Switzerland is one of the countries which devote the largest proportion of their per capita GDP to education. This investment has borne fruit, with its primary education system ranking among the top five in the world in the Global Competitiveness Index for a number of years now. The country has 10 universities, two écoles polytechniques fédérales, and seven specialized institutes of higher education.
Education & Research
Switzerland is also towards the top of the rankings for the proportion of GDP devoted to research and development (almost 3%, or 16 billion francs each year). The private sector, and in particular the pharmaceutical and mechanical construction industries, make up some three-quarters of this spending. The Swiss Confederation also invests primarily in fundamental research. Combined, this clearly makes for a winning formula since Switzerland’s impact factor in terms of scientific publications –i.e., the frequency with which its articles are re-printed in other journals – is the second highest in the world after the USA. Switzerland is also level with Norway in terms of the number of Nobel Prizes per capita.
International ranking of Switzerland in terms of education
Quality of primary education: 2nd out of 137
Quality of teaching of math and sciences: 3rd out of 137
Quality of management studies: 1st out of 137
Local availability of specialized education services: 1st out of 137
Vaud occupies a crucial position in the country in terms of education. It is the only canton, along with Zurich, to have a university, an école polytechnique fédérale, and various institutes of higher education. Its two écoles polytechniques also figure among the top 100 universities in the world according to the famous Shanghai ranking, in which the EPFL made incredible progress in the 2016–2017 academic year, leaping up 16 places.
The excellence of the Ecole polytechnique fédérale in Lausanne is regularly illustrated in international rankings, and even more so by what it actually produces. It oversees the Human Brain Project, whose research involves leading scientists from over 100 European universities and research centers, while one of its spin-offs, called MindMaze, became the country’s first ever "unicorn" (a start-up that has gone on to be worth at least a billion US dollars) in 2016. The EPFL also houses the Swiss center of competency for fundamental and applied research into robotics, the brand-new Trust Center for cybersecurity, and the Swiss Data Science Center run jointly with the ETH Zurich.
The UNIL meanwhile has seen a number of its researchers win the Nobel Prize, the most recent being Jacques Dubochet in December 2017 for his cutting-edge and highly promising chemistry research. The Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Lausanne regularly has its MBA programs ranked among the best in the world, while the Ecole hôtelière in Lausanne is an international benchmark in hospitality.
The specialized institutes of higher education spread across the canton also make a contribution to its excellence in education. They include the School of Management and Engineering Vaud and the Joux Valley School of Technology, which teaches the age-old skill of watch manufacture. The density of research institutes in the canton and the region provides access to a pool of talents that is unparalleled in terms of the cross-disciplinary nature of the institutes and the skills they are home to.
Lastly, there is the Institut du Rosey, which is one of the most prestigious private schools in the world and which has been educating royalty from around the globe for over a century. There is also the Ecole Surval and the Institut Monte Rosa in Montreux, and the Collège Champittet in Pully, with around 60 private schools in total which provide excellence in education with advanced programs not only in English and German but also in Mandarin and Russian.