In Switzerland, 10 universities, 2 federal institutes of technology (Lausanne-EPFL and Zurich-EPFZ) and 7 universities of applied sciences and arts (HES) are organized as a network (HES-SO for western Switzerland). These HES provide a university-level education focused on practice in the fields of technology, administration, agronomy, the applied arts, health, social affairs and education.

The 5 universities in French-speaking Switzerland and Ticino (Geneva, Lausanne, Fribourg, Neuchâtel and Lugano) receive students from very diverse backgrounds, giving a multicultural dimension to their courses.

2010 figures :

  • Geneva welcomed 16’530 students, 61% of whom were women, in 9 faculties: Sciences, Medicine, Humanities, Social Sciences,n Economics and Management, Law, Theology,  FAPSE ( Psychology, Educational Sciences and the School of Translation & Interpreting).
  • Lausanne took in 14’468 students, 54% of whom were women, in 8 faculties: Geosciences & Environment, Biology & Medicine, Sciences, Business & Economics, Social & Political Sciences, Arts, Law, Criminal Sciences & Public Administration, Theology & Sciences of Religions.
  • Fribourg hosted: 10’436 students, 59.37% of whom were women, in 5 faculties: Theology, Law, Economics & Social Sciences, Humanities, Science. The University of Fribourg is among the few European bilingual (French-German).
  • Neuchâtel welcomed 4’284 students, 59.9% of whom were women, in 4 faculties: Humanities, Science, Law and Economics & Business.
  • The University of Italian-speaking Switzerland hosted 2,822 students, 48.36% of whom were women, in 5 faculties: Architecture, Communication Sciences, Economics and Informatics and Medicine.

Universities have developed on a decentralized mode. The actual management of these institutions is within the authorities of the local canton. Althought federalism grants theme with a certain autonomy on academic, financial and organizational level, the Swiss Confederation still plays a important role through the funding granted to these institutions.


The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF), a foundation under swiss private law, is the main institution promoting scientific research in Switzerland. National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCRs) were established as areas of strategic importance to strengthe Swiss research. Six NCCR are currently operational in French-speaking Switzerland. NCCRs are characterized by three main aspects: internationally-recognized scientific excellence, special efforts made to transfer knowledge & technology and an emphasis on the training and advancement of women.

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