Swiss students will be able to continue studying abroad despite the European Union excluding Switzerland from the Erasmus+ exchange programme. Swiss voters in February approved controversial immigration curbs stalling bilateral relations with Brussels.
The cabinet on Wednesday approved replacement funding, reinstating a system that existed before 2011. It provides direct funding to students and projects rather than via the EU.
Funds will be equivalent to those earmarked for Erasmus+, CHF22.7 million ($25.8 million) for this year.
This should also partially cover the costs associated with foreign students coming to Switzerland, which had been funded by Brussels until now. However, there will be less money available.
The transition solution approved by the cabinet is squarely aimed at student mobility, with 90% of the funds going to exchanges. The remaining 10% is attributed to “excellent” projects according to a statement by the education ministry.
Earlier Erasmus projects had been criticised for not being submitted to what specialists called “minimum criteria.” What shall exactly be funded in the future remains to be seen.
A spokeswoman for the Swiss Students Association welcomed the cabinet move as generous from a financial viewpoint. Speaking to RSI public radio, she criticised that it has taken the government a long time to find a solution and that it cuts the funding for research programmes.
The aim of the funding project is to ensure that if Switzerland is accepted back on board Erasmus+, it should happen as smoothly and with as little fuss as possible.
Last month, Education Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann said the goal was to keep the doors open before Switzerland can eventually rejoin the EU in Erasmus+ and the Horizon 2020 research programme from which the Swiss had also been suspended.
According to Schneider-Ammann at the time, Brussels had signaled it was prepared to review its decision to block cooperation with Switzerland once the government presents plans to break an impasse over access to the Swiss labour market to citizens from Croatia.
Diplomatic sources in Brussels say the EU and Switzerland are close to finding a solution.
However, an agreement hit a roadblock on Tuesday after a British representative allegedly demanded more time for his government to review the proposal.
Switzerland was also suspended from the EU’s Media programme after the February vote. The government proposed a transitory solution last month aimed at providing support for ongoing film projects.
On Wednesday cabinet also approved a mandate to negotiate Switzerland’s participation in the EU’s 2014-2020 culture programme, which includes Media.
swissinfo.ch and agencies