Institutional Accreditation

In Switzerland, since the introduction of the Law on the Promotion and Coordination of Universities (LEHE) in 2015, all universities, whether public or private, must undergo institutional accreditation to retain or obtain the right to call themselves "university", "university of applied sciences" or "university of teacher education". Institutional accreditation is also a condition that universities must meet in order to receive federal funding. This accreditation relates to the quality assurance system and is carried out every seven years. It entitles these institutions to receive federal subsidies.

Quality in the Swiss university system


The Institute, like all Swiss universities under public or private law, must regularly have its quality assurance system evaluated. Since the entry into force of the LEHE in 2015, this is done within the framework of institutional accreditation.

The accreditation concerns the internal quality assurance system of the university and not the institution itself. This accreditation will make it possible to verify that the university has put in place quality mechanisms to guarantee the quality of its teaching, research and services and that these constitute a coherent quality assurance system integrated into the governance of the institution. To this end, the university must comply with 18 quality standards, which are described in Annex 1 of the LEHE Accreditation Ordinance.

These standards are divided into the following five areas:

  1.     Quality assurance strategy
  2.     Governance
  3.     Teaching, research and services
  4.     Resources
  5.     Internal and external communication

These standards are based on European standards, in particular the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG), which are derived from the Bologna Process. The Swiss quality standards have been designed in such a way that each type of institution can take into account its specificities and autonomy.

Modalities of institutional accreditation

The Swiss Agency for Accreditation and Quality Assurance (AAQ), as well as any other foreign agency recognized by the Swiss Accreditation Council, is authorised to carry out institutional accreditation procedures in Switzerland in accordance with the LEHE . The Swiss Accreditation Council is the decision-making body. It awards a quality label to the accredited university, which is renewable every seven years.


Procedure for institutional accreditation

Accreditation of the quality assurance systems of Swiss universities is a five-stage process:

  • The university submits an application to the Swiss Accreditation Council for accreditation.
  • If the application is successful, the university prepares a self-evaluation report describing its quality assurance system and showing how it meets the 18 quality standards of the HESA. An assessment is made of the strengths and areas for improvement, which leads to an action plan setting out the objectives for the development of the quality assurance system in the coming years.
  • A group of independent international experts read the self-evaluation report and visit the institution. During the visit, they meet with :
    • persons responsible for the main sectors of the institution: members of the management, representatives of the departments and services, etc.
    • representatives of the various bodies of the University.

Following the on-site visit, experts prepare a report in which they analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the quality assurance system, and propose recommendations for improvement. These recommendations are based on an overall assessment of the quality assurance system, according to the quality standards of the LEHE.

On the basis of the experts' report, the accreditation agency makes a proposal for accreditation to the Swiss Accreditation Council. The experts' report and the accreditation proposal are then submitted to the university for comment. These documents are finalised, taking into account the university's position. The agency submits its accreditation proposal and all documents produced in the process to the Swiss Accreditation Council for a decision. The Council may grant unconditional accreditation, accreditation with conditions, or refuse accreditation.

The Swiss Accreditation Council publishes accreditation decisions with the consent of the university in question. For more information, the AAQ has published a guide describing the procedure in detail.