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Do I need a Covid certificate to attend university in Switzerland?

Do I need a Covid certificate to attend university in Switzerland?
The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne. Photo by Baptiste Gousset on Unsplash
As of September 13th, Covid certificates have been mandatory in several indoor venues in Switzerland. With thousands of students going back to university on Monday, what are the rules for university?

From Monday, September 13th, Switzerland has required the Covid certificate at several additional venues including bars, gyms, restaurants and at some private events. 

The Covid certificate shows that someone has been fully vaccinated, has had the virus in the past six months and recovered or has tested negative to the virus in recent days. 

Those who are in a venue without a Covid certificate face a fine of 100 francs. Venues that don’t enforce the requirement can be threatened with large fines and closure. 

Cantons are required to enforce the measures. 

What are Switzerland’s Covid rules for universities? 

Tens of thousands of students went back to school at Switzerland’s 12 public universities on Monday, September 20th. 

When it came to the rules for universities, the Swiss government said it was up to the cantons to decide whether to require certificates or not. 

Generally speaking, the cantons have left it up to individual universities to decide whether or not they require a Covid certificate and under what circumstances. 

“The cantons or universities may introduce a certificate requirement for teaching at Bachelor and Master level”, according to the Federal Council.

“In such cases, students would not be required to wear a mask and there would be no restriction on classroom capacity”.

“In our estimation, face-to-face teaching can only be maintained with a compulsory certificate,” Astrid Epiney, Vice President of Swissuniversities, told Switzerland’s SRF News.

“And this face-to-face teaching is crucial for high-quality training at universities.”

While several universities have decided to put in place a Covid certificate requirement, there are differences in how it has been implemented. 

For instance, some universities require Covid certificates only in lecture halls, while others require everyone on campus to have a valid Covid certificate. 

Given the prevalence of international students, many universities also accept foreign vaccination certificates, including for people vaccinated with vaccines not approved in Switzerland. 

For instance, several universities in Zurich accept proof of AstraZeneca and Sinopharm despite these not being approved for use in Switzerland. 

What are the rules at different universities?

In order to get an up to date summary of the rules at each institution, please contact your campus or university authorities. 

At the time of writing, several universities were still weighing up aspects of their underlying policies, including how they would continue to incorporate off-campus lessons into their programs. 

Some universities have already implemented the requirement, including the Federal Polytechnic Institute (EPFL), the University of Basel, the University of Geneva, the University of Lausanne, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne and the University of Neuchâtel.

At the University of Zurich (UZH), students are only required to have Covid certificates in lecture halls. 

Conversely, at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), ETH Zurich and Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK), students must have Covid certificates to enter all publicly accessible buildings. 

In addition, some such as the University of Bern and UZH have indicated that they will cover the costs of students to be regularly tested, most likely until the end of October, so that everyone has a chance to get vaccinated. 

How are they checked? 

While universities have been willing to put in place Covid certificate mandates on campus, they have been less willing to set up extensive infrastructure to check the validity of each student’s credentials. 

Most universities have said they do not want lecturers to become default Covid certificate checkers and will instead carry out controls on a random basis. 

Unlike off campus where fines can be issued, on-campus sanctions for not having a certificate will usually be being asked to leave campus and return with a certificate. 

READ MORE: What is the fine for not having a Covid certificate where it’s required in Switzerland?

Is this legal? 

Since the move was announced, the requirement has been largely supported, despite some pockets of resistance. 

The Swiss student union indicated that while it supported the introduction of the certificate, a uniform federal approach would have been preferred

Protests however such as this in Zurich have argued that the move interferes with rights to education. 

The government has justified the measure under the Covid-19 Ordinance of June 23, 2021, which allows for certificates to be required in certain areas. 

A right-wing group named Friends of the Constitution has indicated it plans to launch an action against the measure, although legal experts believe this will ultimately be dismissed. 


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