooling (9–10 years) at their local public school. Compulsory education is provided at primary and lower-secondary level. For 90% of young people, this is followed by a two-year or three to four-year course of their choice, at upper-secondary level. This level includes basic vocational education and training (VET), otherwise known as an apprenticeship. After obtaining the relevant diploma, young adults can either enter the labour market, pursue higher-level vocational training or enter a university or other higher education institution. These various routes form the tertiary level.

  • In Switzerland, around 694,000 school-age children attend primary school each year, which begins with kindergarten or a first learning cycle. Around 261,000 young people attend the lower-secondary level, after which they have completed their compulsory schooling.
  • A further 363,000 continue into the upper-secondary level, of which about two-thirds opt for VET – an apprenticeship, while the remainder pursue the general academic route (baccalaureate school or upper-secondary specialised school).
  • Each year around 258,000 students enrol at a Swiss higher education institution: 61% at a university or federal institute of technology, 30% at a university of applied sciences and 8% at a university of teacher education.
  • The two federal institutes of technology – in Zurich (ETH Zurich) and Lausanne (EFPL) – are both ranked among the world's leading universities. Other Swiss universities are also ranked highly – some very highly – in international comparison.
  • Two out of three Swiss students attend one of the world's top 200 universities. This is an excellent result for Switzerland's universities internationally.
  • Currently 44% of people in Switzerland aged 25–64 have a tertiary level qualification (university or higher vocational education).
  • Since 1996, the proportion of university graduates has more than doubled.
  • The public sector in Switzerland spends around CHF 38 billion a year on education, which corresponds to 5.7% of GDP.
  • The productivity of VET students exceeds the annual costs of CHF 5 billion that companies spend on them.