Professional Bachelor and Professional Master – It’s high time for Switzerland!
Diplomas for professionals are long overdue and Switzerland is now getting the new titles
Swiss professionals are frontrunners when it comes to continuing professional development. Additional federal diplomas in various disciplines are diligently acquired at higher technical colleges. The dual education system is successful and unique worldwide. In addition, the level of continuing education is high. Will this soon be rewarded with well-deserved titles such as “Professional Bachelor” and “Professional Master”?
The pressure from practice and politics became enormous – finally the “Bachelor” and “Master” are to be introduced for professionals. After years of demands from professional associations, the Swiss State Secretariat for Education is now proposing the titles “Professional Bachelor” and “Professional Master”. It does justice to the upgrading that those professionals who have furthered their education at a high level deserve.
Swiss professionals are currently still at a disadvantage compared to their foreign competitors because they do not receive a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree if they have continued their education after completing their apprenticeship. This is not only unfair, but also demotivating. For the time being, the last attempt to introduce these titles failed in the spring session in the Council of States.
It’s only a matter of time before patience runs out…
That was too much for the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). They want to push for the introduction of the long overdue titles “Professional Bachelor” and “Professional Master”. And this for those who have passed a federal professional examination or higher professional examination. SERI is also under pressure, as initial attempts to introduce a title such as “Advanced Federal Diploma of Higher Education” have not been successful.
In the meantime, a first professional association has lost patience and acted “on its own authority”. The VEB (veb.ch) has over 9,000 members throughout Switzerland. These include, in particular, experts in accounting and controlling as well as holders of the specialist certificate in finance and accounting. In Switzerland, they are among the federally certified specialists for all accounting issues at all company levels. In addition, proven accounting specialists with other training can also join the association. At the 2023 General Assembly, it was enthusiastically decided to introduce the Federal Professional Certificate as “Bachelor Professional veb.ch in Accounting®” and the Federal Diploma as “Master Professional veb.ch in Accounting®”. These titles are already in use in Germany, which prompted veb.ch to adopt the spelling there. Since 1 July 2023, veb.ch members can acquire the certificates with the titles mentioned.
A precedent as an impulse for other associations
For continuing education providers, this proactive advance by the VEB is an interesting development and will be seen as a precedent that will also give other professional associations an impetus to follow suit if there is no solution at the federal level in the near future.
Opinions are clearly divided on this: For example, some of the best-known headmasters and headmistresses of higher technical colleges and leading continuing education providers think that “this is good news and the impulse will have an effect. Because they will benefit from the additional titles”. And: The internationally understandable titles were long overdue anyway. Switzerland should have followed suit at the latest when Germany and Austria introduced them. Anyone who wants to work abroad or in a company with international management is clearly at a disadvantage today. Regarding the veb.ch’s rush ahead, many say that this was to be expected, since especially professionals in the financial world often move in an international environment. One can assume that other associations will follow suit if a solution is not found soon at the federal level.
The effort must be rewarded
I also share this attitude. After all, the contents of a degree programme in a certain field are usually comparable – regardless of whether I study business administration at a university or a college of higher education, for example: business administration remains business administration. As a rule, only the path to study or the relationship between theory and practice differs. The remarkable achievement of students at a higher technical college who obtain a highly practice-oriented federal degree or professional certificate in their professional field or sector must therefore also be acknowledged. The effort for the students, who usually study part-time, is enormous and so is the acquired professional knowledge. In addition, the students acquire considerable networking skills and deserve the title. Full stop.
And what follows now? The complementary titles will increase the visibility and acceptance of PET degrees and also act as a positive signal for further education.
Unique and successful education system
The title is well deserved. The Federal PET Diploma and Federal PET Diploma have a key function in Switzerland because of the education system. The proportion of the working population who have graduated from a university or higher vocational education has risen from 22 to 35 per cent in the last 15 years. This puts Switzerland at the top of the European league table. However, the Swiss education system is complex and sometimes difficult for outsiders to understand. At the tertiary level of education, for example, there are both universities of applied sciences (UAS) and universities of applied sciences (UAS). While the former are classified as higher education institutions and are institutionally recognised, the UAS are part of higher vocational education and training. Although they lead to federally recognised and protected titles, they still have a more difficult standing both in Switzerland itself and internationally.
According to forecasts by the Federal Statistical Office, over half of the working population should have a tertiary qualification – university or higher vocational education – from 2025. By 2045, the proportion could rise to 60 percent. In particular, federal certificates, federal diplomas and HF training courses are becoming increasingly popular. Almost half of the first degrees at the tertiary level in Switzerland are now obtained within the framework of higher vocational education and training, i.e. with the award of a “Federal Certificate of Higher Education”, a “Federal Diploma” or a “Federal Diploma of Higher Education”. No wonder, because trendy jobs such as “Trainer with Federal Certificate”, “Company Mentor with Federal Diploma”, etc., are also becoming more popular. Mentor with Federal Diploma”, “HR Specialist with Federal Diploma” or “Graduate Technician HF” will be more in demand than ever in the future. In addition, those who take a federal professional examination or higher professional examination will have their training costs subsidised by up to 50 per cent.
Key function for practice-oriented continuing vocational education and training
In innovation-rich Switzerland, providers of preparatory courses for professional examinations, higher professional examinations and higher professional schools prepare students for their future tasks. Companies today want practitioners, so training courses are based primarily on professional experience. You specialise and deepen your specialist knowledge. In addition to the universities, providers of preparatory courses for vocational examinations, higher professional examinations and colleges of further education and training also need to score points with commitment, initiative and innovation and to teach in a practice-oriented manner, confirm SERI’s leading experts on quality management at colleges of further education and training: Activity-based teaching is not only in vogue, but is also required. Technical teaching is the basis, but the practical relevance must clearly be there. The providers of preparatory courses for vocational examinations, higher vocational examinations and higher vocational schools do an exemplary job in this respect.