Education, vocational training, youth

Young people enjoying sharing ideas.
Young people learning together: investing in the future through education cooperation. © Brooke Cagle, Unsplash

Switzerland has been involved in the EU's education programmes since 1992. It had fully associated status in the periods 1992–94 and 2011–13. Between these periods and from 2014 onwards, Switzerland has participated indirectly as a third country in Erasmus+, the EU programme currently supporting education, training, youth and sport.

The EU has been promoting cross-border mobility and cooperation activities since the 1980s through a range of educational, vocational training and youth programmes.

Switzerland participated in the EU education programmes Erasmus and COMETT in the early 1990s. Following Switzerland's decision not to join the EEA in 1992, it could no longer participate in the new EU programmes launched after 1995. Switzerland has therefore only participated indirectly in the EU's education, vocational training and youth programmes. Swiss bodies awarded federal funding have been able to contribute to programme activities on a project-by-project basis, provided that the EU project coordinator or the EU partner organisation approved the cooperation arrangement. To allow Switzerland to participate in full and not just cooperate on programmes, Switzerland and the EU agreed to negotiate an agreement as part of the Bilaterals II package regarding Switzerland's direct participation in programmes for the period 2007–13. The agreement establishing the terms and conditions for the participation of Switzerland in the 'Youth in Action' programme and in the action programme in the field of lifelong learning was signed on 15 February 2010.

Following the 2014 'Stop Mass Immigration' initiative, negotiations on Switzerland's association with the Erasmus+ programme (2014–20) were suspended. Since then, Swiss organisations have only been able to participate in Erasmus+ cooperation and reform projects on the basis of Switzerland's non-associated third country status. Swiss organisations can tender for contracts as project partners, but cannot be involved in project coordination. Following an interim solution which applied until 2017, Parliament approved multi-annual funding to facilitate Switzerland's Erasmus+ participation with third country status for the period 2018–20 (the 'Swiss solution').

Erasmus+ 2021–27

Erasmus+ 2021-2027 is the EU's current programme. It retains the philosophy of the previous generation of programmes and still offers far more than just mobility actions. It aims to create a European educational area by promoting education at all levels from school through to higher and continuing education. Erasmus+ supports three action areas:

  1. Mobility activities for individuals and groups
  2. Cooperation projects to promote internationalisation of educational institutions
  3. Support for policy reforms

The Erasmus+ programme has a budget of over EUR 28 billion.

It is the Federal Council's stated aim to secure Switzerland's association with Erasmus+ 2021–27 at the earliest opportunity. However, the EU views Switzerland's association in the light of general Swiss-EU relations. On 11 November 2021, the EU informed the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) that given the unresolved institutional issues it was not prepared at present to hold talks on Switzerland's association with Erasmus+. This means that Switzerland will be treated as a non-associated third country until further notice. In the meantime, the existing Swiss Solution for Erasmus+ will continue to apply. Parliament also approved the requisite funding, amounting to CHF 200 million, for the 2021–24 period.

International mobility strengthens Switzerland as a centre of education

Cooperation under Erasmus+ is of strategic importance to Switzerland, as it promotes international mobility and cooperation at all levels of education. Cross-border learning improves people's prospects in the job market. Cooperation on education is also an investment in terms of raising educational standards and enhancing Switzerland's competitiveness as a place to do business. Switzerland has an education system with a clear international focus and experience in cross-cultural, multilingual cooperation across cantons. It therefore remains an attractive partner for the EU for the purpose of developing a European education area. 

Timeline

2020

  • Federal decree on the promotion of education, research and innovation for the 2021–24 period (26 January)

2017

  • Federal decree on the promotion of international mobility in education for the 2018–20 period (27 November)

2014

  • Decision by the Federal Council on the introduction of a Swiss interim solution for Erasmus+ in 2014 (16 April)
  • Suspension of negotiations by the EU on Switzerland's participation in Erasmus+ as a programme country (26 February)

2011

  • Switzerland's official participation in the EU's
    Lifelong Learning and Youth in Action programmes

1994

  • Switzerland's indirect participation in specific projects under the EU's education programmes

1992

  • Switzerland's direct participation in the EU's Erasmus und COMETT programmes