What are the qualifications required to register for the admission exam in Foundation Year? What is the Specialised Baccalaureate in Arts and Design (maturité spécialisée arts et design – MSAD)?

This one-year course is designed for the holders of a general education certificate from a Vaud secondary school (gymnase), ideally with a fine arts major, wishing to access the admission procedure for an HES Bachelor programme in Design and Fine Arts. To earn the specialised baccalaureate, students must obtain a passing grade in courses and workshops dispensed by ECAL and their specialised baccalaureate paper must be validated.

How do I register for the specialised baccalaureate in Arts and Design (maturité spécialisée arts et design – MSAD)?

The procedure for students wishing to register for the MSAD is as follows:

  • Inquire at the school you are attending and register on;

  • Complete the online registration form on the ECAL website;

  • Prepare a personal application for one of the options – Fine Arts, Film Studies, Graphic Design, Industrial Design, Media & Interaction Design, Photography – and deposit it at ECAL;

  • Students whose applications have been selected will be called for an interview with the ECAL jury.

The decision to accept or turn down the application is made after the interview with the jury. For information on deadlines and various other instructions, refer to the websites of the Etat de Vaud and ECAL.

Can I register for two majors when I apply for admission to the Foundation Year?

No. You may register for only one major. Don’t hesitate to contact the ECAL Secretariat if you have any questions.

What is a reference image?

The choice is vast. It can be for example a work, a piece, a photograph, a screenshot, a film poster, etc., linked in principle to the field under consideration. However, the dossier may contain images that are not related to the field of study, and which highlight other areas of interest of the candidate.

Does successful completion of the Foundation Year guarantee automatic admission to a Bachelor programme?

No. Admission to Bachelor programmes is subject to an entrance exam. However, the success rate of applicants who have successfully completed the Foundation Year is high thanks to the solid basic training in art and design they receive during that year.

Can I apply for admission to the Foundation Year even if I don’t have the requisite diploma?

Yes. ECAL may exceptionally accept applicants demonstrating extraordinary artistic talent even if they do not meet the admission requirements. However, the applicants must first send the ECAL Director a written waiver request.

What does the waiver request include?

The applicant registers online until 22 January 2024 at the latest. He·she sends a letter of motivation, a CV, a copy of an identity card as well as a copy of any titles and certificates obtained. He·she also submit their portfolio (physical file), by 22 January at the latest, in accordance with the instructions specified for the option envisaged. If the request is accepted, he·she can then take part in the entrance exam for the Foundation Year.

I have a French Baccalaureate. What conditions do I have to meet to take part in the Foundation Year entrance exam?

Bac S are recognized without special distinction. Bac L are accepted without special distinction, but with mathematics (including the exam) in the final two years (première and terminale). Bac ES are accepted with an average of 14/20.

Once admitted, can I change my major during the academic year if I realise that I am not happy with my initial choice?

Yes. You can apply to the Head of the Foundation Year for a change in major by the end of the autumn term at the latest. The results obtained by that point are often decisive. Any change in major is subject to approval by the Head and an interview with management.

What are the languages of instruction?

Courses and workshops are in French in the Foundation Year and at Bachelor level (some Bachelor workshops are in English). Master / MAS programmes are for the most part bilingual (English/French). Fluency in French is therefore essential for the Foundation Year and Bachelor programmes. The same applies to English at least for Master programmes.

Do I need a language certificate to enrol in an ECAL course?

Yes. For the Foundation Year and Bachelor programmes, non-French-speaking applicants who have not attended school in Switzerland must be able to attest that they are proficient in French at the B2 level of the European Language Portfolio. The B2 level is required on registration.

Generally speaking, language proficiency is also checked by the juries during the entrance exam.

Does ECAL have a residence?

ECAL has neither a residence nor a campus, but it can, to a limited extent, help students looking for accommodation. As the housing market in the Lake Geneva area is relatively tight, students are advised to make arrangements well in advance.

Can ECAL act as a guarantor on a lease signed by a foreign student?

No, not at the moment.

Practical informations
Scholarships & school fees
I am a foreign student. Can I obtain a scholarship in Switzerland?

Educational assistance (grants or student loans) is awarded by the cantons and is intended for Swiss students (nationals, foreign permanent residents and persons with refugee status). It is not available to foreign citizens residing in Switzerland for the purposes of study only. However, the Swiss Confederation offers excellence scholarships to foreign students, researchers and artists for a period of study or research in Switzerland.

I am resident abroad. Will my tuition at ECAL be higher than for a student resident in Switzerland?

Except for the Foundation Year, where the course fees are determined by the student’s domicile, tuition is the same for all students in the same Bachelor, Master or MAS programme.

Does ECAL offer evening or summer courses? Can I sign up just for certain specific courses or workshops?

No, not at the moment.

Can I have a tour of ECAL?

Apart from events organised by the ECAL (various exhibitions, Open Day, etc.), no individual visits are permitted. Group visits can be organised, but should be planned well in advance. In this case, please contact the ECAL Secretariat directly at

My company wishes to hire an ECAL student as an intern or employee. What do I have to do?

Please send the ECAL Secretariat, at, an advert in A4 PDF format containing all the information on the internship or job. The advert will be published on the ECAL intranet. Interested students will contact the advertiser directly.


Any other questions?
Do not hesitate to contact the ECAL secretariat for any further information.

Tél. +41 (0)21.316.99.39

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