Exactly how you read it. I am a PhD student at two different universities, simultaneously: the University of Zurich and the Zurich University of Teacher Education.

If you have never heard about anything like this it may sound somehow strange (at least this is how it sounded to me the first time I came across this idea). You may even be thinking: “Isn’t it complicated enough to get into just one university? Why did you bother to be in two?”.

Well, the quick answer to the last question is: because I had to.

However, I suppose that if you are here is because you want to know more, and don’t have enough with an empty answer. This is why I have decided to explain it in a series of 2 short posts in which I will talk about:

  1. The Swiss university system
  2. My personal situation

Let’s begin with the first part!

The Swiss university system

Types of universities

To understand how the university system works in Switzerland, we need to talk first about the different universities. Concretely, there are three types of universities 1,2:

  • Universities (including the Federal Institutes of Technology) 🎓
  • Universities of Applied Sciences and Arts 🛠
  • Universities of Teacher Education 🏫

The “traditional” Universities include research, theory, and practice. There are 10 cantonal universities, like the University of Zurich, or the University of Bern, and two institutes of technology, which are the EPFL, and the ETH (which, by the way, is in the top 10 universities in the world3).

The Universities of Applied Sciences and Arts, as their own name indicates, have a more practical focus and are closer to the labor market. There are 9 universities of this type.

Finally, the Universities of Teacher Education, offer education and training oriented solely towards becoming a teacher, also in a very practical way. There are 20 Universities of Teacher Education around Switzerland.

Doing a doctorate

When looking at the differences from the point of view of doing a doctorate, the most important thing to mention is that the Universities of Applied Sciences and Arts, and the Universities of Teacher Education do not have the right to award doctorates, only the “traditional” Universities do.

The Universities of Teacher Education do not have the right to award doctorates.

In Europe, this system of universities is also present in Germany and Austria, neighboring countries to Switzerland. However, while the same rules apply to Austria, the German Universities of Teacher Education have the right to award doctorates. There is an outstanding debate about whether this should also be the case in Switzerland, but this is a topic I am not going to get into.

Therefore, if a person wants to do a doctorate at a University of Teacher Education, or Applied Sciences and Arts, three aspects must be provided:

  • having a supervisor at the University of Teacher Education, or Applied Sciences and Arts
  • having a supervisor and enrolling in a Doctoral program at a “traditional” University
  • having a doctoral agreement between the two universities.

As you see, the process is more complex than just applying to a “traditional” University, which would involve just the second aspect.

I believe this is enough information to have a general overview of how the Swiss university system works in regards to doing a doctorate. In the next post, I will talk about my personal situation, looking into how I got my position at the University of Teacher Education and how I made the connection between this university and the University of Zurich.

Thank you very much for reading, I hope you found this post useful! If you have any questions or comments, you can let me know in the section below. Have a nice day! 😊


1 University Types. (n.d.). Study in Switzerland+. Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://www.studyinswitzerland.plus/university-types/

2 CSFO, S. |. (n.d.). 3 Hochschultypen: FH, PH, UH. Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://www.berufsberatung.ch/SharerWeb/Index?id=L2R5bi9zaG93LzQ1NzY%3D

3 Top 10 in the world for 8 years. (n.d.). Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://ethz.ch/en/news-and-events/eth-news/news/2021/06/top-ten-in-the-world-for-eight-years.html

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1 Comment

Rosa · 29/04/2022 at 13:48

Thank you very much for this very useful information. And congratulations for your achievements! You make it sound easy but surely it’s been blood, sweat and tears to get there.

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