Switzerland’s education system is the best in the world

It’s no secret that Switzerland has an excellent education system as it is home to some of the world’s top-ranking universities. What’s surprising, is that this success is not entirely due to wealth or privilege, its high quality comes from the teaching methods.

Switzerland’s education system is ranked the best in the world according to the WEF World Competitiveness Reports, that assesses: “the general level of skills of the workforce and the quantity and quality of education… including: developing digital literacy, interpersonal skills, and the ability to think critically and creatively.”

In practice, the Swiss higher education system uses three essential learning techniques that, when combined, have proven effective to develop well-rounded, immediately employable graduates who have a high level of relevant professional skills, plus the soft skills to collaborate and advance in their careers.


Foundation: Professional Experience & Skills

The Swiss understand that to lead a successful career in any field, one must start with the basics. So, practical training and internships are the foundation of most Swiss degrees.  

Following this model, EHL’s Bachelor of Science in International Hospitality Management starts with what we call Preparatory Year, which includes:

  • Six months of practical classes in restaurants, kitchen, reception and housekeeping
  • 20 hands-on workshops that take students through all departments
  • Courses taught by seasoned industry professionals
  • Fine-dining service and culinary training in EHL’s Michelin-starred training restaurant Le Berceau des Sens
  • One, 6-month operational internship in Switzerland or abroad.

This foundation of deep professional immersion and premium hands-on training is what sets the stage for the next phase of learning to manage people and operations.


Core: Management Theory & Academic Rigor

The core of a Swiss bachelor degree is generally composed of three years of academic courses which build on the professional skills and knowledge gained in the first introductory year. For the hospitality management degree at EHL, this progression takes students up the ladder for a thorough overview of hotel and restaurant administration and management practices, which includes:

  • A broad overview of management practices, from marketing and finance to human resources, business ethics and law, etc.
  • Projects that apply the notions of management theory to real-world examples, such as case studies, competitions, and business challenges
  • Focus on developing research techniques, critical thinking and communication skills
  • A second 6-month internship in administration, to apply management techniques

These core years develop the student’s management knowledge and notions of academic rigor, preparing them to prove their skills in research and analytics with a thesis or group project in their final year.

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Culmination: Business Strategy & Entrepreneurship

The Swiss university method culminates in the final year where students must prove their understanding and their capacity to apply the knowledge they have gained. In EHL’s bachelor’s degree in hospitality, it looks like this:

  • A wide variety of industry-relevant electives, including subjects that apply to specific career paths and personal interests
  • Students choose an individual thesis project, or a Student Business Project, which is a student consulting mandate for a real company.
  • Career fairs, company presentations and personal career counselling or alumni mentoring
  • EHL’s Innovation Village and Hospitality Business Incubator offer resources to launch start-ups.

The Student Business Project and entrepreneurial focus of this final year gives students a chance to exercise their creative spirit by proposing innovative, applicable solutions for real-world business challenges, or gearing up to lead and launch their own business.  

A Swiss Approach to Master’s & MBA Programs

While the methods of hands-on practice, management theory and business application are most often associated with Swiss undergraduate programs, these elements are also a requirement for most Swiss graduate programs. However, the practical experience component is often a pre-requisite for admission to graduate programs in Switzerland, not a part of the program itself.

In Switzerland, many universities and higher education technical colleges offer different types of master’s and MBA degrees for students with different levels of experience and career objectives. At EHL, we have a variety of graduate programs for students in different phases of their career.


Switzerland Ranked Best in Education

Switzerland’s education system is ranked the best in the world according to the WEF World Competitiveness Reports that assesses “the general level of skills of the workforce and the quantity and quality of education… including: developing digital literacy, interpersonal skills, and the ability to think critically and creatively.”

This report replaces the World Economic Forum’s Global Human Capital Reports, which evaluates how well countries are developing their human capital, where Switzerland previously took the top spot for four years in a row.


Swiss Hospitality Schools Rank on Top

Switzerland was the birthplace of luxury hospitality and hotel management schools. Founded in 1893 - in Lausanne, Switzerland - EHL was the world’s first hotel school and it has pioneered the methods for Swiss hospitality education that have made Switzerland’s reputation in this field.

Switzerland’s reputation for hospitality management education has been confirmed in every hospitality school ranking study over the past decade, with Swiss schools ruling the top 10 results. In 2021, for example, the QS World University Rankings for Hospitality & Leisure Management featured 7 Swiss schools in the top ten places. 

FAQs About Swiss Higher Education

Ranking studies can be a useful tool for getting an idea of a school’s reputation. They are based on certain criteria and use various methods to create a result that compares schools between them and creates a hierarchy. While every ranking is different, they mostly rely on surveys sent to respondents in the industry and academic circles.

One of the most-cited ranking studies for hospitality schools today is the QS World University Rankings for Hospitality & Leisure Management and it offers a complete explanation of the ranking methodology. EHL (Ecole hotelière de Lausanne) consistently ranks among the top hospitality management schools in the world according to university ranking studies, such as the QS ranking, which ranks universities by subject (major) using four metrics:

  • Academic Reputation
  • Employer Reputation
  • Research Citations by Paper
  • H-Index

CEOWORLD also ranked EHL number one in 2020 and 2019. This ranking system evaluates schools based on seven metrics using data from from publicly available sources, as well as their own research, including surveys of graduates, recruiters, employers, and other industry professionals. Each metric is weighted by a percentage and the Overall Score (100%) is the sum of the following metrics:

  • Perceived Global Brands Influence (20%)
  • Recruiters Responses (20%)
  • Academic Reputation (20%)
  • Admission Eligibility (10%)
  • Specialization (10%)
  • Job Placement (10%)
  • Employers Feedback (10%)

While it may not seem important right away, accreditation is an essential quality to check on when you choose a university.  It determines if your degree will be recognized by institutions and governments after graduation, so you can access master’s programs and public sector employment.  It also determines whether you can transfer credits, should you decide to stop or switch programs during your studies.

Here is a standard definition of accreditation, and here are a few things to check on for a school:

  • Is it accredited by a federally recognized accrediting body? This primary accreditation ensures that the institution can deliver degrees that are recognized by the government associated with that accreditation.
  • Does it use degree-level accreditation? If an institute uses a third-party university to “award” their degrees, then you should check up on that university’s accreditation and status.
  • Does it claim other “recognitions”? Many universities feature the logos and names of organizations that they are associated with, or approved by, yet these are not academic accreditations. Institutions may pay for membership or recognition by some bodies.

EHL is one of only three Swiss hospitality schools to be accredited at university level by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) of the United States. And EHL is the only Swiss hospitality management school recognized as a Swiss University of Applied Science (UAS) by the HES-SO; therefore, EHL is authorized to offer official Swiss degree programs which comply with the Bologna requirements (notably the European Credit Transfer System - ECTS).

The length of a degree is related to the number of credit hours or contact hours it contains and the number of courses that students are allowed/required to take per semester. Therefore, a shorter degree will usually have less credit hours and less courses than a longer one.

EHL’s bachelor’s degree (academic pathway) takes 4 years to complete, including the two, 6-month internships and six months of practical learning on campus, because the EHL degree complies with the Swiss university degree standards. Swiss degrees require students to complete a preparatory year of professionally focused practical education before entering the official three-year degree program for the Bachelor of Science in International Hospitality Management.  Additionally, the EHL degree meets the requirements for ECTS bachelor’s degree credits (180 ECTS).

Private institutions in Switzerland are not yet regulated to comply with Swiss university admissions standards, so each institution can set its admissions criteria based on its accreditation and academic standards.

At EHL, the admissions standards comply with Swiss university requirements and guarantee that all the students on a program of study have the necessary academic level and English skills to be successful in a university-level program and contribute to the quality of the classroom experience. Clearly, the English requirements determine how well students on the program communicate in English, which influences the classroom discussions and group work projects.

This is where you must do your homework and crunch some numbers if you want to be sure about what the whole program is going to cost you. Every Swiss university has a different way of presenting its fees, but you should be able to easily identify the following categories of fees:

  • Tuition fees and/or academic fees
  • Other compulsory fees (administrative)
  • Food & beverage
  • Accommodation
  • Health insurance (mandatory in Switzerland)

When it comes to the meals and accommodation, make sure you find out if living on campus is optional, what semesters you will be living there, how much it costs in total, if there are any days when food is not offered on campus, or if you have somewhere to cook, should you wish to.

Some other costs that you probably need to cover include laundry, parking, dry-cleaning, sports activities and clubs, excursions, etc.

For-profit schools are private schools, not public Swiss schools or universities. According to the Swiss Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research: “There is no Swiss-wide system governed by public law to check the professionalism and quality of private education providers.”  So, you need to do your own investigation into the quality of the education provided by for-profit schools. 

EHL is a not-for-profit institution; it is a part of the EHL Group, owned by the EHL Foundation, which ensures that the primary focus remains the development of high-quality education for our students. In contrast, private, for-profit schools usually have a primary focus to maintain profitability, which may, or may not be aligned with a high quality of education for the students.