Covid certificates: blended admission to Swiss universities

Keystone / Alexandra Wey

Thousands of students are returning to university on Monday. Most will need to prove their Covid certificate.

This content was published on September 20, 2021 – 16:00

After two periods of imprisonment and a lot of distance learning in the last 18 months, this will be the first time many students have entered the university.

Most of the country’s twelve public universities have now decided to introduce a Covid certificate, which shows whether a person is vaccinated, tested or cured in order to attend full-time courses. Among them are two federal polytechnics in Lausanne (EPFL) and Zurich (EPFZ).

The decision came after the government said that universities could introduce a certificate requirement for bachelor’s and master’s degree teaching. On 13 September, its use was extended to public spaces such as restaurants, cultural events and leisure activities, as Switzerland faces a fourth wave of coronavirus, partly due to the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant among young people. Unvaccinated people.


Dominique de Quervain is one of those who welcome moderation. In mid-August, this professor at the University of Basel provoked controversy – and much debate – when tweetedExternal link that full-time teaching would not take place if unvaccinated and untested students were admitted to the classrooms.

“However, wearing a mask during class will remain important,” a cognitive neuroscience professor told “ETHZ and the universities of Lausanne and Bern have already decided that they will be mandatory.”

According to him, the tests could pass several positive cases among the unvaccinated.


There is another problem for Dominique de Quervain: the differences in the way the measure will be applied. In Basel, where he teaches, the university will introduce a certificate requirement of up to 1ehm November so that people have time to get vaccinated.

According to another beepingExternal link professor, this delay would show that the University of Basel “prioritises the needs of those who have not yet been vaccinated against the recommendations and options than the safety of teaching.”

In Lugano, the University of Italian Switzerland did not impose a certificate. As announced on Sunday by the German-speaking public television SRF, the institution has enough space, a veil will be mandatory. The university also said it wanted to avoid any discrimination and possible conflicts between students.

Elsewhere, Hautes Écoles will find it difficult to determine how they will proceed to check certificates. Some, such as the University of Zurich, will carry out random checks and rely on technical measures and personal responsibility. However, at the time of publication of these lines, some are still in the process of developing their measures.

Shared students

Within the student team, the reactions are mixed. There is criticism of the lack of consultation at national and local level.

“There is an urgent need to secure broad support for these measures. We are also disappointed that coordination between academic institutions does not work better, “Elischa Link, co-president of the Swiss Students’ Union, told

According to him, the reactions of the members show that the certificate remains controversial. “The general feeling is that people are upset when education is mentioned in addition to leisure activities. This is not comparable and other standards must apply. There is also a consensus that access to education must be guaranteed for all, “adds Elischa Link by e-mail.

Hybrid approach

Some Hautes Écoles, such as the EPFL, have already declared that they will offer hybrid access with online and face-to-face courses. Thus, “students who do not have a certificate will not be excluded from education.”

Others have pledged to realize that some students will not be able to afford to be re-tested when the government stops paying for tests – which is expected from 1.ehm October.

The University of Geneva will offer its unvaccinated students free saliva tests, which will apply to classes but not to other public places. In Bern, PCR tests will be offered at several locations on the university campus. The United States Lausanne and Zurich also offer free trials until October 31.


Elsewhere in the world, the situation with regard to certificates and vaccines varies from place to place. It follows from the database of the American daily Chronicle of higher educationmore than 1,000 public and private universities in the United States will require their students to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, but the measure has sparked controversy in some quarters.

In Italy, university staff and students must present their green passport, which is equivalent to the Swiss Covid certificate. In Austria and Germany, many institutions have adopted the principle of vaccination, treatment or testing.

However, France does not require a Covid certificate to study, and in Britain some teachers have criticized the fact that the government’s guidelines for returning to full-time teaching do not contain adequate safeguards against the spread of Covid-19.

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