Switzerland: leading the world in hospitality education

Overseas-education | 13 Jan 2021

Boasting stunning natural scenery, Switzerland is not only renowned as a tourist hotspot, but also a widely-recognized country for obtaining world-class hospitality education.    

When contemplating studying abroad in Europe, most Hong Kong parents and students would go auto-pilot and look to the United Kingdom. What they may not be aware of is the fact that, when it comes to education in the hospitality industry, Switzerland has been offering top-notch programs for over 100 years.

Known as ‘the home of hospitality’, Switzerland inaugurated the world’s first hotel school in the late 19th century. Today, it is home to four of the top five institutions for hospitality and leisure management education as listed in the 2020 QS World University Rankings.

The use of English as the medium of instruction in most Swiss hotel schools means there is no language barrier, and has attracted flocks of international students, including about 70 Hong Kong students last year.

Ho Pui-yan Michelle, a year 3 student studying Hospitality and Event Management in Swiss Hotel Management School, shares her experiences and tips with those planning to study in Switzerland.

“When I was in secondary school, I was already very interested in the hospitality industry,” says Ho. In spite of scoring 20 points in six subjects in the HKDSE, she only attained a level 2 in Chinese language, which failed to meet the basic entrance requirement of Hong Kong’s universities.

In Hong Kong, only The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), offer Bachelor’s programmes in tourism and hospitality management. Their average admission score is 23 in any five subjects in the HKDSE, and together they only provide about 120 places.

After discussing with her family, Ho decided to head for Switzerland where, she says, the emphasis is more on the subjects studied in English, so despite her unsatisfactory result in Chinese language, she was still able to gain admission.

Rigorous curriculum

Ho points out that the three-year program covers both theory and practice. “In the first semesters of the first two years, students attend both theoretical and practical classes to master the basics, while the second semesters require us to complete a global paid internship, gaining actual experiences from the workplace,” she explains. “The final year is devoted to management skills to fully equip us for joining the industry.”

The academic year in Switzerland is split into two terms: the fall semester from September to February, and the spring semester from February to June, with each semester lasting about 18 weeks. The class normally runs from 8 am to 5 pm, and each lesson is about one and a half or two hours long.

All courses are taught by the same teacher to better monitor the overall performance  of each student. Besides, the school adopts e-learning with each student given a tablet at the start of the semester for teaching and assessment usage. Most of the learning materials will be uploaded to the school’s intranet and students can communicate with teachers via the tablet anytime.

Tips for studying in Switzerland

The application for a student visa for Switzerland takes more than ten weeks. Ho advises parents and students to make a visa appointment in advance to prevent delays with application and study.

On pursuing studies in Switzerland, Ho underscores the importance of adequate financial resources to meet school fees and living expenses. “Switzerland is costly,” she stresses. “My tuition fee is about HK$300,000 a year, and living expenses are higher than in Hong Kong.”

Ho also reminds prospective students that the Swiss teaching style is quite different from Hong Kong, as it emphasises on interaction and internship experiences. Therefore, students should first understand the learning environment and be psychologically prepared for it.

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