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Swiss prepare legal basis for student exchange cooperation beyond the EU

Published on December 17, 2019

The government has submitted a draft bill to parliament that aims at more flexibility for student exchange partnerships, especially those beyond the European Erasmus programme.

The current regulations on international cooperation and student mobility in training and education are restricted to the European Union’s Erasmus+ programme. According to the government, this is no longer in line with the internationalisation of training and education. The governing Federal Council wants more margin for manoeuvre to broaden options for Swiss university students looking to spend some time in foreign institutions. The proposed amendment does not create new incentives but makes current ones more flexible. Individual scholarships in selected institutions outside the European area will be offered.

Last year the government agreed to fund a CHF2.4 million ($2.5 million) pilot project to facilitate exchange programmes with students from outside Europe, notably the United States, Canada and China. The three-year trial (2018 to 2020) is intended to explore possibilities for further exchange programmes beyond European borders.

The issue of exchange programmes became a hot topic in Switzerland after the country’s February 2014 vote to introduce quotas on immigrants from the European Union. Despite not being a member of the European Union, Switzerland had previously been allowed to participate in the Erasmus and Erasmus+ student mobility programmes since 1992.  But negotiations on full membership in the scheme were suspended following voters’ approval of the immigration quotas for EU citizens. Switzerland responded by implementing its own incentive programmes compatible with those of the EU. However, this alternative solution is a temporary fix and not fully anchored in the law.