American college thrives in Switzerland

Eva Maria Gianini stands at the entrance to Franklin College in Lugano

The business of education has always found a welcome home in Switzerland. Franklin College in canton Ticino draws students from all over the world.

This content was published on November 3, 2001 - 17:16

Founded in 1969, the American accredited college offers a liberal arts undergraduate programme to some 270 students, and benefits from a growing demand for international education.

Located above Lugano, the college, which offers splendid views of the lake and mountains from its picturesque setting, is on the brink of major changes.

"We are planning a big campus expansion to include new classrooms, faculty space, more space for conferences and a bigger gymnasium. We want to be able to reach our goal of 370 students, which is an increase of 100 students," Eva Maria Gianini, director of public relations and communications at Franklin, told swissinfo.

Why Switzerland

"Switzerland has some strengths: it is a safe place and the location's centrality means students can travel all over Europe, this is certainly a big, big, big selling factor for Switzerland," she said.

Set-up by a group of US and local educators, the college takes its name from the US's first ambassador to Europe, Benjamin Franklin.

Among the courses on offer are programmes in business, finance, languages, social sciences and media.

"Franklin College is a non-profit organization dedicated to a new kind of international education, taking as its cornerstone Benjamin Franklin's vigorous support of a universal intellectual interchange between the Old World and the New," the college states in its Charter of Incorporation as a Swiss educational foundation.

"We've seen a big development in Switzerland in many areas," Gianini explained. "Even if it's not in the EU it's very active with the bilateral treaties and we are very open to the rest of the world, which is what Franklin's all about."

Window on the world

Around 40 per cent of the college's students are from the US, with the remaining 60 per cent of students coming from all over the world.

An important part of the students' programme is academic travel. Two weeks of every semester, they journey to a range of destinations with professors.

"If you look at the US student population they don't travel so much as we Europeans do," notes Gianini. "Coming to Switzerland gives them a wonderful international experience where they can meet different cultures here and also travel to different countries."

Community involvement

Community involvement

The college receives no support from the federal or cantonal governments as it's viewed as a private educational institution, although it does benefit from its charitable status in terms of tax breaks.

However, the college is seen as a valuable local resource with the college's diverse faculty providing a wealth of expertise.

"Part of our effort is to integrate more and more with the local community, which is already at a very good level," said Gianini. "We have weekly conferences on campus in English and we also offer other evening courses for the local community."

MBA offered

More than half of Franklin's students take the full four-year degree programme, while the remainder take shorter courses that come with transferable credits to other American universities.

The Bachelor of Arts programme has been recognised by the US Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools since 1975.

On top of the BA programme the college also offers an MBA programme in association with Long Island University in the US.

Such programmes allow Franklin to develop its speciality of international relations and international business and commerce.

"We have here on campus an average of 55 different nationalities represented and you cannot find this anywhere else," added Gianini. "Being in, for example, an international relations lecture with people from all over the world creates this interaction of different experiences which makes this experience really unique."

by Tom O'Brien

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