Good opportunities for young Swiss Abroad

Ruth von Gunten, head of the advisory service for education and training in Switzerland

Switzerland’s dual education system is often held up as a successful export. The USA, for example, is showing great interest in application-oriented vocational training with freedom to choose paths. Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann revealed this in January after a visit to Washington. Training in a company offering apprenticeships is also often an extremely attractive and worthwhile alternative to university courses for the Swiss Abroad, according to Ruth von Gunten, the head of the “educationsuisse - Education in Switzerland” advisory service.

How many enquiries concerning advice on education do you receive each year from young Swiss Abroad?

We receive around a thousand each year. The enquiries do not just come from young people but often also from parents or relatives in Switzerland. They tend to come from two different groups of people. There are those who have very general questions about education and training in Switzerland. They are usually young people who do not yet have any specific ideas about their choice of career and objectives. And then there are those, who make up around half, who have already chosen a course and now require support with the organisational side of things in Switzerland. These enquiries often concern admission conditions and the grant system. 

What are the most common career aspirations of the young Swiss Abroad?

We have noticed that most still believe they need to study at university to obtain a good education. While many Swiss Abroad are familiar with the Swiss system of vocational training, few are aware that the opportunity exists to sit a vocational university-entrance exam and to study at a university of applied sciences. 

Are there specific requirements that are the same for all paths or careers?

The most important requirement for any path is a good knowledge of a national language. Anyone wishing to study in Lausanne, for example, has little chance without an in-depth knowledge of French. There are still only a very small number of courses conducted in English at universities in Switzerland. The same applies to vocational training. Linguistic knowledge is essential, otherwise a trainee will not cope at vocational college.   

Can you provide any details of the cost of an education?

Fees for university courses are comparatively low in Switzerland. Living costs, however, tend to be high. Depending on the place of study, we estimate costs of between CHF 18,000 and CHF 28,000 a year. Slightly lower costs are incurred for parents during vocational training as the trainees receive a small wage from the first year of apprenticeship. 

Do young Swiss Abroad remain in Switzerland or return to their country of origin after completing their education?

We do not have any exact information on that but we do know that many gain their first professional experience in Switzerland after an apprenticeship or course of study. Those who return to their second homeland with the “complete package” certainly have good opportunities available to them and are often also good intermediaries between different cultures. They also make a major contribution to economic development in many countries.

Interview: Barbara Engel

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