Since 2014, Switzerland is no longer a member of the European youth exchange programme Erasmus+. The past three years have shown that this reduces the exchange opportunities for students, that the hurdles for exchange are getting higher and higher, that the Swiss European Mobility Programme SEMP is not a real alternative and that the federal government shows no interest in a re-integration.

Representatives of the SUB draw attention to the Erasmus+ issue with an campaign in the VonRoll-Areal (Photo: Sam von Dach, SUB)
Representatives of the SUB draw attention to the Erasmus+ issue with an campaign in the VonRoll-Areal (Photo: Sam von Dach, SUB)

For us at the SUB, this means: We must get active now!

We have to take action so that Switzerland does not lose touch with the European education system, so that students from Switzerland have the same opportunities as those from the surrounding countries. Politicians need to realise that they cannot make decisions over our heads!

What's Erasmus+?

Erasmus+ is the EU's programme to support youth education, training and sport. Erasmus+ brings together all previously independent programmes (tertiary education, basic vocational education, adult education, schools, extracurricular youth work and sport). The next generation of the programme will be implemented from 2021 to 2027. In addition to the well-known student mobility, mobility for teachers as well as cooperation projects and projects for the implementation of political reforms also fall under this programme. The focus is on the interface between education and the world of work and on vocational education and training.

Erasmus and Switzerland

Why isn't Switzerland involved?

Switzerland was a full participant in the Erasmus programme until 2013 and also participated in Erasmus+ in the form of a bilateral agreement until 2014. The problems began with the adoption of the mass immigration initiative. This jeopardised the implementation of the Croatia Protocol, the extension of the free movement of persons to the newly joined EU country of Croatia. However, the EU demanded the free movement of persons as a precondition for participation in Erasmus+, so Switzerland withdrew from the Erasmus+ programme.

Swiss European Mobility Programme - an alternative?

With the withdrawal from the Erasmus+ programme, the Swiss government created the Swiss European Mobility Programme, or SEMP for short. The aim of the programme was to compensate for the services previously provided by Erasmus+ with a Swiss solution. After three years of SEMP, however, the Swiss universities, unfortunately, found that SEMP was only a partially satisfactory solution: the transitional solution means that the universities are forced to negotiate contracts bilaterally with the exchange universities that were previously handled through Erasmus+. This not only entails an enormously increased administrative burden for the universities: Some universities are not willing to negotiate such bilateral contracts - or cut exchange quotas. The Association of Swiss Universities, swissuniversities, fears for mobility, visibility and relevance of Switzerland as an educational location. The SEMP is therefore only a sham solution.

No reopening of negotiations

With the ratification of the Croatia Protocol on the 16th of December 2016, the way was clear for a renegotiation of the Erasmus+ programme. However, just because the way is clear, it does not mean it has to be done. Although the Federal Council repeatedly spoke out in favour of a renewed association with Erasmus+ in its messages, SERI is very hesitant to follow up these words with action. Only a Swiss solution is being pursued until 2020. In 2020, the next round of Erasmus+ will begin: What will happen then is still unclear - a clear commitment to Erasmus+ has not yet been made.

Horizon 2020 - no problem?

The second European exchange programme in the higher education sector is Horizon 2020, of which Switzerland is now a full member: for over ten years, Switzerland has been partly associated with this prestigious agreement, which is intended to strengthen international research and promote important research projects. In 2013, as with Erasmus+, negotiations for full membership began - these negotiations were also frozen with the adoption of the mass immigration initiative. When the Croatia Protocol was ratified, Switzerland became a full member in less than a year. This is of course to be welcomed, but it raises the question of why the Erasmus+ process is so much more sluggish compared to Horizon2020.

What do the supporters demand?

The SUB has drafted three demands in line with the Swiss Student Union VSS. We demand:

Immediate start of negotiations for Erasmus+ membership

There is no indication in the press releases by the Federal re-associate in the Erasmus+ programme. The latest communication only states that membership will be examined from 2021 on. In the eyes of the student organisations, "examination" of re-association isn't enough. Switzerland must start actively seeking negotiations now.

Full membership of Erasmus+. As soon as possible!

Full membership in Horizon2020 was implemented in a short time after the free movement of persons was accepted. The student organisations demand that the Swiss Confederation not only stand up for the prestige of Swiss research but also for the future of Switzerland as an educational location.

Until re-association: an appropriate interim solution

The SEMP is nothing more than a stopgap solution. The prospect of this emergency solution continuing in the same form until at least 2020 is not acceptable to the student organisations. We demand a transitional solution that goes beyond the minimum offer of exchange possibilities. Furthermore, we demand a solution that ensures the competitiveness of the Swiss educational landscape in relation to other European countries.

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