Education – for the benefit of the students

Students in conversation outside the European Commission
Students in conversation outside the European Commission © European Commission © EC

The EU has built up a considerable reputation for encouraging student mobility in life-long learning. At university, students can take part in educational programmes such as Erasmus. Created in 1987 and since used by over 3 million students, this mobility programme has become a real symbol of Europe. A bilateral agreement makes it possible for young Swiss people to take part in and benefit from the whole range of activities offered by the different exchange and mobility programmes.

As of January 1st 2014, one single new programme covers the previous education and youth programmes of the EU. Named “Erasmus+”, it has a higher budget than the previous programme to reach nearly 14.7 billion euros for a 6 year period from 2014 – 2020. Aside from activities encouraging the mobility of students, young people in companies, teachers or trainers, this programme supports cross-border collaboration of various projects and promotes the participation of all kind of organisations that are active in the areas of education, higher learning institutions, vocational training and youth. 

Subject to an association agreement currently being negotiated, Switzerland’s participation in the Erasmus+ programme would allow it to participate actively in European debates on education, in particular through sharing its experience in the field of vocational and professional education and training.

Bilateral agreements on education, vocational training and youth

After a long period of indirect participation, Switzerland has officially taken part in the EU education and youth programmes since 2011, thanks to a bilateral agreement. Under education, for example, 2,814 Swiss students went on an Erasmus exchange programme in 2011. In 2012 a large number of school pupils, teachers, apprentices and adults took part in exchanges through the Comenius, Leonardo da Vinci and Grundtvig programmes. Many young Swiss people aged between 13 and 30 took part in programmes or set up their own projects that help boost their awareness of being part of an intercultural Europe.

On 9 February 2014, Swiss voters adopted the popular initiative “Against Mass Immigration”. The EU responded by suspending the ongoing negotiations on Swiss association to Erasmus+. The Federal Council examines the question of the possibilities of a future Swiss participation in the successor programme of Erasmus+ as of 2021.