The Swiss Vocational and Professional Education and Training (VPET) system offers various pathways for VET-Diploma holders to tertiary level education. Education and training options are clearly defined, qualification procedures are nationally recognised and there are no dead end qualifications. Because of this systemic permeability, VET-programmes are a solid foundation for life-long learning and support a sustainable professional career. Learners may switch from VET and/or PE pathways to general education and/or higher education pathways, if they match the level of academic or of practical skills required.
Federal Vocational Baccalaureate (FVB) and University Aptitude Test (UAT)
Learners enrolled in a 3-year or 4-year VET programme for the Federal VET Diploma can additionally prepare for the Federal Vocational Baccalaureate (FVB). This preparatory course covers general education subjects and those who pass the FVB examination may enrol in a University of Applied Sciences (UAS) without having to take an entrance examination. If FVB holders, however, pass an additional University Aptitude Test (UAT) (Passerelle), may enrol at a cantonal university or one of Switzerland’s two federal institutes of technology (FITs). Therefore the FVB assures true permeability from the VET/PE-sector to the Higher (university) Education sector.
Professional Education (tertiary level education)
Tertiary-level professional education (PE) builds up from upper-secondary level vocational education and training (VET). This enhances the overall appeal of VET programmes and the VPET system as a whole. Generally, several years of professional experience in the field are required in order to pursue a PE qualification. PE-programmes provide professionals with specific competences needed to handle challenging technical or managerial activities and provides the labour market with highly skilled workers. They matche the needs of the labour market, since PE-programmes are designed by the trade and industry associations combining theoretical learning with training practical skills relevant to a profession. PE-programmes are also very flexible. For example professionals can prepare for PE examinations individually on their own. Therefore some of the PE-programmes enable individuals particularly well to plan their own learning progress considering their very life circumstances, learning curves and employment situation. The PE sector offers the opportunity to acquire a tertiary-level qualification regardless of age. There are around 400 federal examinations for the Federal Diploma of Higher Education and Advanced Federal Diploma of Higher Education as well as 57 professional college degree programmes in 8 different professional fields. Examples of translated titles of protected PE qualifications are ‘Emergency Medical Technician, Federal Diploma of Higher Education’, ‘Expert in Operating Room Department, Advanced Federal Diploma of Higher Education’ and a degree from the professional college ‘Advanced Federal Diploma of Higher Education in Tourism Management’.
Higher Education Institutions (tertiary level education)
Higher education institutions in Switzerland refer to traditional Universities and two Federal Institutes of Technology (FITs) as well as to the Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS). They have different educational goals: The main task of the universities/FITs is to carry out basic research and teaching, while UASs place a greater emphasis on practically oriented studies and on applied research and development. Both types of institution have a dense network of education outlets in Switzerland, offering Swiss and non-Swiss students alike high quality tertiary education opportunities.