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Validity of degrees issued by private institutions in Switzerland

Office circular (abstract)

  1. Private institutions were created mainly for the purpose of servicing international students and are not part of Switzerland's public higher education sector.

  2. As a general rule, in Switzerland no prior authorisation is required in order to offer higher education courses, organise examinations or issue private degrees. 

  3. Private institutions that are not part of Switzerland's public higher education sector, are not compatible with it, or are not entirely supervised by public authorities offer a different, but not necessarily lower, level of quality. There are several prestigious private institutions that are entirely independent from Switzerland's public higher education sector

  4. For unregulated professions (e.g. managers, journalists, etc.), it is up to employers to decide whether to “recognise” the value of a degree; however, these degrees have more weight if they obtain accreditation or certification of quality issued by generally recognised private bodies

  5. Private institutions based in Switzerland that are not accredited as HEIs by the Swiss University Conference (SUK) may only issue private degrees. Such degrees:

  • may be used by the holder to carry out an unregulated profession; appreciation of the value of private degrees is left up to employers.


Generally speaking, there are no international agreements protecting the value of private degrees; in all cases, it is up to the national authorities in the host country to decide whether to recognise foreign qualifications.

Private institutions are able to legitimately carry out their activities in Switzerland by virtue of the principle of economic freedom.

September 2010                                                                  

State Secretariat for Education and Research SERI


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