Education – for the benefit of the students

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

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 made it between 2011 and 2013 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.

The Erasmus+ programme was launched on 1 January 2014 to replace existing programmes such as Lifelong Learning and Youth in Action. Erasmus+ has a budget of EUR 14.8 billion and runs until 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.

After acceptance of the Swiss people of the popular initiative “Against mass immigration” on Febrary 9th 2014, the European Commission decided to suspend the Swiss participation in the programme Erasmus+. Transitional solutions are being prepared in order to offer Swiss people possibilities to participate indirectly in the programme.

Bilateral agreements on education, vocational training and youth

After a long period of indirect participation, Switzerland officially took part in the EU education and youth programmes between 2011 and 2013, thanks to a bilateral agreement

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+. Switzerland now has partner country status, like other third-party countries. In response to the EU’s actions, the Federal Council adopted a series of interim measures to cover the period running from 2014 to 2017. These interim measures are similar to the project-based participation conditions that Switzerland faced prior to 2011. Movetia, the national agency for the promotion of exchange and mobility, has been responsible for implementing the interim measures since 1 January 2017.

The ratification at the end of 2016 of the protocol extending the free movement of persons to Croatia did not have any direct impact on Switzerland’s possible association to Erasmus+. By mutual agreement, negotiations between Switzerland and the European Commission were not reopened. The Federal Council assumes that association in the 2018–2020 period is no longer realistic. It therefore sees the necessity of having its own funding policy in this area, and of finding a domestic solution to promote international mobility in education that can be in place for several years, thereby establishing legal and planning security. A long-term, autonomous solution is required that still allows for re-association in the EU programmes at a later date. The Federal Council has therefore submitted a dispatch on this issue to Parliament for the 2018–2020 period.