Responsibilities in the education system

Key terms: Public expenditure on education / Vocational and professional education in Switzerland / Governance of vocational and professional education and training / Coordination in the area of universities of teacher education / Coordination in the higher education sector

The responsibilities for regulation, financing, execution and supervision vary according to educational level and educational institution:

Primary level (incl. Kindergarten or first learning cycle) and lower-secondary

The Federal Constitution (articles 19 and 62) guarantees that the cantons provide for adequate compulsory education, which is available to all children, and which is free of charge at public schools. The cantons are responsible for regulation and supervision of compulsory education. The municipalities are providers of primary schools. Lower-secondary schools can also be run by the canton.

Upper-secondary education

Baccalaureate schools and upper-secondary specialised schools
The cantons are responsible for the Baccalaureate schools and upper-secondary specialised schools. They are providers of schools and are responsible for supervision and financing. The Confederation and the cantons are jointly responsible for Swiss-wide recognition of the Baccalaureate. Intercantonal regulations apply for the recognition of upper-secondary specialised schools and their qualifications.

Vocational education and training (VET)
Vocational and professional education and training (vocational education and training [VET], tertiary level B professional education and training [PET], and job-related continuing education and training [CET]) is within the regulatory capacity of the Confederation (Federal Constitution article 63). The Federal Vocational and Professional Education and Training Act defines vocational and professional education and training as the joint responsibility of the Confederation, the cantons and professional organisations. The cantons are responsible for the implementation of vocational education and training. They run educational institutions and are responsible for supervision and for most of the public financing. The Confederation is responsible for the strategic governance and development of vocational and professional education and training, and contributes to its financing. The professional organisations and companies perform important tasks in VET, and also contribute to the financing.

Tertiary level education

Tertiary professional education and training (PET) Tertiary PET education, as part of the professional education and training, falls under the Confederation’s responsibility of regulation. The Confederation, the cantons and professional organisations work together within the areas of their responsibilities. The cantons are responsible for implementation, run a multitude of educational institutions, and supervise the PET colleges. On the Confederation's approval, professional organisations regulate various aspects of the Federal PET Diploma Examinations and Advanced Federal PET Diploma Examinations. They can run PET colleges and offer preparatory courses for the Federal PET Diploma Examinations and Advanced Federal PET Diploma Examinations. The Confederation and the cantons contribute to the financing of tertiary level B PET. Most of the financing of the preparatory courses is covered by the students and by their employers.

Universities
According to the Federal Constitution (Art. 63a BV), the Confederation and the cantons are jointly responsible for ensuring the quality of higher education. Three enactments ensure implementation of this constitutional mandate:

  • The Federal Act on Funding and Coordination of the Swiss Higher Education Sector (Higher Education Funding and Coordination Act, HFKG)

  • The Intercantonal Agreement on the Swiss Higher Education Sector (Higher Education Concordat)

  • Cooperation Agreement between the Confederation and Cantons (ZSAV).

The entire higher education sector (universities, universities of applied sciences and universities of teacher education) is regulated under Federal law. The HFKG governs the coordination and promotion of higher education and regulates the goals and principles of the organisation and process of coordination. The Intercantonal Agreement regulates cooperation among the participating cantons and collaboration with the Confederation on coordination in the Swiss higher education sector. The Cooperation Agreement creates the following joint institutions: the Swiss University Conference, the Rectors' Conference and the Accreditation Council.

Every Federal and cantonal higher education institution and establishment has its own legal status through the respective supporting institution.

Continuing education and training (CET)

Continuing education and training is characterised by heterogeneity, e.g. regarding regulation, responsibility and financing. The Confederation and the cantons mainly perform a subsidiary role. They intervene in the areas of CET where it would not be possible to achieve the pursued objectives and intended effects without suitable regulation or supportive measures. Both the Confederation and the cantons regulate certain areas of CET.
In 2006, the revision of the education regulations in the Federal Constitution (article 64a) gave the Confederation the authority to lay down principles of CET in a law. The act implements the constitutional mandate on continuing education and training (CET), organises CET in the Swiss education area and lays down principles governing CET.
The organisation of continuing education and training is largely market-based. Private parties perform a key role, providing and financing continuing education and training.

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Last update of this page: 07.08.2017

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