Why are graduates of ETH Zürich awarded with titles that include the "ETH"?

This list of degrees conferred by ETH also states conclusively that "[t]he Bachelor and Master titles may also be used in the form “BSc ETH” / “BA ETH” and “MSc ETH” / “MA ETH” without mention of the subject".

However, it doesn't explain the rationale behind the "ETH" appendix. Is it because they think they are superior, and everyone should immediately recognize this from their title?

  • I am not posting as an answer as I am not 100% sure. I graduated with an MSc from ETHZ, and as far as I remember in my discipline the MSc degree required more credits and work than the equivalent from Uni Zurich. At the time, my MSc from ETHZ was equivalent to MSc+MPhil of UK, or MSc Research of many other countries. But this could be specific to the MSc program I attended!
    – ktyagi
    Mar 7, 2019 at 10:25

2 Answers 2


This seems to be historical. ETH is a university. Switzerland also has institutes formerly called Höhere Technische Lehranstalten (HTL), which are now called Fachhochschule.

The preconditions to enter the ETH and a Fachhochschule differ significantly. Finishing a degree at ETH used to take significantly longer, and the curriculum at ETH involved far more advanced mathematics.

Formerly the titles attained at a Fachhochschule was Dipl. Ing., Dipl. Ing HTL or Dipl. Ing. FH and the title you got at ETH was Dipl. Ing. ETH. As you guessed correctly, Dipl. Ing. ETH was a clearly superior different and more extensive education. The title from a Fachhochschule was roughly equivalent with a BSc while the title from ETH was comparable to a MSc from a competitive international university. This changed only recently, with the introduction of Bachelor and Master degrees in Switzerland a few years after the year 2000.

Nowadays graduates of a Fachhochschule usually get the title BSc, and graduates of ETH usually get MSc degrees, and have the option to cut their studies short and end them with a BSc degree, although last I heard it was still very unusual to do so.

  • 4
    This is missing some things... There are plenty of regular ol' universities(TM) in Switzerland. Students there get BSc and MSc titles without the ETH suffix. The ETH Zurich and the EPF (Lausanne) are not universities, but Federal Institutes of Technology. The difference here is that ETHZ and EPFL are directy budgeted/lead by the federal government, while the universities are budgeted/lead by the single cantons they are located in.
    – fgysin
    Feb 18, 2016 at 12:09
  • Indeed, there are other universities in Switzerland. Philosophy and Law can be studied at University of Zurich but not at ETH Zurich, while fields like Mechanical Engineering were only taught at ETHZ/EPFL, so this was less of a concern than the Fachhochschulen back then. There is some overlap in the generic fields like Mathematics and Biology. The preconditions to enter University of Zurich are the same as those for entering the ETH Zurich, and the studies take the same amount of time. Still a math degree from ETH is often seen as slightly more valuable than one from university of Zurich.
    – Peter
    Feb 18, 2016 at 12:56

While @Peters answer is correct on the historical aspect and the difference to the "Fachhochschule(n)", there is something missing:

The ETH Zurich and the EPF (Lausanne) are Federal Institutes of Technology. And while they technically are universities (as by the usage of the term outside Switzerland), the difference here is that ETHZ and EPFL are directy budgeted/lead by the federal government, while the other universities are budgeted/lead by the single cantons they are located in.

Both institutions are also the most prestigious Swiss institutes of higher learning in many of their technical degrees/educations.

Last but not least both EPFL and ETHZ are notorious for steep learning curves and filtering out many not-quite-talented-enough students (after first year generally 30% or so remain). I guess one of the reasons why the old ETH suffix is still around is also due to a fair bit of (not quite unfounded) elitism.

  • 2
    It was usually about 50% of students remaining after the first 2 years of filtering by way of Vordiplom Prüfungen, unless that changed significantly in recent years. Also the ETH most certainly is a university if we use the international meaning of the word. The rest of the post I agree with.
    – Peter
    Feb 18, 2016 at 12:37
  • 1
    ETH and EPFL are in fact universities, they are members of the Swiss University Conference and their degrees are considered university degrees. That is the reason why they need to be differentiated from the FH engineering degrees.
    – Cape Code
    Feb 18, 2016 at 13:05

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