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Reform demands College students turn to foreign universities for doctorate titles

In Switzerland, only the top universities are clever enough to confer doctorates


Swiss higher education colleges are turning to foreign universities to help their students obtain doctorates, according to the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper. In Switzerland, only a few universities are allowed to confer doctorates – a practice that some complain is out of date.

This means that technical colleges must team up with universities to allow students to achieve this recognition of educational attainment.

Writing in the Horizons magazineexternal link of the Swiss National Science Foundation, Claire Gervais, a professor at the Bern University of Applied Sciences, labelled the system as “dishonest”. She complained that many professors at universities only pay lip service to college students that are sent to them. In short, the collaboration is little more than an administrative farce in some cases.

Countering her argument was Christoph Eymann, a member of parliament and former director of education. He argued that the colleges require people who have undergone vocational training. 

"In their programmes for prospective students, the [colleges] place their emphasis on practical applications, not exclusively on a general education as is the case at traditional universities. The legislators believed – and still believe – that the task of these [schools] is to consolidate professional knowledge and skills."

Swiss system bypassed

To meet the growing demand from students for doctorate titles, Swiss technical colleges also team up with foreign universities, thus bypassing the Swiss system. 

The NZZ am Sonntag reports that more than half of the newly minted professors at Swiss technical colleges have completed part of their course abroad. These can be as far flung as Bulgaria, Cameroon, Algeria and Hungary.

The Swiss higher education body swissuniversitiesexternal link wants to formalise the cooperation between technical colleges and universities in Switzerland with a clearer concept of working conditions and to ensure quality of education, NZZ am Sonntag reports.

Technical colleges were created in Switzerland in the late 1990s to complement the existing university network. Enrolment has increased from 25,000 students to around 75,000 this year. Student numbers at Switzerland’s premier universities - the two Federal Institutes of Technology, in Zurich and Lausanne – has increased from 100,000 to around 150,000 in the same period.

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