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 5 million students, this mobility programme has become a real symbol of Europe. A bilateral agreement made it possible between 2011 and 2013 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 organisations that are active in the areas of education, higher learning institutions, vocational training and youth.

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 bilateral agreements.

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+, and Switzerland thus reverted to partner country status, like other third-party countries. In response to the EU’s actions, the Federal Council adopted a transitional solution for 2014-2017. This transitional solution is based on the project-by-project participation model that Switzerland faced prior to 2011. The Swiss Foundation for the Promotion of Exchanges and Mobility, better known to the public as 'Movetia', has been responsible for implementing the interim measures since 1 January 2017.

The Federal Council did not consider an association in the period 2018-2020 to be realistic and therefore extended the transitional solution, the so-called Swiss Programme for Erasmus+, until 2020. Switzerland is therefore not a party to the programme, but rather a partner country of Erasmus+. Swiss participation rights are limited to individual projects, with the Swiss Confederation providing direct funding to Swiss parties wishing to partake in these projects. The Federal Council will examine whether Switzerland will participate in the follow-up programme to Erasmus+ as soon as the key outcome indicators will be known.