The Swiss Vocational and Professional Education and Training (VPET) system offers advancement routes for VET graduates to tertiary level. It is based on clearly defined education and training options as well as on national qualification procedures. Typically, vocational education and training (VET) and professional education (PE) are very flexible.

Learners may pursue more advanced education and training opportunities, switch from VET and/or PE pathways to general education and/or higher education pathways and later change the course of their working lives with relative ease. The VPET system allows its apprentices and qualified professionals alike to incrementally bring practice and theory into dialogue. The early acquired practical work experience is a great asset to a successful and lifelong career.

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 prepare for the 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. FVB holders who pass the UAT may enrol at a cantonal university or one of Switzerland’s two federal institutes of technology (FITs).

Professional Education (tertiary level education)

Tertiary-level professional education (PE) builds up from upper-secondary level vocational education and training (VET). It provides professionals with specific competences and prepares them for highly technical and managerial positions. 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’. The Swiss PE sector enables a wide range of individuals to obtain exactly the type of tertiary-level education and training needed on the labour market. One of the key features of PE is that it is closely correlated with the needs of the labour market and the approach to learning, which combines theory with the practical realities of the profession. The PE sector enables individuals to plan their own learning progress on the basis of their individual life circumstances, learning curves and employment situation. It offers them the opportunity to acquire a tertiary-level qualification regardless of age. Generally, several years of professional experience in the field are required in order to pursue a PE qualification. The PE sector offers holders of VET qualifications the opportunity to take their education and training to a higher level. This enhances the overall appeal of VET programmes and the VPET system as a whole. Owners of higher education qualifications also use PE examinations, particularly the Advanced Federal PE Examination, as a means of acquiring additional competencies for the labour market.

Higher Education Institutions (tertiary level education)

Higher education institutions can be separated into two types having the same status, but with different educational goals: traditional Universities / Federal Institutes of Technology (FITs) and the Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS). 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.

Continuing education and training (informal and non-formal education)

Non-formal and informal Continuing education and training (CET) options are available at all levels. CET certificates and diplomas are not federally recognized and do not form part of the formal qualifications. Professional organisations may offer CET courses to obtain non-formal qualifications in order to support their professionals gain knowledge and experience before obtaining a (Advanced) Federal Diploma of Higher Education. There are also private providers that offer a broad range of CET courses.

The Swiss Federation for Adult Learning SVEB is the national umbrella organisation for adult education and operates as a professional association and pressure group. They are represented through offices in all three language regions. In addition, they also manage the Training for Trainers, eduQua and ModuQua offices responsible for quality assurance of programmes and modules, which are also represented in the different language regions. EduQua is the first Swiss quality label geared towards adult continuing education, and ModuQua is an association concerned with the quality-driven development of a modular system for adult continuing education. The 680 SVEB members represent pri-vate and state institutions for adult education, associations, in-house training departments and individuals. SVEB is financed by membership fees, state subsidies, national and European project activities and the sale of services, products and publications.