Jazz and Contemporary Music

This Bachelor marks a key stepping stone on your journey to a professional music career in the broad field of jazz and jazz-related styles.

This degree programme:

  • offers one-to-one teaching in a core subject (instrument, voice or composition) and individual support from our internationally renowned teaching staff;

  • helps expand your artistic practice with inspiring themed ensembles, improvisation workshops, masterclasses and numerous performance opportunities;

  • allows you to develop your own sound as a composer and performer;

  • encourages you to develop your reflective and analytical skills in the field of music theory;

  • can be adapted to your needs and interests, thanks to a choice of optional modules;

  • broadens your horizons through transdisciplinary Y-modules;

  • teaches you the nuts and bolts of recording and live electronics, technology and the music business.


  • Title/Degree Bachelor of Arts (BA)
  • Specialisations Instrumental, voice, composition
  • Mode of study Full-time (6 semesters)
  • Start date 16.9.2024
  • Application deadline 15.3.2024
  • ECTS credits 180 ECTS credits
  • Teaching language German, French, English
  • Location Bern
  • School Bern Academy of the Arts
  • Next info event 26.2.–28.2.2024

Structure + Content

You will improvise, interpret, arrange, compose and play in various ensembles. Over the course of the Jazz degree programme, you will acquire the basic technical skills, build up a stylistically varied repertoire and develop an overview of the tradition, the contemporary practice and the context of jazz. A BA in Jazz and Contemporary Music is a requirement for admission to the professional MA in Jazz and Contemporary Music, whether in Performance, Music Pedagogy or Composition and Arrangement.


The three-year bachelor’s degree programme in Jazz and Contemporary Music involves intensive study of your main instrument and playing in various ensembles with different repertoires and styles. It also includes subjects such as ear training, jazz harmony, music history (social, political and musical), notation, sequencing and sound aesthetics. In other words, the course provides all-round individual encouragement and support.

Learning outcomes

At HKB, we train students to become jazz musicians. This not only involves honing your instrumental or vocal skills but also developing your own artistic profile and acquiring the tools that will allow you to find your place in the music world. As a musician, you will also need to be adept at self-management and communication.


The third year of the bachelor’s degree programme offers ample opportunities to build up your profile. For example, you can opt to focus on composition, and you can choose from over 30 themed ensembles (from Django Bates’ Belovèd to Benny Golson and from The Music of John Coltrane to Zero 7). The master’s orientation courses offer you an idea of the follow-up master’s degree programme, focusing on Performance, Pedagogy or Composition and Arrangement.

Mode of study + Duration

Our bachelor's degree programme is offered on a full-time basis only and comprises 180 ECTS credits. It is typically completed in six semesters.

Curriculum + Modules

The 180 ECTS credits you need in order to be awarded a BA in Jazz and Contemporary Music
come from seven separate areas:

  • Core subject 74 ECTS credits
  • Practical work/ Projects 28/23* ECTS credits
  • Theory 48/53 * ECTS credits
  • Optional modules 0–20 ECTS credits
  • Y-modules (interdisciplinary) 10 ECTS credits
  • Master’s orientation course 10 ECTS credits
  • Bachelor’s concert + written thesis 10 ECTS credits

*with specialisation in composition

The programme concludes with a public concert and a written thesis.

Student mobility

Are you a Swiss student interested in living, working or studying in another country? Or do you want to spend a semester at another Swiss university? Or maybe you’re an overseas student who’d like to spend a semester at Bern University of Applied Sciences? Mobility opportunities offer unique and valuable experience. During your studies, you will have the opportunity to spend exchange semesters and experience work placements elsewhere in Switzerland or abroad.


HKB maintains close ties to a number of partner universities, both in Switzerland and abroad, and collaborates with international partners on numerous projects. HKB is also a member of several international networks.

Qualification + Career prospects

A BA in Jazz and Contemporary Music helps provide a sound foundation for your future as a musician.

Title + Degree

Bachelor of Arts (BA) in «Jazz and Contemporary Music»

You will graduate with an internationally recognised Bachelor of Arts in Jazz and Contemporary Music
. This is not a professional qualification.

Career prospects

Work as a professional musician is varied: the choices open to you include playing, composing, teaching, arts management, music outreach and/or research.


Eligibility + Entry

Candidates for our BA in Jazz and Contemporary Music must be able to demonstrate advanced instrumental or vocal skills or potential in the field of composition. We will require you to take an exam so that we can assess your aptitude for the degree programme.

Entry requirements

The number of places available on our programme is limited (‘numerus clausus’). We administer an entrance examination to review your aptitude for our programme. We look for motivation, stamina, resilience and independence in our students as well as a readiness to participate actively in university-level projects.

Academic requirements

To be admitted to the entrance exam, we generally require that you hold a baccalaureate or equivalent qualification (vocational baccalaureate, specialised baccalaureate, Abitur). Candidates with exceptional artistic talent may be eligible for ‘special admission’.

Knowledge + Abilities

  • An understanding of harmony, melody and rhythm
  • Experience of improvisation and ensemble playing
  • Basic knowledge of music theory and its application
  • Knowledge of practice techniques
  • Stamina, an ability to cope with pressure and an ability to concentrate
  • Imagination and intellectual curiosity
  • General cultural knowledge

Language skills

You must be able to communicate in German or French (Level B2).

Applying from abroad

Foreign nationals require valid travel documents recognised by the Swiss government. A visa is often required. Exchange students must also apply for a residency permit and purchase health insurance before their studies begin. Please research your specific entry requirements carefully.

If you meet the entry requirements, you will be invited to attend an examination. This will comprise a practical part and a theory part.

The exam committee will consist of the Head of the Degree Programme and the relevant specialist teaching staff. To pass, you will need to score a minimum of 4 in each part of the examination.

Examination in main instrument

  1. Jazz standard with improvisation (no transcription)
    The judging panel will select one of the three standards you have prepared and you will then perform it with our rhythm section. Please bring 4 copies of the lead sheets.
  2. Piece of your choice (max. 4 minutes)
    This can be any style you like. You are welcome to perform a piece you have composed yourself. You can perform the piece as a duet (bring your own accompanist), with our rhythm section, or play along to a recording (CD/laptop). Please bring the score/lead sheets if applicable.
  3. Solo performance (max. 2 minutes)
    From traditional to freestyle (no stylistic restrictions).
  4. Optional: Impromptu task
    No prior preparation required.

The exam will take a total of 30 minutes (15 minutes performance, 15 minutes interview)

We will provide a professional rhythm section with piano, bass and percussion.
Available facilities: piano, drums, amplifier, PA, CD player, rehearsal room

Theory examination: Ear training and rhythm

1. Oral

  • Sight-singing a simple melody line
  • Singing standard jazz four-note arpeggios (ascending and descending)
  • Improvised singing over a scale, a simple cadence or chord progressions to a play-along recording

2. Written

  • Transcribing different aural excerpts without the aid of an instrument (melody, harmony, rhythm, metre, form)
  • Headphones will be provided with the playback devices for the written part of the exam.

Theory examination: Harmony

  • Functional analysis
  • Identifying piano voicings and translating them into chord symbols
  • Recognising scales
  • Harmonising an 8-bar melody using chord symbols

We will write to you with the results of the exam. The number of places on the programme is limited. A positive exam result will not necessarily guarantee you a place. Candidates who can demonstrate exceptional instrumental and musical abilities but who lack the required theoretical knowledge may be admitted on a conditional basis. We will expect these students to catch up in the required areas.

The PreCollege at the Swiss Jazz School in Bern is an intensive preparatory course for admission to Swiss bachelor’s degree programmes in jazz.

Practicalities + Application

Please note the dates and deadlines below, plus the documentation and information required.

Application (per application) and aptitude assessment*  

CHF 250


CHF 100

Tuition fees (per semester) 

CHF 750

Tuition fees for international students*** (per semester)

CHF 950

Examination fee (per semester)  

CHF 80

Fee for social, cultural and sport offerings (per semester)  

CHF 24

Membership fee for the Bern University of Applied Sciences Student Association (VSBFH) (per semester)

CHF 15

Leave of absence fee (per semester) 

CHF 100

* The application fee can be paid by credit card or by deposit slip / paper invoice (+ CHF 10.– processing fee). There are no waivers or refunds for withdrawn or abandoned applications. The application is processed after payment has been received.
** If the application leads to matriculation, the matriculation fee is covered by the application fee.
*** International students are defined as persons of foreign citizenship who at the time of obtaining their university entrance qualification were domiciled under civil law neither in Switzerland nor the Principality of Liechtenstein.

There is also a fixed fee for materials whose amount depends on the degree programme as well as additional costs for teaching materials, specialist literature, supplies, etc.

Financial aid is available through grants and loans. Grants are one-off or ongoing payments that don’t usually have to be paid back provided you complete your course. Loans are one-off or ongoing payments that must be paid back after you finish your course. There are also numerous private foundations and funds that offer financial support to students. The electronic foundation directory administered by the Federal Department of Home Affairs offers a comprehensive summary of these organisations and can be searched by keywords (e.g. student, research, financial aid, etc.).

HKB scholarship fund

Many HKB students live in precarious financial circumstances. The opportunities to earn money while undertaking demanding and time-consuming studies are limited. And the cost of living in Switzerland is one of the highest in all of Europe. A doctor’s bill, a healthy diet, and paying the rent or semester and examination fees can become pressing problems. To help in such cases, the HKB scholarship fund provides targeted support by covering the tuition fees from CHF 750 up to CHF 950. To apply for support, you need to take the following steps:

  1. Fill out the online application form in full and print it out
  2. Send the application online
  3. Submit the printed form to the secretariat for your degree programme

The deadline for applications for a semester fee waiver is 15 May to 15 June (for the following autumn semester), or 15 November to 15 December (for the following spring semester).

Applications for a waiver of the semester fees will only be considered and included in the selection process once the course offer has been.

Application form (link valid as of May 15 2024)

Other grants

Cantonal grants

Grants and loans for Swiss students and overseas students are generally paid out by the canton where the students’ parents are tax residents. Students who have been tax residents in the Canton of Bern for at least two years are able to apply for cantonal grants and loans. Applications should be submitted to the Financial Aid Office at the Department of Education.

Other grants

Further information

The websites EDK – Stipendien, stipendium.ch and European Funding Guide cover all the key information about grants in Switzerland and overseas.

Your contact persons for questions about scholarships and loans


If you have any questions regarding scholarships and loans please contact Claire Brawand.

At Bern University of Applied Sciences BFH, we promote balance between study, work and family.

A limited number of nursery places are available to BFH staff and students. If you’d like to take advantage of this offer, the relevant documents can be found on the BFH Intranet. The fees are income-based and in line with the cantonal rates described in the Verordnung über die Angebote der sozialen Integration (Decree on Social Integration Offer ASIV) issued by the Canton of Bern. You can apply for a nursery place using the online form on the BFH Intranet. If you’re a new student or member of staff and don’t have access to the Intranet, please contact Sarah Gross. There is no legal entitlement to a nursery place.

Students must fulfil their military service obligations during their studies. Plan and coordinate studies and service obligations well in advance.

We strongly recommend that you complete the military training programme and your first period of civil service before starting your studies. Completing them during your Master will result in absences and may prolong the duration of your studies.

General information about military and civil service

Advisory service

If you wish to get advice on how to co-ordinate your studies and your compulsory service, please contact HKB Student Administration (+41 31 848 49 49).

Start date: Mon, 18.9.2023
Application deadline: Wed, 15.3.2023
Dates for aptitude test:
Vocals: 8.–11.4.2024
All instruments: 15.–16.4.2024
Eartraining and Theory: 18. –19.4.2024

Online Application
You should have the following documents available in electronic form (passport photo: JPG / remaining documents: PDF). No document should exceed 1 MB. 

  • ID card or passport
  • Passport photo
  • A diploma qualifying you for university studies (such as A-Levels, Matura from a Gymnasium, "Berufsmaturität", "Fachmaturität", Abitur)
  • A CV in tabular form
  • A personal statement about your motivation for these studies and for your professional aspirations

For foreigners, in addition:

  • Residence permit (if available)

If you were already matriculated at another university:

  • A confirmation of your exmatriculation
  • Transcript of records of current and/or terminated studies

If you do not yet have one or more of the required documents, please state why in the Comments section. 

Individual visits can be arranged via the secretariat. Sibyl Hofstetter (Jazz Administration) or Tom Arthurs (Artistic Director of Jazz Studies) will be happy to advise you. Send your request to jazz@hkb.bfh.ch.

Locations + Facilities

The Music Division has cutting-edge facilities at its disposal, including practice and teaching rooms, auditoria of various sizes, an outstanding music library, a recording studio, research facilities and instrument hire. Students can reserve many of the rooms online. We operate an open door policy.

New practice and rehearsal spaces in our Jazz division have been available to students since autumn 2015. The 14 practice rooms and two spacious group rehearsal spaces are equipped with the latest technology. The area also includes a common room with various work stations, a kitchen and storage. We also have a professional recording studio that can be booked for projects and other student work.