Finishing schools are educational institutions that teach young individuals social courtesy and upper-class cultural traditions to prepare them for the future and adult life. Traditionally, the high-class and rich people used to send their daughters to these schools to prepare them for married life.

Due to its location and scenery, lifestyle, political stability, and multilingualism, Switzerland has been home to some of the best finishing schools in the world. Today, only one remains still. Further on, we will talk about the history of the finishing schools, the only one remaining in Switzerland, “Institut Villa Pierrefeu”, their curriculum, fees, and programs.

The History of Finishing Schools

Finishing schools are said to date from late 1800, and their existence was conditioned by the social life of the higher class at that time. While boys were going to boarding school to learn French, Latin, and German, girls were going to finishing school, though these institutions were quite different. Boarding schools intended to shape young boys into gentlemen and prepare them to take over the family business. However, girls were primarily taught etiquette, manners, how to manage the household, and some O-level and A level subjects. They attended finishing school from the age of 13, 14, and 15, until marriage.

In the 1960s, the feminist revolution fought against gender equality and education, emphasizing the silliness of these disciplines. With the shift in the perception of women’s role in society, the existence of finishing schools was put in jeopardy.

Finishing schools saw a rebirth in the early 90s as their module was altered entirely. Nowadays, there is a small number of these kinds of establishments, and they have rebranded themselves into diverse and cultural appreciation institutions.

The two finishing schools that contributed to Switzerland’s reputation—both located in Lausanne—were Brilliantmont, founded in 1882, now an international secondary school, and Château Mont-Choisi, which closed around 1995. The latter being the one Carla Bruni Sarkozy attended. Another well-known finishing school was Institut Alpin Videmanette in Rougemont, which Diana, Princess of Wales, attended.

Institut Villa Pierrefeu

Source: Institut Villa Pierrefeu (School of etiquette in Switzerland)

Institut Villa Pierrefeu is the only finishing school left in Switzerland. As a family business, the school is run by Viviane Neri and her son Philippe. The school is located in Montreux, with a view of Lake Geneva. This institution was founded in 1954 by Neri’s mother, Dorette Failletaz, and had a primarily British and German student body.

When Neri took over, she shifted the client base to young women of Asia and South America, changed the language of instruction, and transformed the curriculum. Sewing, interior decorating, and the history of art and furniture are no longer taught. The owner reported since 2012, there has been a more significant number of British people interested in the school. This reason, along with others, lead her to open up a school for boys in 2013.

To retain anonymity, students only share their first names, so consequently, there is no public record of people or famous individuals who have attended this school. The curriculum is a blend of theoretical and practical training, with a total of up to 200 hours of coursework and only 30 or so students at a time.

Finishing school curriculum

One might even ask the question, what is taught in finishing school? When it comes to Institut Villa Pierrefeu, they base their curriculum on the Germanic type, which initially includes lessons on how to wait on guests, table manners and service, skills on house management, and how to address people adequately.

Credits for the longevity of this finishing school are the ability to adapt with time, regularly update on material, and the focus on international diversity. Students are taught proper protocol and formalities of different countries and how to respect any culture’s traditions.

Switzerland finishing school fees

The tuition fees for finishing schools were generally quite high, considering their distinctive and unique teaching approach. Today, the tuition fee varies depending on the course and its duration. The general cost has changed during the years; at the moment, a six-week course at the Institut Villa Pierrefeu costs around CHF 30,000.

Finishing school courses

Institut Villa Pierrefeu (School of etiquette in Switzerland)

At the moment, the Institut Villa Pierrefeu offers three courses. The first program is an intensive summer course geared towards women over 18 years old where they receive a diploma in international etiquette & protocol in the course of 3 to 6 weeks. The second program is a 1 to 2 weeks long intensive etiquette seminar geared towards men and women over 21. This seminar focuses on the Europian Art of Dining and Exploring Cultural Differences courses. Last but not least, the third program is a Bespoke and special training course.

Finishing schools are almost an estranged concept to people nowadays. Most of them have already vanished, some have changed their activity entirely, and others, like Institut Villa Pierrefeu, have modified and adapted their curriculum. With the updated roles of men and women in society, it’s hard to conserve finishing schools’ traditional mission.

18 Comments
  1. Dear sir,
    I am interested to study finishing school in Switzerland , so can you guide me about that in details that how to apply, where to apply, etc.
    Regards
    Hassan shahid

    1. Dear Hassan,

      We advise you to check the website of Institut Villa Pierrefeu: http://www.ivpworld.com.

      As for applying, contact them at:
      T: +41 58 750 0 750
      F: +41 58 750 0 755

      or visit them at:
      Route de Caux 28
      CH-1823 Glion/Montreux

      We sorry we can’t be of more help. Good luck!

  2. Good morning. Please I would like to know how your program is run, and how much it will cost for a 3 months course of study. including the fees, accommodation and feeding if inclusive. I look forward to hearing from you asap!. Moreso, I would like to know when the next program will be commencing.

    Regards .

    1. Dear Esther,

      For more information on the courses that Institut Villa Pierrefeu offers and fees, you can contact them on this number: +41 58 750 0 750, or on their Facebook page: Institut Villa Pierrefeu .

      Best of luck!

  3. Great School. My daughter will be 25 years this year and l will like to sign her on for your six weeks course. Gratefully if you can please let me know the avialbility slots. She goes back to scholl in September.
    Thanks
    Kwasi Atuah

  4. Hi IVP Team,

    By way of introduction, I am Director (International Business) at The City School Group (Middle East & South Asia). I am looking for an institutional partnership to collaborate with our schooling system and help us develop a Finishing School system.

    The City Schools Group is one of the leading Educators in MESA region with presence in 7 countries (Pakistan, UAE, KSA, Oman, Malaysia, Philippines & Bangladesh), since 1979.

    I request for a call or a potential meeting to discuss more details on global partnership.

    Regards,
    Bilal Jan
    Director (International Business)
    The City School Group
    UAE
    +971501891682
    email: [email protected]

  5. Greetings!
    It is a great pity that this tradition of education and culture has dwindled in such regard. Our daughter considers her experience at IVP to be one of the true highlights of her life. As a parent, there is no greater joy than to see your child development into a happy, healthy and successful woman, and IVP undoubtedly played an important role. I surely could not recommend her lifelong impressions gained enough…
    Kindest regards,
    David

  6. Hola,

    My daughter, Olivia, became very excited when I told her about my summer in Villa Pierrefeu in 1977, when I was 17.
    She is eleven and wants to go to a finishing school when she’s older.
    We then started to google finishing schools and were so surprised that Pierrefeu is the last one in Switzerland. In 1977, there were so many to chose from.
    It was fun to see Madame Neri in the video. I immediately recognized her. Obviously, the years have been kind to her.
    If I read correctly, do you only have students 18 +?

    Stay safe.
    Sincerely,
    Caroline

    1. Hi Caroline,

      Yes, Institut Villa Pierrefeu offers courses that focus on men and women over 18 years old.

      Best wishes.

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