Mar 052015
“Yes, but…,” is the answer to this often asked question. Swiss universities all have formal recognition policies for the International Baccalaureate Diploma but those policies only recognize a subset of IB courses, require certain courses taken at higher level, and state a minimum number of total points (before bonus points) that the student must attain. IB students considering Swiss universities need to plan their IB course selection with the Swiss requirements in mind, and have a plan B and plan C if it doesn’t work out. The price of Swiss universities is nearly impossible to beat for the quality of the education but attaining a Swiss university diploma is a challenging process.

Eligible IB Courses

To make understanding the IB requirements more challenging, there are differences between the IB requirements noted on the official Swiss Universities website and the admissions requirements stated on specific university websites such as this one for EPFL. Always, always check with the website of any university you are considering for their latest information.
In general, the following subjects are recognized though some universities accept other courses too:
  • All languages
  • Economics
  • Business and management
  • Geography
  • History
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Mathematics standard or higher level
EPFL and ETHZ have similar course requirements that are more stringent than those of the other Swiss universities. The two technical universities expect the following courses at higher level:
  • Mathematics,
  • Either physics or chemistry
  • One modern language.
The other ten Swiss universities just require that one of the three HL subjects is either mathematics or a natural science.

Minimum IB Points

The Swiss technical universities require a minimum of 38 (out of 42 points) not counting bonus points while the other universities require 32 (out of 42 points) not counting bonus points. Note that although Swiss universities do not count the bonus points, they do require the full IB diploma. Most application deadlines are prior to the availability of IB exam results and decisions are available after the results.

For students with a minimum of 32 (out of 42 points) not counting bonus points, EPFL offers the CMS, or Special Mathematics Course. Students who take this preparatory year program and pass the exams at the end of the year can then continue in any of EPFL’s bachelor programs. This well-regarded program might also serve as an excellent transition year for students coming from an IB program into the Swiss system, especially for those also transitioning in the language of instruction.

This helpful document from the University of St. Gallen makes the general Swiss requirements more understandable and concrete. It lists specific combinations of  IB courses at higher and standard level along with total points achieved, and then indicates which meet their admissions criteria versus those that do not. Counselors who work with IB students applying to Swiss universities indicate there are few exceptions made to the IB requirements but with a small amount of flexibility for Swiss citizens.

Language Requirements

The last requirement is language proficiency for students whose mother tongue is not the university’s language of instruction or who were not educated in that language. It may be necessary to provide a certificate demonstrating B2 to C1 level language proficiency or pass a language test.

Don’t Forget Plan B and Plan C

Given the high IB marks required for admission to Swiss universities, students should always have a plan B, which might mean going to university outside of Switzerland. Once a student starts at a Swiss university, it is also best to consider a plan C since a significant percentage of students don’t pass the first year. Using EPFL as an example again, only about half of students complete the first year. Students are typically allowed to retake the first year once but others move on to other universities or look for other possibilities.

Disclaimer: This article attempts to provide an accurate summary of the IB recognition policies of Swiss universities but no responsibility is assumed for inaccurate information. Always, always check with the website of any university you are considering for their latest information or directly with their admissions office if there are any discrepancies.

  4 Responses to “Do Swiss Universities Accept the IB Diploma?”

  1. […] university. This is as true for students who barely pass as it is for students who have top marks. Swiss universities require the full IB diploma, specific IB courses, marks that are well above average, and sometimes an […]

  2. […] an International Baccalaureate diploma and is considering attending a Swiss university, investigate the prescribed set of IB courses a student must have well before the final two years. EPFL requires Higher Level (HL) in […]

  3. As IB Maths tutor I think IB diploma course should be recognized in all universities over world as its blend of unique concepts and courses.

  4. […] Swiss universities accept the IB diploma if the student has chosen from a prescribed set of subjects and achieves certain marks. For example, no matter what course you choose to study, Math Studies is not accepted by Swiss universities, and the same is true in Germany. […]

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