Switzerland will keep to its interim solution to ensure that university students can participate in the Erasmus+ exchange programme - after it was frozen out of the scheme by the European Union following an anti-immigration vote earlier this year.
The education ministry would continue with the solution over the next two years.
“If the goal of rejoining Erasmus+ as an associated country is not realized, the mobility of the Swiss participants will thus be ensured,” a government statement said on Friday.
On February 9, 50.3% of Swiss voters approved an initiative to curb immigration. This violates the free movement of people within the EU – which non-EU Switzerland has signed up to via a series of bilateral accords – so Brussels froze Switzerland out of its research and education funds. This included the Erasmus+ university student exchange scheme, which sees millions of students across Europe spend time studying in another European country.
The move caused an outcry in Switzerland, especially in the academic world.
In April this year, the Swiss government announced it had set aside CHF23 million ($25 million) to allow students to keep participating in Erasmus+, with funding directly coming from Switzerland instead of the EU.
In 2015, funding will be raised to CHF23.9 million and in 2016 to CHF25.1 million. In all 90% of the monies will be used for mobility. More funds are needed because under the changes, Switzerland will have to fund foreign students taking part of the scheme as well. As a member of Erasmus+, countries only have to pay for their own students.
The government has decided to act now because it is not sure that new negotiations over a possible reentry to Erasmus+ will be concluded in time, continued the statement.
Effects felt already
Effects of the Erasmus+ freeze have already been seen, especially among foreign students coming to Switzerland. A survey by Swiss public television’s news programme Tagesschau found that the universities of Lucerne and Lugano were expecting a drop of 20%, and in Fribourg, 38%, in this coming academic year. The measures announced on Friday should help counter future decreases, the statement added.
The Erasmus+ move follows on from the announcement on September 12 that Switzerland would be able to - partially and temporarily - participate in the European research programme Horizon 2020, from which it had also been blocked by the EU. This programme had, until then, also been subject to transitional funding measures by the Swiss government.
swissinfo.ch and agencies