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Students bear brunt of savings plan

About 18 per cent of apprentices complete a baccalaureate

Switzerland’s technical colleges are facing a financial shortfall of SFr500 million ($397 million), prompting a rise in student fees.

Federal and cantonal authorities say annual tuition fees per student will need to increase by up to SFr300 to help cut the deficit.

Announcing a series of measures on Thursday, cantonal education directors and the Federal Office for Vocational Training said they were necessary to ensure that costs did not spiral out of control

They said the shortfall was due to growing student numbers, the introduction of two-stage Bachelor and Masters courses, and additional costs for research and development.

The savings plan is expected to cut the deficit to SFr50 million.

The announcement has overshadowed celebrations marking the tenth anniversary of the professional baccalaureate degree – the passport for entry into a technical college.

Growing popularity

Almost 33,000 students study at Switzerland’s 60 technical colleges, which are enjoying a growing popularity.

The Federal Office for Statistics estimates that student numbers will rise 16.5 per cent by 2007.

The students themselves will be directly affected by the savings plan. Tuition fees are expected to rise SFr200-300. A year’s tuition will now cost between SFr1,300 and SFr1,600.

In addition, from 2007 there will be no more subsidies for further education at technical colleges. Courses will then have to cover their own costs.

Balancing the books

This means that a college will need to enrol at least 60 students per Bachelor’s degree course to make it financially viable.

Likewise, colleges should only offer Masters-level courses if there are at least 30 students participating.

According to the cantonal education directors, the quality of education should remain high despite the savings plan. They have set aside an additional SFr168 million to develop research activities.

Between 2004 and 2007, the federal and cantonal authorities will invest SFr5.6 billion in technical colleges.

swissinfo with agencies

Most students entering a technical college do so equipped with a professional baccalaureate.

Some 10% of all young people obtain a professional baccalaureate after either completing an apprenticeship or special training.

The qualification is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year.

In its first year, 250 students completed the course. Last year, more than 9,000 certificates were awarded.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR