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Economy calls for more university freedom

The Swiss Business Federation says the top education tier is too complicated. ETHZ

The university system in Switzerland is too complicated and higher seats of learning should have more autonomy to remain competitive, according to a study.

This content was published on February 8, 2005 - 21:26

Commissioned by the Swiss Business Federation (economiesuisse), the study looks at what lessons Switzerland can learn from leading universities in other countries.

One of the recommendations is for the federal authorities to pump more money into research and education.

The Federation’s chief economist, Rudolf Walser, told a news conference in Zurich on Tuesday that universities played a key role in today’s knowledge society.

“The increase of productivity depends more and more on the acquisition of new knowledge,” he commented.

The study looked at top universities in the United States, Britain, the Netherlands, Japan and China.

Greater autonomy

It found that they enjoyed greater financial and planning autonomy, as well as having strong management teams.

There was also a strong accent on increasing international cooperation and working more with industry. And the selection of students was generally rigorous.

In comparison, the Swiss university system - a victim of federalism – was too complicated and inefficient.

The Federation’s Andreas Steiner called on the government to increase its spending on research and education from the current 4.1 per cent of the budget to 6.8 per cent during the 2008 to 2011 legislative period.

In its findings, the Federation said that clever heads made a good university, which implied free choice of both teaching staff and students.

Freedom of choice

Universities should be able to choose their students themselves and students should be in a position to choose the university they want to attend, the Federation commented in a statement.

It also recommended that a system of loans be introduced so that fees would not dissuade would-be students from enrolling.

In a reaction, the Union of Students in Switzerland said it was against any measures that would increase student fees or any new restrictions on student entry to universities.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The study looked at how five top universities outside Switzerland operated – the University of California in the United States, Oxford in Britain, Utrecht in the Netherlands, the University of Tokyo and Tsinghua University in China.

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In brief

The aim of the study was to come up with recommendations on how to improve the Swiss university system.

State contributions to the universities varied significantly – from 33 per cent for the University of California to 70 per cent for Utrecht University.

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