How did the upper-secondary specialised school (SpS) establish itself as a school-based pathway to the universities of applied sciences in Switzerland? The sociology of conventions serves to analyse how actors justify and assess this type of school. The analysis of interviews and educational policy documents shows that the specialised school has been a recurring target of criticism from advocates of the VET system. It had to make compromises with the world of work to gain recognition as a pathway to the universities of applied sciences.
We analyse the access to different institutional pathways to higher education for second-generation students, focusing on youths that hold a higher-education entrance certificate. The alternative vocational pathway appears to compensate to some degree, compared to the traditional academic one, for North-African and Southern-European youths in France, those from Turkey in Germany, and to a lesser degree those from Portugal, Turkey, Ex-Yugoslavia, Albania/Kosovo in Switzerland. This is not the case in Switzerland for Western-European, Italian, and Spanish youths who indeed access higher education via the academic pathway more often than Swiss youths. Using youth panel and survey data, multinomial models are applied to analyse these pathway choices.